South Woodham Ferrers

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South Woodham Ferrers
Grid reference: TQ812970
Location: 51°39’4"N, 0°36’45"E
Population: 16,629  (approx.)
Post town: Chelmsford
Postcode: CM3
Dialling code: 01245
Local Government
Council: Chelmsford

South Woodham Ferrers is a town in Essex, on the north bank of the tidal River Crouch, in the corner made by the Fenn Creek. It is not a pretty town nor one with great history; it did not exist until the railway came and only grew large in the 1970s and 1980s.

The town is approximately 9 miles southeast of Chelmsford. According to the 2001 census, has a population of 16,629.

The town is grown up out of housing modern developments each in their own style, none of great inspiration. (In one development in the southwest of the town all the street names are taken from the works of J R R Tolkien, with names such as Gandalf's Ride, Gimli Watch, Rivendell Vale, Celeborn Street, Hobbiton Hill and Arwen Drive.)

It has an attractive riverside setting on the edge of the River Crouch and is surrounded by open countryside. It is a commuter town though, linked by rail and road to Chelmsford and London and to the M25 motorway. The town centre supports a good range of small specialist and convenience stores in a pleasant car-free environment, and the town also has a large supermarket.

Town centre

The town centre consists of around 100 business units. Approximately 45% are retail premises, with the remainder being a combination of professional services (such as banks and estate agents) and dining locations such as cafes and restaurants.

The large supermarket in the town centre is a key development; Asda opening its store in the town in late 1978 which made them the principal retailer. In 2001 Essex County Council sold the freehold for the vast majority of the town to Asda, who in turn sold a package of land and property to SW Investments. As a result of these sales, Asda own the town's car parks, Queen Elizabeth II Square and approximately one third of the shop premises in the town centre. SW Investments owns most of the remaining areas in the town centre, including Market Square, with the remaining premises having a variety of private owners.

Because Asda is such a focus for the town centre, many perceive it as dominating the area. Sporadically the local newspapers carry letters from a small number of residents complaining about the situation, often accusing the company of charging excessive rents, abusing their position, and controlling the shops in the town. These letters often culminate in calls to boycott Asda, yet very few residents seem to take part in such proposed boycotts. Despite the complaints, a number of small businesses have existed in the town centre for significant periods, with a number closing for various reasons, the most commonly given being a lack of support from the local community.


The foundation of South Woodham Ferrers was brought by the railway in the nineteenth century. In 1889, Woodham Ferrers station opened, in open countryside as the line ran a mile south of the village of Woodham Ferrers itself. A new village began to grow around the station, which village became known as South Woodham Ferrers. The new village continued to develop until it was formally recognised as a separate community from that of Woodham Ferrers, a mile to the north.[1]

The town underwent dramatic growth as part of a planned development in the late 1970s following incremental growth in the 1960s.

In 1981 HM Queen Elizabeth II opened the town square, which is named after her. Her Majesty unveiled a traditional Essex town sign.

Bushy Hill

Bushy Hill, also known locally as "Radar Hill" rises to the north of the town. Its escarpment overlooks South Woodham Ferrers. The West face of Bushy Hill was covered in broad leafed woodland and known locally as 'Little Wood'. 'Big Wood', officially named Hawe's Wood and also known as 'Bluebell Wood' is further over near Edwin's Hall.

During snowy winters, Bushy Hill is very popular for sledging.

The hill became known locally as "Radar Hill" due to having been visually dominated by a radar testing site. This site was operated by a number of the former Marconi[2] companies including Alenia Marconi Systems, and more recently (currently?) operated by BAE Systems in the process of developing various radar technologies,[3] some of which is for military orientated projects. While the site remains in use, the large dish which earned the hill its nickname has since been removed. The public footpath around the site passes the entrance sign warning of "helicopters landing, danger of radiation" and other such dangers associated with a working radar testing site. The actual inner workings of the site are well secured with a security gatehouse, anti-climb fencing and a number of well placed CCTV cameras.

Bushy Hill was also known locally, before Marconi came to use it, as "Landslip Hill", referring to the south face of the hill which has slid away leaving a bare escarpment, clearly visible from the village. From the west-side of the present Marconi site, trailing off towards Edwin's Hall, is a woodland of mature trees, sometimes called "Bluebell Wood".

Sport and leisure

The Village Hall

Home to the local football club and cricket team, the village hall is a well known feature of the town. It offers special events such as monthly and weekly football and cricket matches.

  • Cricket: South Woodham Ferrers Cricket Club
  • Football:
    • Focus Ferrers
    • Fennlands
    • Woodham Radars
  • Rugby Union: South Woodham Ferrers Rugby Club


The A132 lies to the north of the town, which leads to the A130 between Chelmsford and Canvey Island and to the A127 and A13; the major route between the South Essex towns.

The town is also served by South Woodham Ferrers railway station, which was the town's foundation. It was known as Woodham Ferrers station until May 2007

Due to the way the town is laid out, it is very easy to walk or cycle from one side of the town to the other, and there is also a Golden Jubilee Walk, which was created in honour of Queen Elizabeth II for her Golden Anniversary in 2002. A coastal path walk, providing an attractive view of the Crouch Valley/Estuary can be picked up from the Compass Gardens area, and either heads towards the nearby village of Fambridge in one direction, or Battlesbridge in the other.

Sights in and about the town

  • The William De Ferrers Sports Centre
  • Marsh Farm Country Park
  • Tropical Wings Butterfly & Animal/Bird Collection
  • Compass Gardens
  • Saltcoats Park
  • Memorial Park

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about South Woodham Ferrers)


  1. Frankland, John (1992). South Woodham Ferrers : a pictorial history. Chicester: Phillimore. ISBN 0-85033-832-8. 
  2. Simons, Roy. "Forty Years of Marconi Radar from 1946 to 1986 (GEC Review Vol.13 No.3 1998)". 1998 report on Marconis history of radar research work in the UK, mentioning Bushy Hill. GEC Review. Retrieved 2011. 
  3. Eastwood, Eric. "Radar's contribution to studies of birds". Report on study of bird life carried out at Bushy Hill circa 1958. New Scientist.