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Wivenhoe riverfront, 2009-10-04.jpg
Wivenhoe riverfront on the River Colne
Grid reference: TM045225
Location: 51°51’30"N, 0°57’55"E
Population: 7,221  (2001)
Post town: Colchester
Postcode: CO7
Dialling code: 01206
Local Government
Council: Colchester
Harwich and North Essex

Wivenhoe is a small town in north-eastern Essex, approximately 3 miles southeast of Colchester. Historically Wivenhoe village, on the banks of the River Colne, and Wivenhoe Cross, on the higher ground to the north, were two separate settlements but with considerable development in the 19th century the two have merged.

At the 2001 census, the town had a population of over 7,221.

The town's history centres around fishing, ship building, and smuggling. The town is popular with local artists and writers, who have left their imprint on town life.

Much of lower Wivenhoe is also a designated conservation area, with many streets being of particular architectural interest.


The place-name Wivenhoe is Old English in origin, believed to be from Wifan hoh: "Wifa's spur (or promontory)", after an otherwise unrecorded chieftain, Wifa. The place-name is now usually pronounced 'Wivvenho', but the Essex accent would traditionally have rendered it as 'Wivvenhoo'.

The similarity of the name with the mythical beast called a wyvern gives the town's football team, Wivenhoe Town FC, its nickname, 'The Wyverns'.

Parish church

The town's parish church is St Mary the Virgin. It is of Saxon origin though the present building is largely Victorian.


Wivenhoe is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Wiivnhou when it formed part of the land of Robert Gernon, where there was a mill, 12 acres of meadow and pasture for 60 sheep.[1]

Wivenhoe developed as a port and until the late 19th century was effectively a port for Colchester, as large ships were unable to navigate any further up the River Colne, which widens here into its estuary. Wivenhoe had two prosperous shipyards.[2] It became an important port for trade for Colchester and developed shipbuilding, commerce and fishing industries.[2] The period of greatest prosperity for the town came with the arrival of the railway in 1863.[2]

In 1884 the town suffered significant damage when it lay close to the epicentre of one of the most destructive earthquakes ever to strike the United Kingdom - [3] the 1884 Colchester earthquake.

In 1890, there was a population of about 2,000 mostly engaged in fishing for oysters and sprats and in ship and yacht building.[4] A dry dock was built in 1889 and extended in 1904, making it one of the largest on the East Coast; it was demolished in the mid-1960s.[4] In the 1960s, Wivenhoe Park was chosen as the location for the University of Essex.

During the miners' strike of 1984-1985, the now defunct Wivenhoe Port imported coal and became subject to picketing by miners (many from Yorkshire), which led to a very substantial police presence, some of them drafted in from other counties, and violent skirmishes as striking miners tried to prevent vehicles entering and leaving the port.

Wivenhoe Park

Wivenhoe Park, by John Constable, 1816

Wivenhoe Park, bordering on the town of Colchester, is the location for the University of Essex. The site was the home for several centuries of the Rebow family, descendants of Flemish clothweavers from Colchester. Wivenhoe House was designed for Isaac Rebow in 1759 by Thomas Reynolds; the park itself was designed by Richard Woods. it was remodelled in 1846-7 by T. Hopper.[5] A view of the house across the lake was painted by John Constable painting on a social visit to Major-General Francis Slater-Rebow in 1816 for a fee of 100 guineas.[6]

Transport links

Wivenhoe station is served by an electric rail service to and from London Liverpool Street.

The town is connected by a seasonal foot ferry service at weekends in the summer across the River Colne, Essex to Fingringhoe and Rowhedge.

Wivenhoe is just over one hour from Stansted Airport and 30 minutes from Harwich International Port.[2]

Society and leisure

Wivenhoe has a population of between nine and ten thousand people with a mixture of students from the University of Essex, a long-standing artistic community, and commuters. Property prices averaged £286,000 in February 2008. The town has a number of small local shops: there is a bookshop, chemist, two post offices, corner house coffee shop, toy shop, delicatessen, tea rooms, Co-op, pet supplier and florist. There are six pubs including the Black Buoy Pub, Horse and Groom, Flag, some of which are the venue for musical events, including a jazz club.[2] The Crab & Winkle Gallery can be found at the town's railway station. The town is popular with students from the university who walk from the campus to enjoy the facilities of the town's public houses and its waterfront.

There are a number of musical and theatre groups, and an art gallery.[2]

The King George V Playing Field is in the lower half of the town, with a small skate park, football pitches, a small play park and a dog-walking area. There is a bowls club on De Vere Lane and a bridge club meets in the Town Council's offices.


  • Sailing: Wivenhoe Sailing Club. Its clubhouse is just downstream of the river barrier.
  • Football:
    • Wivenhoe Town FC
    • Colchester United Ladies
    • Wivenhoe Old Boys Football Club
  • Tennis: Wivenhoe Tennis Club
  • Cricket: Wivenhoe Town Cricket Club

The Cricket Club also hosts a monthly comedy club, "Wivenhoe Funny Farm", established in 2005.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Wivenhoe)


  1. Dr Ann Williams, Professor G. H. Martin, ed (2003). London: Penguin Classics. pp. 1019, 1426. ISBN 0-14-143994-7. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Embling, Charlotte (June 2008). "What is it like to live in... Wivenhoe". Essex Life (Archant): pp. 22–23. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?referral=other&pnum=&refresh=3Ex0Hy14j5C1&EID=52357006-6cf2-46b7-874f-a85febe6a2c6&skip=true. Retrieved 2009-02-03.  (registration required)
  3. "Earthquake in England". The Times. April 23, 1884. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Peers, Deborah (January 2009). "Once upon a time in ... Wivenhoe". Essex Life (Archant): p. 63. 
  5. Colvin, Howard: A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840
  6. John Hayes: British Paintings of the Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries (Oxford University Press US)
  • Butler, Nicholas (1989). The Story of Wivenhoe. Quentin Press. ISBN 0-947614-01-X. 
  • Haining, Peter (1976). The Great English Earthquake. Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7091-5395-3.