Three of the best Essex market towns: good-value homes, quick commutes and sprawling countryside for Londoners leaving the city

Forget salons and Towie types, the county of Essex offers buyers lovely countryside, good commutes to the City, and some quality options for buyers ready to leave London but not quite ready to bury themselves in the sticks.

A study of the eight Essex market towns reveals a huge range of average prices, meaning buyers on almost any budget could afford a house here whether their taste runs to centuries old cottages or new trophy houses. Here are three of the best.

Buying in Coggeshall

The pocket rocket of Essex’s market towns. Coggeshall is small — its population is well under 5,000 — but what it lacks in size it makes up for in sheer charm. The oldest of its pastel-painted homes date from the 14th century when Coggeshall was a wealthy textile town.

Charming: Coggleshall (Alamy Stock Photo)

But its lack of a station means it has not sprawled like some of its neighbours, and remains gorgeously unspoiled (barring a single post-war estate) — particularly since the A120 acts as a bypass for the town.

“It is a little gem,” said Nick Rock, branch manager of William H Brown, who estimates that about a third of the town’s houses are sold to exiting Londoners, mainly City workers.

Coggeshall is small enough that there isn’t a “posh” part to aim for, but buyers will pay a premium for a breathtaking listed, historic home. A three-bedroom timber-framed home would cost, estimates Rock, around £375,000. A similar-sized Victorian property would cost around £320,000.

Facilities include a swimming pool, football club, good pubs, cafés, and neighbourhood restaurants, plus useful shops. Locals go to Colchester or Chelmsford for a wider choice.

Need to know: Coggeshall

Market forces: A rather good Thursday specialist food market.

Commuting: Kelvedon Station is just under two miles away, and there is a reliable bus. Services to Liverpool Street take 51 minutes, and an annual season ticket costs £5,864.

Schooling: St Peter’s CofE Voluntary Controlled Primary School and The Honeywood Community Science School both have “good” reports from Ofsted.

Buying in Epping

People move to Epping for two main reasons — its Tube station and the forest. The Tube gives easy access to central London and the forest encircles the town and has saved it from being absorbed into the outer London suburbs. The forest is also heaven for walkers, horse riders, mountain bikers and runners and is spectacular on a sunny day.

And the High Street, while not fantastically scenic, has a comprehensive range of shops: a couple of supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants both independent and chain, pubs and everyday shops.

Its proximity to the capital means Epping’s property is the most expensive of all the towns studied, at an average of £528,220.


On the Tube network: Epping (Alamy Stock Photo)

Mark Davies, a director of Strutt & Parker, said that the town’s market is driven by “London money”, mainly people working in either the City or Canary Wharf.

Buyers could pick up a two-bedroom Victorian terrace for around £330,000, a three-bedroom 1930s semi for around £450,000 to £550,000, a four-bedroom Edwardian terrace for around £650,000 or a five-bedroom detached executive house for £1.1 million-£1.5 million.

Need to know: Epping

Market forces: A traditional market every Monday with homewares, food, gifts, and fruit and veg.

Commuting: A market town with a Tube station. Epping is on the Central Line, Zone 6.

Schooling: Epping Primary School is rated good by Ofsted, but Epping St John’s CofE School (seniors) is, at best, an unknown quantity. The new academy has not yet been inspected by Ofsted but it replaces a school which could only manage a “satisfactory” rating.

Buying in Braintree

If you rate convenience and facilities over olde worlde charm then Braintree, eight miles and a world away from Coggeshall, could be the ideal option.

And its average property price — just over £250,000 — means it is also first-time buyer friendly.

Davies believes Braintree’s relative value is thanks to its position on a branch line, meaning commuters face a wait of around 40 minutes if they miss their train.


Shopping facilities: Braintree (Alamy Stock Photo)

It is also fair to say that Braintree doesn’t brim with character — but it has everything you’d find in a well-stocked London suburb: a shopping mall, several banks and supermarkets, lots of neighbourhood restaurants, and plenty of pubs. There is also a theatre, leisure centres, rugby and tennis clubs and a cinema.

Over the past decade there has been some fairly intensive house-building around Braintree, adding contemporary homes to the towns stock of period homes.

“The old part of town is a quintessential market town, but it has expanded in the past 20 years,” says Davies.

He estimates that a two-bedroom Victorian cottage would cost around £225,000, a three-bedroom estate house around £300,000 to £325,000, and a five-bedroom executive home around £675,000.

Need to know: Braintree

Market forces: A monthly street market with food, bakery, gifts, plants and flowers, and a bar.

Commuting: Services to Liverpool Street take 58 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £5,688.

Schooling: A wide choice of generally high standard schools. St Michael’s CofE Voluntary Aided Primary School gets top marks from Ofsted.

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