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Historic Site, free entry
Mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. The community of what is now known as Dedham, about 8 miles north east of Colchester, has prospered for around a thousand years and was a major wool producer from the mid 14th century. Its fortunes varied with the wool trade but the village received a new lease of life in the mid 16th century with the manufacture of new high quality cloths, known as Bays and Says. The wealth created by the wool trade financed the construction of the magnificent Church of St Mary the Virgin in 1492.
On a different scale, the timber-framed Southfields was built in about 1500 by a Master Weaver to serve as his home and business premises. When the wool industry declined Dedham became a centre of academic excellence. The Dedham Grammar School received a Royal Charter from Elizabeth I in 1575. Wealthy and influential people were attracted to the village so that their sons could attend the schools here. One of its most famous pupils was the artist John Constable. Over time the village became quite a social centre and the Assembly Rooms (formerly the Hewitt Hall), built around 1750, hosted County Balls three times a year.
Unlike many communities nearby, Dedham has not experienced long periods of poverty and decay. during the 1930s the architectural writer, Pevsner, said: ""There is nothing at Dedham to hurt the eye"". Today we are fortunate to be endowed with what is a 'quintessentially English village' set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.