Essex is one of the most historic counties in England.
The name comes from it being the Kingdom of the East Saxons, but its history goes back much further than that.
Colchester is the oldest town in Britain, having been not only an important Roman town but the capital of civilised Britain even before the Romans arrived. Its King in the period immediately before the Roman invasion was Cunobelin, immortalised by Shakespeare as Cymbeline and possibly the original of Old King Cole. The Roman name for Colchester, Camulodunum, probably inspired the name Camelot.
Another ancient town is Maldon, at the head of the Blackwater estuary, where the Battle of Maldon, subject of the earliest narrative poem in the English language, was fought in 991.
Another battle which changed the course of English history was fought at Ashingdon in 1016, when Canute defeated Edmund Ironside.
There are several ancient churches, including St. Peter-ad-Murum, one of the oldest in the country, built by St. Cedd at Bradwell-juxta-Mare in about 650; St. Andrew's at Greenstead-juxta-Ongar, the only surviving wooden Saxon church in England; St. John the Baptist, the rare round church at Little Maplestead; and the unique All Saints at Maldon, the only church with a triangular tower.
There is an Anglican cathedral at Chelmsford, the county town, and a Catholic one at Brentwood.
Essex has a very long coastline, indented by several tidal estuaries, and more islands than any other county. As well as the huge seaside resort of Southend, with the longest pier in the world, there are other popular seaside towns including Clacton and Walton-on-the-Naze.
For centuries, Essex was, apart from the few towns, covered by an enormous forest. Fragments remain, the largest being Epping Forest, saved from development by the Corporation of London in the 19th century.