St Anne's Castle, Great Leighs
Great Leighs shown within Essex
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||CM3 1|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||West Chelmsford|
|List of places: UK • England • Essex|
In 2008 Great Leighs became home to the first new racecourse in 80 years, when the nearby Essex County Showground was converted into a state-of-the-art horse-racing venue. Great Leighs Racecourse held its first race meeting on 20 April 2008 and staged its first meeting fully open to the public from 28–29 May 2008. However, the course had its temporary license revoked on 16 January 2009, and hasn't seen racing since.
Great Leighs is also the location of arguably the oldest Inn in England, St. Anne's Castle, situated on the junction of Main Road and Boreham Road. Another Pub, the Dog & Partridge, is located at the other end of the village, on Main Road.
The full history of Saint Anne's Castle has been lost. However, it's mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and lays claim to be the oldest licensed premises in England, as it served ale to the pilgrims travelling to Thomas Becket's tomb in the 12th Century. It has been an ale house since the Middle Ages although at some point it was, rather ironically, an hermitage. The current state of the exterior is due to a fire over a hundred years ago which destroyed the original thatched roof, which was replaced with tiles. Inside, timbers date back hundreds of years. Down in the cellars there are remains of tunnels, which reputedly linked the inn with the nearby Leez Priory, and Great Leigh's church. At Saint Anne's Castle, you can read various references on the walls, telling you more of the history. Local folklore also tells that the inn is haunted by the troubled spirit of a witch burned at the stake and buried beneath a stone at the nearby crossroads.
In December 2009, a £730,000 project to renovate the Village Hall was completed. This was aided by money associated with a new housing development within the village, extensive fund raising and help from funding bodies and Essex County Council.
The incumbent priest during the First World War, Andrew Clark, kept a voluminous diary of the war detailing activities, opinions and rumours in the village and its environs. An edited version of the diary was published in 1985 under the title Echoes of the Great War.
In the 2014 BBC series "Britain's Great War", Jeremy Paxman visits St Marys Church, Great Leighs, and describes the early loss of Captain Alan Tritton and brothers Privates Richard (Dick) and Arthur Fitch, and speaks with their niece Valerie Frost.
There is a Spring by the side of the road at Cole Hill on the Boreham Road near Great Leighs Church. It once had a Lions head over the outlet.TL739157
- Great and Little Leighs Parish Council
- Leighs Village Hall
- Churches at the Leighs and Lt. Waltham
- The War Memorials at the Churches of Gt. & Lt. Leighs and Lt. Waltham
- Great Leighs War Memorial, including video clip from the BBC series "Britain's Great War"
- St Anne's Castle - The Oldest Inn in England
- The Dog and Partridge
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