Much has changed in Essex since Arthur Mee’s day, with some of the places he described in 1942 having been altered beyond all recognition or overrun in the ceaseless march of Greater London.
The more things change, however, the greater is the desire to see what was there before, and, apart from being the ideal travelling companion, this guide gives the modern reader the added perspective of seeing a perfect snapshot of Essex on the eve of War, illustrated with over 150 plates of Essex scenes. In over 450 pages, Essex is examined alphabetically, building a detailed picture of the county’s rich historical heritage.
Arthur Mee knew Essex as "London’s North Sea neighbour”, and highlights "the great forest of Epping, that gives an air of tranquility and serenity to a piece of England the industrial era might easily have spoilt”
The fine architecture of the county is fully examined in the author’s classic text, great houses such as Audley End, ("the noblest house in Essex”) and Layer Marney. Churches, such as Greenstead with its Saxon timbers, and other historic edifices such as Terling Mill, Waltham Cross, and Castle Hedingham.
Overall, though, it is Mee’s love of local lore and anecdote which makes the book such a good read. Not only the famous men and women of Essex who have contributed to the nation’s history, such as Dr Livingstone (I presume) William Byrd at Stondon Massey, Dr Barnardo, Sir William Petre at Ingatestone, and Elizabeth Fry, but also the infamous Justice Scroggs of South Weald, Henry Winstanley, the ingenious inventor of Littlebury, Charles Spurgeon of Kelvedon, whose sermons sold in millions, and Thomas Tusser, fine poet but failed farmer.
So much Essex lore and landscape is contained in these pages that it brings us constantly back to Arthur Mee’s original comment on the county: "Every signpost points you to its wonders”.