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History of Silver End Village

In his book Fifty Years of Work and Play “The Guv'nor” Frances Crittall wrote:

"One autumn day, while motoring from Witham to Braintree, I noticed a rough road on the right hand side and on an impulse, directed the car along it. Shortly I reached a small cluster of rural cottages, set among trees and grouped about an inn, and I recognised it from my boyhood as a spot known as Silver End... It had lain with little change since the eleventh century, for a thousand years or more the quiet tale of that sleepy hollow had unrolled itself with little variation until I came that day, a minister of change and revolution, to write a new chapter. Almost I felt guilty at the thought that this ancient solitude was to be solitary no more. For immediately I came to Silver End that day, though I had known it all my life, I knew my search was ended".

So in 1925 began one man's vision to improve the housing and working conditions of his employees.

Silver End was ideal for the much needed new small component factory and village, situated midway between the Crittall factories in Braintree and Witham and close to the Maldon one. Available land at Boars Tye farm was purchased and leading, famous architects engaged. They had a brief to design houses for every type of resident and were to include what Crittall believed was the elementary right of hot and cold running water, even in the upstairs bathroom and a front and back garden. Electricity would be supplied by the factory powerhouse. There were to be a number of non parlour type houses and controversially some would have flat roofs to create more light and room.

The factory and houses were designed to accommodate disabled workers and by March 1926 the building of the factory was well advanced. On April 17th 1926 Crittall laid the foundation stone to the first house in Temple Lane and several pairs were completed by July 5th. On 10th May 1928 the Lord Mayor of London opened the village hall (still believed to be the largest in England), which included a library, billiards and card room, a restaurant and a cinema-cum-theatre with seating for 400 people. The list of other village amenities was endless. They included sports facilities, a school, a bank, a post office and a telephone exchange. There was a tea shop, a communal garage, a hotel and a 30 minute bus service between Witham and Braintree. There was also a three storey department store (destroyed by fire in 1952) where residents could purchase all their needs including fresh bread, vegetables and meat supplied by the company's own farms and piggeries. A thatched barn was transformed into St. Francis Church and a Congregational Chapel was also built.

The 1930's depression and the Second World War halted further expansion at the time although housing was built in the 1970's with more areas added later. Frances Crittall's vision still survives as do most of the original buildings and amenities.

In 2018 saw the start of six more developments around the village, one planned with 350 houses and the subject of an inquiry. Unlike in Francis Crittall's day, amenities needed for the expanding village were not included. The school and doctors surgery have become over subscribed and the roads and parking unable to accommodate all the extra vehicles; not something that would have occurred in Francis Crittall's time.

There have been many studies undertaken, pamphlets and books written about this unique village and for wider reading a booklist is available for further study.

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