The history of Walton has to begin millions of years before that
of many other towns. This is because the area to the north that is said
to lend the town its name - the Naze - is rich in fossils particularly
those from a warm ancient sea.
In addition to deposits from both the
Eocene and Pleistocene periods much evidence of early man is present
from both the Palaeolithic and, more commonly, the Neolithic periods.
Indeed the area seems to have supported a large and industrious population
in the New Stone Age.
shells and a shark's tooth from the red crag.
Photos courtesy of Alister
the Romans held the area in high regard due to the abundance of septaria,
which they used to make their cement - although there is little evidence
of local settlement during this period. The septaria may well have
been used to build the
Roman Wall at Colchester.
the beginnings of modern day Walton and the surrounding villages really
began in Saxon times when the boundaries and names we recognise today
started to appear.
origins of the name Walton-on-the-Naze are lost in the mists of time
but most agree that the Anglo-Saxon word “naes” meaning
ness or headland relates to the distinctive area to the North of the
town. It is also possible that Walton is derived from the Anglo-Saxon
“weala tun” meaning “farms of Britons”. (Picture courtesy of Mark
Walton’s early history is one of a scattered farming community.
The old parish name of Walton-le-Soken (still visible on the Church
today) shows that the area once formed a “soke” with its
neighbours Kirby and Thorpe. These villages were once owned by the Chapter
of St. Paul’s Cathedral and enjoyed special privileges and powers.
The land in the area was extremely fertile and suited to the growing
of cereal crops but the population of old Walton was small in comparison
to its larger neighbour Kirby and coastal erosion meant that much land
was lost to the sea. The old church was lost around the beginning of
the 19th Century and even today World War II fortifications can be seen
lying on the beach were once they stood on the cliffs.
addition to farming and the aforementioned collection of cement stone
Walton had one other industrial interest to rival farming – the
copperas works. Copperas is a ferrous sulphate found in the London Clay
in the cliffs which when collected and processed yields green copperas
or vitriol used for dying, tanning and the manufacture of ink. The works
closed in 1850 but even after that Copperas was still collected for
Walton’s Victorian Heyday
the beginning of the 19th Century Walton started to become a seaside
resort. The first visitors were probably people living or staying locally
out on day excursions enjoying picnics on the secluded beaches.
popularity of the seaside grew and the medical benefits of sea air and,
particularly, salt water bathing were promoted then the popularity of
seaside towns like Walton began to rival that of the spa towns. The
coming of the railway and the building of the pier allowed travellers
to make their way to Walton from the overcrowded towns and the building
of hotels and other amenities gave rise to what might be described as
Walton’s Victorian heyday.
period began approximately in 1829 when the publication of the first
ever guide to Walton coincided with the opening of “The Hotel”
later to become “The Marine Hotel”. At this point the town
we see today started to develop around the High Street and the first
pier was built to accommodate steam ships from London and Ipswich.
developers dominate this period in Walton’s History – John Penrice who built the Marine Hotel and the first Pier, John Warner who
owned the foundry and built the East Terrace and, most famously, Peter
Bruff. Peter Bruff was famous because he was a distinguished civil engineer
– working on the Eastern Counties Line from London to Colchester
and responsible for bringing the railway to Walton in 1867.
responsible for the building of the Marine Terrace, South Terrace (destroyed
by bombing in WWII), Clifton Baths (today the Pier Hotel) and the new
pier. His grand vision of Walton connected to Frinton with a tramway
along the landscaped cliffs connected to the railway was never fully
realised, however, and other projects took him away from Walton until
he finally sold his remaining interests in 1897.
Bruff's withdrawal from Walton and two setbacks - Philip Brannon's Naze
Park development failed to attract much interest and the company that
had aquired Bruff's interests, the Walton-on-the-Naze Hotel & Pier
Company, went bankrupt - Walton continued to grow and prosper. Indeed
the pier was lengthened and improved and other attractions starting
spring up, including pleasure craft, a Camera Obscura and bathing machines.
Progress continued, unabated, after WWI with the Kino cinema being followed
by the Regal and the demolition of the old tide mill making way for
a large boating lake.
"The town lies between the
sea-cliffs and Walton Creek, which is much frequented by sportsmen
in quest of wild fowl, and on the head of the creek stand powerful
tide and wind mills: the air is salubrious and bracing, and the
beach, consisting of sand and fine shingle, is well adapted for
bathing, and affords a pleasant promenade, the ebb tide leaving a
hard smooth sand."
Kelly's Directory of Essex 1937
War Time Walton
was the outbreak of WWII that signalled the end of Walton's heyday.
The threat of a German invasion meant that the pier had to be partially
demolished to prevent a landing and holiday trade ceased.
also exposed to bombing and strafing raids by axis aircraft and a good
number of bombs fell on the town - Bruff's South Terrace was completely
destroyed. When the war ended Walton made a brave attempt to regain
its former glory only to find that the whole nature of the holiday trade
was about to change.
post-war austerity followed by the availability of foreign holidays
meant that Walton's once spectacular tourist trade never returned. Both
cinemas closed followed by most of the large hotels and although people
still came for holidays it was mostly to stay in the two new caravan
parks and not in the hotels and guest houses as they had before.
recent years people have started to become interested in reviving Walton's
fortunes and preserving its Victorian charm. Unlike many developed towns
Walton retains a strong flavour of its former glory days and a number
of projects are already underway to improve the environment and facilities
for both locals and tourists alike.
For information on the
re-generation of Walton visit the CONTACT page.