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Things to do in St. Osyth, Essex


St Osyth is a historic village in Essex located between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea. Situated just off the main road, it remains a charming and characterful village centred around an ancient priory estate with a 383 acre deer park.

The priory was built in 1118 and became one of the great Augustine abbeys of Europe. It remains a private home with an impressive castle-like main building, a clock tower constructed in a checkered pattern of limestone and brown septaria, and a gatehouse. In 1539 it passed to the Darcy family.

The village of St Osyth was named after the daughter of the King of East Anglia. She established a nunnery but was beheaded by Danish invaders in 653 for refusing to worship idols. It is said her ghost still walks the priory walls carrying her head.

The village was known to have had several witch hangings in the 16th century and 17th century. In 1921 the skeletons of two women were discovered in a garden. One was thought to have been the local witch, Ursula Kempe.


Present Day St Osyth

The charming town of St Osyth has a population of 4,000 residents and is run by a Parish Council. There is a primary school, doctor's surgery, post office, a small Methodist Chapel and a good range of shops providing for most local needs. Most of the village is a designated conservation area with 112 buildings listed individually as having special historic or architectural interest.

The Priory and the Parish church of St Peter and St Paul are both grade I listed buildings. The Norman church was started in 1118 but most of the present day building dates back to the 14th century. It is built of rubble and flint in Perpendicular style and is entered through an old studded door to the porch. The huge building has a bell tower at one end which contains six bells and some fine stained glass.

St Osyth has a lively social calendar with a historical society, cubs and scouts groups and a horticultural club. There is a seven-acre recreation ground where football and cricket are played and it has swings and skateboard ramps.

Mill Street leads down from the village to the busy boatyard on the creek. The local harbour is used by leisure craft for mooring. To the west of the village is Point Clear Bay where the old Martello Tower is now a local museum.


Things to do in St Osyth

St Osyth has its own beach with part of it set aside as a clothing-optional area. Close to the creek and separated by the Point Clear Road is Mill Dam Lake which is popular for water skiing and other watersports.

The Church is worth visiting to see the painted ceiling, Victorian reredos and the marble effigies of the first and second Lords Darcy with their inscriptions and armorial bearings. A wall tablet is dedicated to Briant Darcie (note the varied spelling of the family name), who was High Sheriff of the County until 1587. Other members of this illustrious community are also noted including the ambassador to George III and the founder of Charing Cross Hospital.

St Osyth's main claim to fame is that it is said to be the driest place in the UK with an average rainfall of 513mm per year.

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