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The Stour Valley and Dedham Village (1815)
Public DomainThe Stour Valley and Dedham Village (1815) - Credit: John Constable

Essex is an English county originally settled by the Celtic Trinovantes tribe before coming under the rule of the Roman Empire in 49 AD. During the Anglo-Saxon period, it formed the eastern portion of the Kingdom of Essex, part of what later became known as the Heptarchy. Despite its long history and proximity to London, Essex remains largely untouched by urban development outside of its major population centres.

The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5, remarks that "[m]uch of the surface, from combination of natural feature and artificial embellishment, exhibits a pleasing and ever-varying succession of rural landscapes". To the seaboard, it is low-lying and frequently marshy, whilst further inland, small villages dot the faintly undulant countryside. Much of its 3,670 km2 expanse is given over to agriculture. During the 1840s, cereals were the main crop, but beans, peas and vetch were also cultivated. 


The English artist John Constable is renowned for his portrayals of the Essex countryside, and works such as The Stour Valley and Dedham Village (1815) provide a romantic view of the county as it appeared in the early 19th century.