A Brief History of Dedham

Although there is some evidence of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman presence in the vicinity, the first known settlement at Dedham is the Saxon manor recorded in Doomsday Book. From Norman times this was held by absentee French landlords until, in the fourteenth century, it reverted to the Crown. By the end of the fifteenth century, when wealthy clothiers financed the building of the present church, Dedham had become a thriving industrial town.

During the seventeenth century the wool trade was in serious decline but the town's importance as a centre for local trade was increased by its ecclesiastical significance. A lectureship had been set up around 1577 to preach the 'pure' word of God in this Puritan area and the lecture coinciding with the weekly market drew audiences from miles around. The Grammar School, where the celebrated painter John Constable was later a pupil, was founded at about the same time.   

This established Dedham's educational reputation and for the next four centuries its various schools contributed greatly to the town's prosperity. In the eighteenth century both the Grammar and English (elementary) Schools were rebuilt in the then fashionable red brick, many of the late medieval timber-framed houses were refronted and the community acquired its own new Assembly Rooms,   However by the closing years of the nineteenth century the market town had dwindled to a village and was once again in decline when the first visitors and day trippers began to arrive, attracted to the landscape which had become famous as 'Constable's Country'.

Its special qualities were recognized when it was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1969. Tourism continued to increase throughout the twentieth century, especially with the arrival of mass car ownership from the 1950s onwards.

Copyright © Lucy Archer 2004

Lucy Archer asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

For more information about the history of Dedham, click on the page links.   Victoria County History of Dedham   Dedham's Listed Buildings and Heritage    Cultural Heritage   Dedham - Massachusetts

The Victoria County History.

Founded in 1899 and originally dedicated to Queen Victoria, the VCH is an encyclopaedic record of England's places and people from earliest times to the present day. Based at the Institute of Historical Research in the University of London since 1933, the VCH is written by historians working in counties across England.  Dedham features in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10: Lexden Hundred (Part) including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe (2001).  This work can be accessed via the British History Online website, however you can use the following links to access any one of the nine sections devoted to Dedham.  All links open in a new window.  

Dedham: Introduction  Dedham: Economic history Dedham: Nonconformity
Dedham: Domestic buildings   Dedham: Local government Dedham: Education
Dedham: Manors and other estates    Dedham: Church Dedham: Charities for the poor




Dedham's Listed Buildings and heritage.

Dedham and the surrounding area has an abundance (104) of listed buildings,ranging from Grade 1 properties such as Southfields through to Grade II listings such as the Telephone Box in the High Street.  There are 49 listings around the high street alone.  Use the following link to the English Heritage website to search the database, enter the word Dedham in the search box to find the complete list.  For additional information about listings, including photographs follow the link to the Heritage Gateway.  This website allows you to cross-search over 60 resources, offering local and national information relating to England’s heritage, this includes listed buildings and archaeological finds.  Once again enter the word Dedham in the search box.  You should get the following results:

The National Heritage List for England - 111 Results
EH Past Scape - 35 Results
Essex HER - 168 Results
Suffolk HER - 2 Results
Images of England - 111 Results

Scroll down will show other results, to view the images of the listed buildings in Dedham you will need to scroll to the bottom of the list.  The British History online search shows 321 entries for Dedham including various books, documents and images.

   English Heritage - National Heritage List          The Heritage Gateway    British History online

Cultural Heritage

There is a rich cultural heritage in the area, including artists such as John Constable and Sir Alfred Munnings.  Use the following links for more information.

John Constable - The Complete Works John Constable The Constable Trust  
Sir Alfred Munnings Museum Sir Alfred Munnings Museum
Sir Alfred Munnings  
1961 Profile of Sir Alfred Munnings  Sir Alfred Munnings Museum Guide - 2015      

Dedham - Massachusetts

Settled in 1635 by people from Roxbury and Watertown, Dedham was incorporated in 1636.  It became the county seat of Norfolk County when the county formed on March 26, 1793.  When the Town was originally incorporated, the residents wanted to name it Contentment.  The Massachusetts General Court overruled them and named the town after Dedham, Essex in England, where some of the original inhabitants were born.

Dedham - Massachusetts Dedham Massachusetts (1635 - 1792) Dedham Massachusetts (1793 - 1999)