History of Clacton

Great Clacton was founded by the Celts in c.100 BC. There are some vague traces of Romans using the Clacton area as a seaside resort. The name Clacton dates from c.500 AD when the area was settled by Saxons. The original name, Claccingaton, means ‘the village of Clacc’s people’. The Domesday Book, a census conducted by William the Conqueror, records the village as Clachintuna.

Early village life was dominated by St John’s Church which is now the oldest building in Clacton. It has been suggested that smugglers may have used a tunnel from the coast to the Ship Inn to smuggle goods into the country, but this is discounted by serious historians. Nowadays, this area is called Great Clacton.


The modern day Clacton-on-Sea was founded by Peter Bruff in 1871 as a seaside resort. Originally the main means of access was by sea. Ships came and docked at Clacton Pier, which now offers an amusement arcade and many other forms of entertainment. People who wanted to come by road had to go through Great Clacton. In the 1920s, London Road was built to cope with the influx of holidaymakers. Later, in the 1970s, the eastern section of the A120 was opened obviating the need for Clacton visitors to go through Colchester.

In archaeology, Clacton is famous as the eponymous site of the lower Palaeolithic Clactonian industry of flint tool manufacture. “Clactonian” is the name given for the man whose remains were found at Clacton from that period.

Stone-age people set up camp, at Clacton (now lost beneath the waves due to coastal erosion). This was in the Interglacial stage (a major division of the Pleistocene epoch, which occurred from 1,600,000 to 10,000 years ago) 400,000 B.C.Clactonian tools, early flake instruments dating back to the early Interglacial stage, get their name from the area. 900 B.CThe ‘Catuvellauni’ (Celts) set up a village inland, on site of Great Clacton. 500 AD.Saxons under their leader Clacc from whom the town gets its name set up residence, Clacc Inga Ton (the Village of Clacc’s People) 1000 The “Claccingtune” a tithe introduced by the Church to contribute two seaman towards a ships crew. 1056 In the Doomsday Book, it was recorded that ‘Clachintuna’ was part of a Manor belonging to the Bishops of London. 1100’s Midsummer Fair established on 29th June, runs for 600 years, until abolished in 1872 1539 Abbot of St.Osyths surrenders all Lands to his King. Henry VIII hands over the land to Thomas Cromwell 1545 Henry VIII appoints himself Lord of Manor’s of Great and Little Clacton and Cann Hall after execution of Thomas Cromwell 1645-1832 Smugglers Headquarters in Great Clacton, Many Tunnels are said to exist between the St John’s church and The Ship Inn as well as other places. One runs from the North side of the church towards St. John’s square. Others are reputed to run from the Ship’s Inn, Geddy Hall (Home of the Webb family), the Queen’s head and at Eaglehurst, a house in Valley Road. The Smugglers were a rough lot sometimes taking captive the Revenue men captive while they completed their work of loading cargo from the unguarded beach at Clacton and storing it, ready for “Gentleman” to transport it to London. The nearest barracks was Colchester and in those days it took a good time to travel to Clacton by Horse or on Foot. By which time the cargos would have disappeared. Clacton Beach was also situated between two noxious marshes Little Clacton to the East and Jaywick to the West. 7 December 1830 Luddites smash up farm machinery in Local farms. 1,000 locals had to put down the riot. 1911 Archaeologist, J. Hazzledine Warren discovers a wooden spear, dating back some 250,000 years, is one of the oldest known man-made wooden artefacts found anywhere in the world.

Leeds United and former Ipswich Town midfielder Ian Westlake was born in the town, as well as the lead singer of rock band Interpol, Paul Banks.

The Clacton & District Local History Society

Even though the nearby village of Good Clacton is an ancient Saxon settlement, Clacton-on-Sea is usually a comparatively new town, born in 1871. Paradoxically, it can be one of the oldest identified web-sites of human habitation in Britain, as evidenced by a 400,000-year-old spearhead discovered within the cliff below Clacton Hospital, and lots of other archaeological finds. In his most up-to-date and most comprehensive book on Clacton, the author traces the town’s past, from prehistoric time towards the present day..

One comment to History of Clacton

  • Michael Land  says:

    If you fancy expanding your knowledge 35 miles further outside of Clacton then please visit the Ridgewell Airfield Commemorative Museum. Free entry. 2nd Sunday of the month April to September and then Remembrance Sunday

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