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Wivenhoe morning.jpg
Wivenhoe riverfront on the River Colne
Population 7,637 (2011)
OS grid reference TM045225
Civil parish
  • Wivenhoe
  • Colchester
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CO7
Dialling code 01206
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • Harwich and North Essex
List of places
EssexCoordinates: 51°51′30″N 0°57′55″E / 51.8582°N 0.9653°E / 51.8582; 0.9653

Wivenhoe is a town and civil parish in north eastern Essex, England, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) south east of Colchester. Historically Wivenhoe village, on the banks of the River Colne, and Wivenhoe Cross, on the higher ground to the north, were two separate settlements but with considerable development in the 19th century the two have merged.

At the 2001 census, the town had a population of over 7,221, increasing to 7,637 at the 2011 census. The town's history centres on fishing, ship building, and smuggling.

Much of lower Wivenhoe is also a designated conservation area, with many streets being of particular architectural interest.


The place-name Wivenhoe is Saxon in origin, deriving from the personal name Wifa's or Wife's spur or promontory (hoe). The place-name is now usually pronounced 'Wivvenho', but the Essex accent would traditionally have rendered it as 'Wivvenhoo'. According to folk etymology, the name derived from "Wyvernhoe", originating from the mythical beast called a wyvern and the previously mentioned ridge (hoe). The town's football team, Wivenhoe Town FC, is nicknamed 'The Wyverns'.


Garrison House, Wivenhoe
The old Garrison House in East Street, Wivenhoe. Displays one of the finest examples of pargeting in the region. Built around 1675.
St Mary's Church Wivenhoe
St Mary's Church Wivenhoe

Wivenhoe is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Wiivnhou in the hundred of Lexden, when it formed part of the land of Robert Gernon, where there was a mill, 12 acres (4.9 ha) of meadow and pasture for 60 sheep. The church of St Mary the Virgin is in the High Street and existed by 1254 when Simon Battle was the patron. The North and South aisles were built in 1340 and 1350, making it the oldest building still standing in Wivenhoe. It has a chancel with north and south chapels and a north vestry, an aisled and clerestoried nave with north and south porches, and a west tower on which there is an open-sided cupola added to the roof by 1734. The walls are of rubble, which includes some Roman tile, with ashlar dressings. Elizabeth de Vere (d. 1537), widow of John, 13th earl of Oxford, left Wivenhoe church the vestments and ornaments from her private chapel. The tower was plastered in 1563.

Wivenhoe developed as a port and until the late 19th century was effectively a port for Colchester, as large ships were unable to navigate any further up the River Colne, which widens here into its estuary. Wivenhoe had two prosperous shipyards. It became an important port for trade for Colchester and developed shipbuilding, commerce and fishing industries. The period of greatest prosperity for the town came with the arrival of the railway in 1863.

In 1884 the town suffered significant damage when it lay close to the epicentre of one of the most destructive UK earthquakes of all time – the 1884 Colchester earthquake. In 1890, there was a population of about 2,000 mostly engaged in fishing for oysters and sprats and in ship and yacht building. A dry dock was built in 1889 and extended in 1904, making it one of the largest on the East Coast; it was demolished in the mid-1960s. In the 1960s, Wivenhoe Park was chosen as the location for the University of Essex.

During the UK miners' strike, the now defunct Wivenhoe Port imported coal and became subject to picketing by miners (many from Yorkshire), which led to a very substantial police presence, some of them drafted in from other counties, and violent skirmishes as striking miners tried to prevent vehicles entering and leaving the port.

Wivenhoe Park

Wivenhoe Park, bordering on the town of Colchester, is the location for the University of Essex. The site was the home for several centuries of the Rebow family, descendants of Flemish clothweavers from Colchester. Wivenhoe House was designed for Isaac Rebow in 1759 by Thomas Reynolds; the park itself was designed by Richard Woods. it was remodelled in 1846-7 by T. Hopper. A view of the house across the lake was painted by John Constable painting on a social visit to Major-General Francis Slater Rebow in 1816 for a fee of 100 guineas.


Wivenhoe station is served by an electric rail service to and from London Liverpool Street via Colchester railway station currently provided by Abellio Greater Anglia. The town is connected by a seasonal foot ferry service which runs during the weekend and on bank holidays according to the tide from April to mid October across the River Colne, Essex to Fingringhoe and Rowhedge. There is a bus connection to Colchester. Wivenhoe is just over one hour from Stansted Airport and 30 minutes from Harwich International Port.

Society and leisure

The Sentinel Gallery, Wivenhoe
The Sentinel Gallery, Wivenhoe

Wivenhoe has a population of between nine and ten thousand people with a mixture of students from the University of Essex, a long-standing artistic community, and commuters. Property prices averaged £286,000 in February 2008. The town has a number of small local shops: there is a bookshop which was established in 1976, (shortlisted for the national Independent Bookseller of the Year award 2008) a chemist, two post offices, corner house coffee shop, toy shop, delicatessen, tea rooms, Co-op, pet supplier, florist and art gallery. There are six pubs including the Black Buoy Pub, Horse and Groom, Flag, some of which are the venue for musical events, including a jazz club. The Crab & Winkle Gallery can be found at the town's railway station. The town is popular with students from the university who walk from the campus to enjoy the facilities of the town's public houses and its waterfront.

The town has a number of sports and leisure clubs and societies: Wivenhoe Sailing Club's clubhouse is just downstream of the river barrier. Wivenhoe Town Football Club play at Broad Lane Sports Ground, which is also used by Colchester United Ladies and was home to Wivenhoe Old Boys Football Club, and is also home to Wivenhoe Tennis Club. Wivenhoe Town Cricket Club is located on Rectory Road. The Cricket Club also hosts a monthly comedy club, "Wivenhoe Funny Farm", established in 2005. There are a number of musical and theatre groups, and an art gallery. The King George V Playing Field is in the lower half of the town, with a small skate park, football pitches, a small play park and a dog-walking area. There is a bowls club on De Vere Lane and a bridge club meets in the Town Council's offices.

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