Clacton VCH Group

The Clacton VCH Group was founded in 2002 to enable local people to compile some of their own history for themselves, using valuable local knowledge and contacts, and working in collaboration with the staff of the Victoria County History of Essex and archaeologists based at Essex County Council. There are currently about 20 members of the Group, who meet about once a month either for research or fieldwork.

The Group's Work

The Group has successfully completed a wide-ranging variety of projects, some of which involve desk based and archival research, while others are orientated towards fieldwork and the identification of historic sites. In addition to countless newsletter items and reports, substantial outcomes have included:

  • publications
  • information boards 
  • VCH Essex Explore items
  • public events and lectures
  • listings, documents and oral history materials added to local archives and heritage environment records.

In addition, the research materials assembled by the Group have been extensively quarried by VCH Essex staff in the preparation of VCH ‘Red Book’ accounts, for example most recently on the history of the Gunfleet estuary and Holland Haven (Tendring Hundred Levels) for VCH Essex Volume XII (part 1).

If you are interested in learning more about the Group and its current projects, please contact the VCH County Editor, Dr Chris Thornton by email or by post: VCH Essex, C/O Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT.

VCH Clacton Group researching maps at the Essex Record Office
The VCH Clacton Group researching maps of the Gunfleet estuary at the Essex Record Office.

Research and fieldwork

The analysis of historical records and physical landscapes lie at the heart of the Clacton VCH Group’s work. Archival research has been based on a huge variety of sources ranging from newspapers, maps, local government minutes and manorial records.

Fieldwork surveying World War Two sites in Tendring Hundred, guided by military archaeologist Fred Nash (ECC), has drawn upon an unusual source, a copy of an original document recording the planning ‘contraventions’ for the requisition and later relinquishing of sites and property required for the installation of anti-invasion defences.  The Groups other projects concerning the Second World War have drawn upon materials such as ARP reports, wartime diaries and oral history.

The Group’s latest project explores the overseas trade of Harwich in the late 16th century. Guided by the VCH county Editor, and meeting in Harwich courtesy of the Harwich Society, it is examining and transcribing the customs accounts known as Port Books which are preserved at The National Archives.


The following three books are currently available from the VCH County Editor, Dr Chris Thornton. He may be contacted by email or by post: VCH Essex, C/O Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT) for £5 each including P&P. Cheques payable to ‘VCH Clacton Group’.

Clacton at War 1939–1945 (Clacton VCH Group, 2003)

Defending the Coast. World War Two Defences at Clacton-on-Sea, Holland-on-Sea and Jaywick (Clacton VCH Group. 2009)

Clacton on Sea and Riggs’ Retreat (Clacton VCH Group 2017)

Information Boards

In several recent projects the Clacton VCH Group have researched and designed historical interpretation boards, to provide the public with information ‘in situ’. Their project ‘Researching a lost coastal landscape’ led to two such boards being erected on either side of the former Gunfleet estuary where it once entered the sea between Frinton and Little Holland. Their ‘Discovering Dad’s Army’ project created another board on a Second World War pillbox in the centre of Great Oakley village.

Public Events, Lectures and Displays

For all their projects the Group runs local events to disseminate the knowledge they have found to a wider audience in the local community. These have been held at various venues, but chiefly in Clacton, and often in collaboration with other local history societies in the Tendring area. The events usually involve displays and talks on the Group’s most recent research project, refreshments and sometimes include participation by re-enactment groups.


The Group’s run of continuous activity and success has led to it receiving a great deal of practical and financial support.

Funding bodies have included:

The National Lottery

The VCH Essex Trust (Reg. Char. 1038801)

The Friends of Historic Essex (Reg. Char. 235270)

The Hervey Benham Trust (Reg. Char. 277578)

Essex Heritage Trust (Reg. Char. 802317)

Grassroots Charity for Colchester & Tendring (Reg. Char. 803193)

Essex Community Foundation (Reg. Char. 1052061)

The Victoria County History Trust