Boasting boutique shopping and vineyards, this north Essex town is a popular place to live
Great British Life: Halstead town centre Halstead town centre (Image: Instagram @adrian_scott_photography)

Halstead is said to derive from the Old English ‘heald’ a sloping hillside and ‘stede’ a place of shelter. With archaeological evidence indicating to the early Bronze Age, the sites of Iron Age and Roman settlements, including a villa, were discovered in the vicinity of Greenstead Hall where Saxon pottery was also found. During World War II a prisoner of war camp was located between Halstead and Sudbury. Known locally as Golden Meadow Camp it was the headquarters of several other POW camps in the vicinity. One of the main sources of employment came from weaving and the Courtauld silk weaving mill was the main employer in the town until it closed in 1982. A number of fine buildings remain, including the library in the former Corn Exchange and St. Andrew's Church. With such a fascinating history, it’s definitely worth visiting The Halstead Heritage Museum…open on Wednesdays and Sundays. The website ( is also informative. As Britain in Bloom celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2024, Halstead is synonymous with stunning floral displays. Halstead in Bloom secretary, Julia Smith said: “We have a core team of about 30 volunteers who give freely of their time to plant, weed, deadhead and maintain the displays. Our stated charitable aim is to ‘clear, clean and brighten Halstead for the benefit of residents, those who work in the town and our many visitors’. We believe we have fulfilled and continue to fulfil these aims with awards both regionally and nationally attracting visitors and businesses to the area. We hope to continue into the future and many other residents will join with us to help to keep Halstead looking bright and cheerful.” ( The community spirit continues with various clubs, groups and activities including cricket, bowls, running and photography to be part of. Visit for details. There’s a leisure centre with swimming pool and sports hall, and education wise, there are many primary schools, as well as The Ramsey Academy, a popular over-subscribed secondary school. Co-educational independent day school, Gosfield School, is nearby. While Halstead doesn’t have its own railway station, the nearest with direct links to London is from Kelvedon or Witham. Bus services are provided to Chelmsford, Colchester, Braintree and the surrounding villages. Providing a variety of house styles, from period cottages to new developments, the average family home price, according to Garrington Property Finders ( is £517,092 and in 19th place in Essex for their Best Places to Live 2024.

Great British Life: The Little Book Cafe, HalsteadThe Little Book Cafe, Halstead (Image: The Little Book Cafe)


There’s a mix of eateries to try but a must visit is in a 17th century cottage in Hedingham Road. Little Book Café ( has a cosy vibe, whether you fancy a homemade breakfast, brunch or lunch, there’s sure to be something to tempt you on the menu. A selection of used books to browse, borrow or buy, as well as board games to play are offered. Heading to Market Hill and The Shiish ( offers Turkish cuisine with popular options such as lamb kofte and chicken shish, as well as a range of specials. With oak beams and open fires, The Bull Hotel ( has various menus and caters for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian diets. It also ticks the box for a staycation. Sixteen en-suite rooms and dog friendly rooms are available if your four-legged friend is tagging along. Voted one of the best 50 fish and chip takeaways in 2023’s Fry Magazine Awards, locals know Hook of Halstead ( are worthy winners. Finally, if there’s an iconic feature of the town, it’s Hume’s Bakery ( which has been in the town for more than 60 years. From freshly baked bread to yummy cakes, it’s easy to see why the bakery has a loyal following.



Offering luxury accommodation in an idyllic destination all-year-round, Toppesfield Vineyard’s ( contemporary Scandi style ‘eco’ villa has two luxury bedrooms, en-suite bathrooms and views across the vineyard. Suitable for two to four adults, it’s a good base for exploring the local area, but also perfect for chilling out, as there’s a private patio with four-person jacuzzi and pretty much everything you need. Over at Tuffon Hall ( the farmhouse overlooks the award-winning farm and vineyard while an upcycled old grain store is a perfect glamping pod for two. A comfortable bedroom, kitchenette and shower room form part of The Poachers Hut… a shepherd hut which oozes style and has a wood fired hot tub on the terrace! Enjoy a spot of camping at Gosfield Lake ( where facilities include purpose-built showers, toilets and a washing-up and laundry room. Caravanners are also welcome and it’s the place to have a go at water skiing and open water swimming but also the chance to get back to basics and enjoy the great outdoors. Boasting a four-star gold accolade from the Tourist Board and a picturesque rural location, The Retreat Little Maplestead ( has four ground floor apartments where from here you can explore the many attractions in the area.

Great British Life: Evans Gifts and Interiors, HalsteadEvans Gifts and Interiors, Halstead (Image: Evans Gifts and Interiors)


Halstead’s high street is home to everything from those daily essentials to unique boutiques. A must visit is Evans Gifts and Interiors ( which has evolved from one of the country’s first home accessory and kitchen shops in the 1970s to now, where it stocks everything from beautiful furniture, glass ware and silk flowers, designer gifts as well as locally crafted one-off items. Another independent and family-run shop is BiNis ( which offers high end ethical slow fashion for babies and children up to the age of eight. Hand-picked eclectic brands are stocked and there’s also accessories, toys and baby room décor…and it’s perfect for gifts, too. Keeping with a kid’s theme and Toy Crazy ( has a wide range of toys, including everything from puzzles, soft toys, educational and outdoor options. Womenswear can be found at Ruby and Violet Shoes (Instagram@rubyandvioletshoes) including accessories to give your spring wardrobe a seasonal update.

Great British Life: Halstead Public Gardens is the hub of community events Halstead Public Gardens is the hub of community events (Image: Debra Purdham)

Exploring the town

A hub for the community, Halstead Public Gardens are protected by Fields in Trust ( to make sure current and future generations can enjoy the quintessentially Victorian gardens forever. There’s a bandstand, Victorian drinking fountain and formal World War II memorial as well as play area which focuses on the six senses of inclusive play and includes a roundabout and trampoline for wheelchair users. Another notable building is a former water mill, Townsford Mill. Standing prominently on the River Colne it was converted into a silk mill in 1825. Today, the weatherboarded building is home to one of the largest antiques centres (Instagram@halsteadantiquecentre). The Empire Theatre ( run by the Empire Theatre Trust brings a wide and varied series of entertainment to encourage people of all ages and is also a dementia friendly and autism friendly cinema. For days out there’s plenty to explore nearby including the Colne Valley Railway ( with its large and varied collection of vintage steam and diesel engines, as well as Hedingham Castle ( which has various events all-year-round. As one of the best-preserved water mills in Essex, Alderford Water Mill, Sible Hedingham, is also worth checking out. It’s open on the second Sunday of each month from 2pm to 5pm (

Great British Life: Lois Williamson of Si Belle Beauty with her dog BelleLois Williamson of Si Belle Beauty with her dog Belle (Image: Lois Williamson)


With her bespoke beauty salons in Great Dunmow and Halstead, Lois Williamson founded Si Belle Beauty in 2018 and it’s grown from strength-to-strength ever since.

'My mission is to make every visit an unforgettable experience whilst also creating a lovely, caring and nurturing place to work. We also operate a training academy from our salon, offering opportunities for those not in the industry or those wanting to upskill.

'At Si Belle Beauty, we don’t just provide treatments, we strive to boost our client’s confidence whilst enhancing their natural beauty. I have an absolute incredible team of talented beauty therapists who are passionate about the experience they provide.

'We opened our second branch in Halstead in August 2022 and now have a huge clientele of clients that visit us for a variety of beauty treatments…the most popular being facials, massage, waxing, nails and lashes!

Great British Life: Lois Williamson of Si Belle Beauty in HalsteadLois Williamson of Si Belle Beauty in Halstead (Image: Lois Williamson)

'As you walk in, you are in a pink, flowery haven, ready for an experience different to any other. We have a fully licensed bar for clients to enjoy cocktails and drinks whilst having their treatment.

'People often ask why I chose to open a second salon. Although a mad moment, it is the best mad moment I have ever had. We truly have created a space different to any other in Halstead and I am so proud of the community and experience we now offer as a constantly growing team and business.

'Halstead is a lovely town to operate a business within, it is filled with so many gorgeous independent businesses who support each other and make Halstead what it is today!'