The overlooked Essex commuter suburb that’s been swarmed with soldiers for the past 200 years

The town of Warley, located just outside Brentwood, is known for its excellent transport links. However, what Warley is lesser known for, is its rich military history that stretches back to the Roman era.

The military background of the area gained prominence during the 18th and 19th centuries due to its strategic military importance. Its open landscapes and proximity to London made it an ideal location for military encampments and training grounds.

Warley had strategic importance during the time of the Spanish Armada – it was used as a meeting place for contingents from eight eastern and midland counties (900 horsemen assembled here) to then travel on to Tilbury. The local common was used as a military camp in 1742, and became a permanent feature as Warley Barracks in 1804.

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The barracks were built in response to the need for a permanent training facility for the British Army, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. Completed in 1804, Warley Barracks became one of the largest military installations in the country.

The barracks served as a depot for several regiments, including the Essex Regiment. It was equipped with extensive training facilities, parade grounds, and living quarters for thousands of soldiers. Over the years, Warley Barracks played a crucial role in preparing troops for various military campaigns, from the Crimean War to the World Wars.

The Essex Regiment, formed in 1881, had a long-standing association with Warley. The regiment's depot was housed at Warley Barracks, making it a focal point for recruitment, training, and mobilisation. During World War I, the barracks became a bustling hub of activity, with thousands of soldiers passing through its gates on their way to the front lines.

The regiment's connection to Warley continued through World War II, where it again served as a key training and logistics centre. The Essex Regiment's legacy is commemorated by various memorials and exhibits, celebrating its contributions and the soldiers who served within its ranks.

Following World War II, the use of Warley Barracks declined, and it eventually closed in 1960. The site underwent significant changes, with parts of the barracks being demolished or repurposed for civilian use. However, the area's military heritage remains a proud aspect of Warley's identity.

Today, the former barracks site hosts residential developments, parks, and community spaces. The South Essex Crematorium, located on part of the old barracks grounds, features a memorial garden honouring the soldiers who trained and served there. Additionally, the Essex Regiment Chapel, originally part of the barracks, has been preserved and serves as a historical landmark.

Modern Warley is a vibrant community that balances its historical roots with contemporary living. The area benefits from excellent transport links, including close proximity to Brentwood town centre and the M25 motorway, making it a desirable location for commuters.

Warley's residents enjoy a range of amenities, from local shops and schools to parks and recreational facilities. The area also hosts events and activities that celebrate its rich heritage, fostering a strong sense of community and continuity with the past.

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