The town has a history of shipbuilding and seafaring. There are disused oyster pits near the Town Hard, where the Colne Smack Preservation Society can also be found. In 1347 five ships and 51 men were sent to the siege of Calais. ‘William of Brightlingsea’ was in Sir Francis Drake’s fleet which vanquished the Spanish Armada.
Brightlingsea has the distinction of being the only Cinque Port outside Kent and Sussex having been a limb of Sandwich since 1360. The 13th Century Jacobes Hall, in the town centre is timber-framed with an undulating tile roof and external staircase. All Saints Church, which is sited on a hill about a mile inland from the town, was mainly built circa 1250.
Its impressive tower 97ft high is visible from 17 miles out to sea. A light was placed in the tower to guide fishing vessels home. The Church contains some Roman brickwork and a frieze of memorial ceramic wall tiles commemorating local residents whose lives were lost at sea.
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