Thaxted is a small town, seven miles south-east of Saffron Walden. It has several significant buildings, including the Guildhall, St. John the Baptist Church and John Webb’s Windmill, as well as many traditional timber-framed and colour washed cottages. The pargeting decoration on the walls is typical of this part of Essex.
Thaxted was once the cutlery capital of England, until the industry declined in the 16th century. The Guildhall was built about 1400 by the Cutlers’ Guild as a meeting place for the craftsmen and to demonstrate the prosperity of the Thaxted cutlery trade. It is a three storey oak framed building with plaster in-fill. The ground floor is open on three sides and each upper storey overhangs the one below.
St. John the Baptist Church, which was completed in 1510, is one of the largest and grandest in Essex, an indication of the earlier importance of Thaxted. It is 183 feet long, with a slender church spire almost as tall and stands on a hill. The interior is light and airy due to the white paint and clear glass windows.
Close to the church is a double row of almshouses, built in the early 18th century, which leads to a tower windmill, built in 1804 and still has all its original machinery. There is a small museum here. It is known as John Webb’s Windmill, as he owned the farmland on which it was built.
A notable resident of Thaxted, was Gustav Holst, the composer, who lived in “The Manse” in Town Street from 1917 until 1925 and worked on several compositions here, including the setting of the hymn, “I vow to thee my country”.