Volume ten of the Essex series explores the area of Lexden Hundred to the north and west of Colchester. Since the 19th century the area has been renowned for its landscapes, made famous by the painter John Constable. The low hills and valleys, particularly Constable's own Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, have attracted increasing numbers of tourists, as well as other artists, chief among them Sir Alfred Munnings. Throughout its history the area has been dominated by Colchester and the economy has been almost entirely agricultural, with much of its produce serving the borough's market. The coming of the railway in the 19th century enabled farmers to diversify into market gardening and seed production for customers in London and beyond. There are three small towns with strongly marked characters. Dedham, an important centre for the cloth trade from the 15th to the 18th century, and a market town by the late 16th century, has a rich variety of timber-framed and brick-fronted buildings. Wivenhoe was a port serving Colchester and had a ship-building industry from the 16th century. Earl's Colne, a failed medieval market town, grew in the 19th century after the establishment of R. Hunt and Co.'s Atlas Engineering Works, which continued into the 1980s.
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