Mistley is a large village and civil parish on the outskirts of Constable Country, in the Tendring district of northeast Essex. There is a wealth of history just waiting to be discovered to those unfamiliar with the area.

Embark on the picturesque walk along the estuary path known as ‘The Walls’, to Mistley, where there’s often an ice cream van parked up in summer, following the scent of the Maltings as you get nearer.

During Elizabethan times Mistley had a thriving ship-building industry and it remains a working quay to this day. In the present day, Mistley still proves to be a prominent porting town. Providing the ideal location for short sea and transhipment cargoes, with excellent links to Europe, the Baltic and Scandinavia, as well as to London, the Midlands the the North. It is the sort of unassuming little village you might overlook when planning your itininerary. However there are a couple of excellent places to eat and historical landmarks to take in.

Mistley Towers

Mistley Towers are located in The Walls, Mistily. The Mistily Towers are the twin towers of the now demolished Church of St. Mary the Virgin and was designed by Robert Adam in 1776, in response to a commission by Rigby.

The original Georgian parish church on the site had been built in classical style early in the 18th century following the death of Senior Richard Rigby Esquire an English civil servant and politician who sat in the British House of Commons for 43 years.

Two porticoed classical towers, which stood at each end of a grandiose but highly unconventional Georgian church. The design is in the neo-classical style, with a tower at both the east and the west ends of the unconventional church.

From the mention of Adam unfurls another chapter in the history of Mistley

Adam was a friend of the flamboyant Paymaster General Richard Rigby, whose vision it was to turn Mistley into a fashionable spa. This project never came to fruition due to lack of funds, although the Swan Basin opposite The Thorn is a reminder of Rigby’s plans for the village.

The nave was demolished in 1870 leaving the two towers surrounded by the graveyard, with the portico columns moved and added to the towers. Subsequently a new and larger church in the Gothic Revival style was built nearby.  For years the towers served as navigation points for fishing vessels on the River Stour. The Towers were restored in the 1950s by the distinguished local architect Raymond Erith under the auspices of the Georgian Group, and are now protected by English Heritage.

Whilst Rigby’s vision ultimately foundered, the village retains a number of features related to this point in its history. Discover the history of Mistley for yourself at the Wash Cottage in Ramsey, just a short drive away from this fascinating village.

The Mistley Thorn Hotel and public house is an extremely stylish, noteworthy establishment and, as its website states, was the first eating establishment in Essex to be awarded the Michelin Guide’s prestigious Bib Gourmand, which identifies restaurants that provide good food at moderate prices. Owner Sherri Singleton also runs a cooking school, The Mistley Kitchen.

The building’s past is quite fascinating too. It was constructed in 1723 and stands on the site of an older pub in which the aforementioned Mathew Hopkins tried and condemned to death dozens of local women.

A major centre in the East Anglian malting trade during the19th century, the maltings at Mistley continue to fill the air with their rich and distinctive aroma, although some of the maltings buildings have been converted into luxury apartments with estuary views.

Riverside views

Have a wander down by the river, soak up the activities of the quayside and you might like to pop into Mistley Quay Workshops to find out about collecting the key for the landmark Mistley Towers, an English Heritage site managed by the Mistley Thorn Residents Association.

Mistley Place Park Tea Rooms is a lovely restaurant. Homemade food all freshly cooked, and they do really tasty vegetarian alternatives. All in all, a great place to eat, great value for money and a great day out. It is also a farm park, full of loads and loads of furry, fluffy, farm animals.

It is a great place to visit, as the animals are not all in cages and you can walk about among them and feed them with food you can buy cheaply from there. Bring your children and let them feed the animals right out of their hands. It’s a real delight. The volunteers take good care of the animals and they need your support.

On a macabre note, directly attached to this farm is a pond where the Witchmaster General drowned hundreds of young women he accused of witchcraft in the 1600s. Now it’s a home to beautiful swans, geese, moorhens and other waterfowl.

Across the street is a beautiful old church that’s open all day long for visitors. Inside the church you can purchase homemade jams, marmalade and jelly for a pound or two. It’s beautiful inside and out.

Address: The Walls, Mistley, Manningtree CO11 1ET
Tuesday 10am–4pm
Wednesday 10am–4pm
Thursday 10am–4pm
Friday 10am–4pm
Saturday 10am–4pm
Sunday 10am–4pm
Monday 10am–4pm

How to get there:

By Car: Via Belstead Road and A 137 25 minutes
By Train: The average journey time between Ipswich and Mistley is 27 minutes. On an average weekday, there are 31 trains travelling from Ipswich to Mistley. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays.

With Mistley being a short drive away from Ipswich. Stone Lodge Apartments in Ipswich are an ideal place to stay when visiting the many places of interest in Suffolk and Essex.