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Rayleigh is a historic market town and is the main centre of population in the District. The town has retained much of its traditional character and is a busy shopping centre, well served by bus and train. Rayleigh is mentioned in the Domesday Book.

The manor of Rayleigh belonged to Sweyne of Essex, the son of Robert FitzWimarc who built a castle in Rayleigh. The location is at Rayleigh Mount, which is today owned and maintained by the National Trust. A market is held on Wednesday mornings and dates back to 1181, when it was registered in the Exchequer Records of Henry II. The word "Rayleigh" is said to derive from two Anglo-Saxon words, "Roe”, a deer, and “leigh” a clearing. The Rayleigh Windmill is over 200 years old and is a museum and popular venue for weddings.

Did you know?

The Town Council's Grant of Arms features a Tudor rose referring to the badge of King Henry VIII, who had a hunting park and lodge in the town.