In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Essex like this:
Essex, maritime co. in SE. of England; is bounded N. by Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, E. by the North Sea, S. by the river Thames, and W. by Middlesex and Herts; greatest length, N. and S., 44 miles; greatest breadth, E. and W., 57 miles; 987,032 ac.; pop. 576,434. On the coast are several marshy islands, such as Canvey, Foulness, Wallasea, Mersea, &c. Essex is one of the Metropolitan shires, or "Six Home Counties, " and took its name from the East Saxons. It rests upon the London clay, and is watered by the Stour, Colne, Chelmer, Crouch, Thames, Roding, and Lea; the surface, flat near the coast and the rivers, is undulating and sometimes hilly towards the NW.; the soil is generally fertile. ...
Wheat and barley of fine quality are largely grown in the NW. and the centre; the marshes on the coast have for the most part been drained and converted into fertile grazing lands. (For agricultural statistics, see Appendix.) Essex had at one time a great extent of forest, which has almost entirely disappeared. Hainault Forest was disforested in 1851; Epping Forest was preserved by the Act of 1871. The co. has no mineral wealth, with the exception of chalk for lime, septaria for Roman cement, and clay for bricks. Its mfrs. are of no great extent -- ironworks for the local supply of agricultural implements; crape, damasks and satins, &c. The Barking fishing smacks carry on an active industry; and there are very productive oyster beds in the estuaries of the Crouch, the Blackwater, and the Colne. Essex comprises 19 hundreds, 1 liberty, and 413 pars., with parts of 3 others, the parl. And mun. bor. of Colchester (1 member), the parl. bor. of West Ham (2 members), and the mun. bors. of Harwich, Maldon, and Saffron Walden. It is mostly in the diocese of St Albans. For parliamentary purposes it is divided into 8 divisions, viz., South-western or Walthamstow, Southern or Romford, Western or Epping, Northern or Saffron Walden, North-Eastern or Harwich, Eastern or Maldon, Mid or Chelmsford, and South-Eastern, 1 member for each division. Prior to 1885 it returned 6 members.
For an overview of how the county has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern of Essex -- but you should check this covers the area you are interested in.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Essex | Map and description for the county, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 25th May 2013
Click here for more detailed advice on finding places within A Vision of Britain through Time, and maybe some references to other places called "Essex".