10 things you didn’t know about Essex: Part IX

PUBLISHED: 12:34 03 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:12 03 October 2019

Frinton-on-Sea (c) Simon Turkas, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Frinton-on-Sea (c) Simon Turkas, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


In her latest edition examining unusual facts about Essex Mica Bale looks at the history of Stow Maries Aerodrome, how Winston Churchill enjoyed holidays at Frinton, Rayleigh’s Royal hunts and more

1) Did you know that the hugely popular television series Call the Midwife, was based on the books of an Essex woman?

Jennifer Worth was born in 1935 in Clacton on Sea and would train to become a midwife before writing several best-selling books based on her own experiences, which would later inspire the BBC series.

2) Essex boasts a rich variety of both pears and apples. One of the oldest named varieties of apple is the Dr Harvey which was first named in 1629. The culinary apple was likely named after a certain Dr Harvey who had retired to Saffron Walden.

One local company in particular, Seabrook and Sons, contributed largely to the development, popularity and growth of several varieties of apples and other fruit. The fruit company was first developed after a severe farming recession meant that founder William Seabrook had to grow fruit in order to survive.

3) With its pretty Queen Anne style, perhaps Belchamp Hall near Braintree is best known as the iconic Felsham Hall in the popular television series Lovejoy. The hall was originally an Elizabethan house before considerable reconstruction and remodelling, and today the Essex country house is a wedding venue.

Guests can enjoy several impressive portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and even a French marble statue that was gifted by King Louis XVI.

4) Although celebrated author Dodie Smith was not born in the county, she was fond of Essex and would live the last few years of her life in the county.

The 101 Dalmatians author bought a country cottage in Finchingfield, which is today commemorated with a Blue Plaque and once even famously hosted the great Walt Disney himself.

5) The 19th century saw many medical advancements and perhaps one of the most significant breakthroughs was the development of antiseptic and its importance. It was Essex man Joseph Lister who particularly pioneered the use of antiseptic in surgery and for recovering patients.

At first Lister suffered much backlash from colleagues but eventually, after the results yielded much success, many would hail him as the 'father of modern surgery'.

6) Did you know that two individuals, James Temple and Edward Whalley, who added their signatures to the death warrant of King Charles I were both residents of Chadwell St Mary?

Temple also oversaw the trial of the monarch as judge, however when King Charles II claimed power in the Restoration, he was brought to account for his role in the death of Charles I. He avoided execution but was sent to Jersey for imprisonment, where he would later die.

7) Did you know that Rayleigh was often used by royalty down through the years for royal hunts? Hunting was one of the most popular pleasures of a monarch and the rights of such hunts and chases were prized greatly indeed.

In Essex, Rayleigh and the woodland in and around the town was often frequented by the monarchy with kings such as Henry III and also several of the Kings Edward enjoying a hunt in the locality. Perhaps Henry VIII is best known for his love of outdoor pursuits and Rayleigh would even provide deer for Greenwich Park.

8) With special exhibits and items that illustrate local life as well as fascinating artefacts of both national and international importance, the Saffron Walden Museum is one of the oldest in the county.

Visitors will find a clipping of Napoleon Bonaparte's hair, the armour worn by a Samurai soldier with the helmet dating to the 16th century and the leather gloves thought to once belong to Mary, Queen of Scots. There are also many items with a local connection, including a Roman glass bowl that was found at Stansted Airport.

9) Frinton on Sea is one of the county's most famous seaside resorts, but in the early part of the 20th century it was a celebrated haven for the great and the good, being a popular retreat for the likes of Edward VIII, who was the Prince of Wales at the time.

Another famous name to enjoy the town was Winston Churchill, who so loved the Essex seaside that he rented a house in the town.

10) The Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, near Maldon, has an impressive history that dates back to 1916 and was built to help protect London from the ever-looming threats from the skies, including the Zeppelin assaults.

It would later come to play a significant role in the Battle of Britain. Today, it is arguably the best example in the country of a World War I aerodrome and is open to the public.

Latest from the Essex Life