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10 things you didn't know about Essex: Part VI

PUBLISHED: 12:22 21 May 2019

Credi:t Chelmsford City Council - listening bench at Hadleigh Park

Credi:t Chelmsford City Council - listening bench at Hadleigh Park

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In our latest round-up of quirky Essex facts Mica Bale looks at the history of Hatfield Forest, how the Essex Pig was developed in the county and the origins of Bocking's iconic windmill

1) One of the county's most interesting and certainly significant settlements is Chipping Ongar. The somewhat unusually named town, which some experts believe comes from origins meaning 'market' and also 'grass lands', has a rich and varied history, largely hidden from popular view.

One of the town's most interesting chapters is the time David Livingstone lived in the town. A young man yet to make his mark, Livingstone would spend more than a year in the Essex town. He quickly embraced local life, becoming a regular at the pub. He even fell in love with a local girl, sadly only to be heartbroken when she rejected his feelings and married his close friend.

2) Hatfield Forest is one of the finest and most complete examples of a royal hunting forest. Now under the protection of the National Trust, Hatfield Forest has a history that predates even the Norman Conquest. Particularly popular with the medieval monarchs, it was King Henry I who granted Hatfield its special royal status in 1100.

Today, as well as providing a wonderful insight into royal history, the forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as a National Nature Reserve. It is home to hundreds of different varieties of wildlife and plant life, many rare or endangered.

3) Although not the best known of all the native English breeds, the Essex Pig was developed in the county and quickly became popular for its ability to weather whatever conditions it was faced with and still continue to thrive.

As testament to this, whereas many native breeds either decreased in numbers or even faced extinction, the Essex Pig enjoyed considerable growth in the war years, even though food was scarce for people and livestock alike. Today, the breed is enjoying a comeback after a period of decline.

4) Did you know that 2019 marks the 280th anniversary since the death of the infamous Essex-born highwayman Dick Turpin?

The tales of Turpin's criminal adventures have long ignited the imagination of storytellers and historians, however his earliest origins in Essex saw him born in Hempstead and, some say, even run his own butcher's shop in Thaxted.

5) Were you aware that Bocking Windmill, which enjoys Grade I listed status, was first built in 1721? Amazingly, this historic windmill has not just survived throughout many generations of Essex history but it was originally situated nearly 200 yards away.

The windmill was relocated after being sold and taken down to be rebuilt just a short distance away, where it continued to be used until the early 1920s.

6) It is often the Victorian years that are credited with the greatest leaps and bounds in natural history and other previously unexplored fields of interest. However, one of Britain's most important figures in the studies of nature was John Ray.

Among his most notable findings was the classification of different plantlife into their respective groups or families, such as herbs or trees. With his father as the local blacksmith, Ray was born in Black Notley, where he would spend much of his young years before returning home to the Essex town for the twilight of his life.

7) Were you aware that one of England's oldest racecourses was located at Galleywood and dated back more than 175 years?

The Chelmsford races were held at Galleywood and throughout the history of these meetings, they would be visited by several members of the royal family including King George III and also Edward VII.

8) Essex boasts a heritage of creativity, from writers and sculptors to painters and poets. One of the most beloved paintings with a connection with the county is surely Mr and Mrs Andrews, one of Thomas Gainsborough's best masterpieces.

Interestingly both the subjects, the newlyweds Mrs and Mrs Andrews, had connections to the Essex village of Bulmer. Mr Andrews is thought to have been born in Bulmer and it is logical that his wife was also born and raised in the village. Both were later buried in Bulmer but their legacy very much lives on today.

9) The Chelmsford Museum celebrates a fascinating insight into arguably one of Britain's most historic towns.

Delving into Chelmsford's rich and varied history, one of the most interesting items contained within the museum is the Spitfire Fund collection box in which the people of Chelmsford contributed money to build a spitfire for the war effort.

(Credit Chelmsford  Museum) Spitfire Fund(Credit Chelmsford Museum) Spitfire Fund

10) Did you know that throughout Essex there is a network of Listening Benches?

A fantastic and interactive way to learn about local history while taking a well-earned break, these listening benches are found in different towns and settlements in the county including Colchester and Chelmsford.

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