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

PUBLISHED: 15:25 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:35 25 March 2020

Foulness Island (c) Tom, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Foulness Island (c) Tom, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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In her latest look at quirky facts about Essex Mica Bale explores Henry Ford’s connection to Boreham House, where seahorses can be found, our county’s connection to film and more

1) Did you know that there are two varieties of seahorses that can be seen in Essex?

The descriptively named Short Snouted and Long Snouted seahorse have been recorded in different areas throughout the UK, but in recent years growing numbers of these endangered, and not to mention majestic, creatures have been found in the Thames Estuary as well as in Southend and Tilbury.

2) Were you aware that Henry Ford, the great car manufacturer, purchased the Essex estate of Boreham Hall after developing both a fondness and concern for the farms struggling to survive in the local countryside?

With a determination to make an impact, Ford purchased the Essex estate, eager to showcase how the country and the various farms that lived off the land, could not only survive but thrive. Ford certainly created a living legacy with Boreham Hall used as a place of education in agriculture and its related subjects. Today the estate is playing a part in making history for the many couples who decide to use the house as a wedding venue.

3) Amazingly, it was an Essex local who became one of Australia's first opera stars during the 19th century. Sara Elizabeth Flower was actually a Grays local and would later attend the Royal Academy of Music.

Both Sara and her sister, Elizabeth, began to make a name for themselves on home soil, but Sara relocated to Australia in the late 1840s before showcasing her talent to much acclaim in the Australian debut of Norma by Bellini.

4) With historic and lush landscapes, Essex has always been blessed with photogenic good looks that just seem to beckon the cameras.

Eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot some of the county's most famous spots in different television and film programmes. Interestingly, Tilbury Docks has often welcomed Hollywood, most notably with starring roles in Batman Begins and also Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

5) Foulness Island is home to many different breeds of birds, including some rarer species, and even welcomes the second largest avocet population in the country.

Many different bird breeds use the island for breeding, where they are largely undisturbed and able to migrate each year. Foulness Island is now designated as a Special Protection Area for Birds.

6) Renowned as one of the oldest counties in England, it is hardly surprising that some of Essex's most loved towns and villages have name origins that date back to some of the most exciting chapters from history.

For example, Grays is thought to be so named after Sir Henry de Gray who was highly favoured by King John during his rule.

7) A county gem that is of both local and national interest is the Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich which was opened in the November of 1911 and continues to please audiences today, complete with its silent screen, original projection room and ornamental frontage still as magnificent as it was more than 100 years ago.

The cinema provides not only a rare insight into cinematic history as one of the oldest still in existence nationally, but also offers an even rarer glimpse into the history of the town.

8) Did you know that the Tilbury Brass Band has been in existence since 1919 and this year is celebrating its centenary?

Originally formed during a meeting of the Tilbury Branch of the National Union of Railwaymen, the band soon assembled and became an instant success. Today, the Tilbury Brass Band is still going strong and continues to delight audiences at contests, concerts and special events.

9) From white rhinos and madrills to penguins and hyenas, Colchester Zoo is home to more than 200 different species of animals.

Not only is it one of the county's most popular tourist destinations, but it also contributes to many breeding and conservation programmes. The zoo even has its own charity, Action for the Wild.

10) Braintree and Bocking Public Gardens was gifted to the people by Sydney Courtauld, the nephew of Samuel Courtauld.

Sydney came up with the notion of a public garden upon seeing the constant strain and struggle for the ordinary man, woman or child and devised an area in which they could relax and 'escape for a brief spell from his cares and worries of business'.

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