10 things you didn’t know about Essex: Part III
PUBLISHED: 10:27 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:53 25 March 2020
In the third part of her monthly series, Mica Bale looks at the history of the Clacton Spear, Essex’s worst train accident, where in Essex Queen Mary stayed and much more
1) Did you know that Rochford General Hospital was the location of the breakthrough discovery of how to treat jaundice successfully?
It’s thought that an infant was suffering from jaundice and was taken outside into the sunlight. There were visually positive results and Dr Richard Cremer, along with a nurse whom many credit with the discovery, pursued the theory which led to the later establishment of phototherapy.
2) It is believed that Ian Fleming completed his James Bond novel From Russia, with Love in Essex while staying at Moyns Park.
The internationally-acclaimed novelist was friends with the owner of the Essex estate. Today, the estate is renowned for its stud which began in the 1950s and is perhaps best known for producing the racehorse Duke of Marmalade.
3) Throughout our county’s history, the Romans, Anglo Saxons and numerous other settlers have left their mark on Essex and have left behind a wealth of significant archaeological finds. Among these amazing artefacts was the Clacton Spear which was uncovered in 1911 by somebody who thought that it was a mere antler.
In fact, what he had discovered was the tip of a wooden spear made of yew which is thought to date back at least 400,000 years. When it was first found, the Essex relic measured 387 millimetres but in the years since, the spear has shortened after drying due to inadequate preservation when it was first unearthed.
4) Tragically, on September 1, 1905, Essex witnessed the worst train disaster in the county’s history. The accident occurred at Witham Railway Station when the London Liverpool Street to Cromer train came off the tracks at high speed causing complete carnage.
A total of 11 people lost their lives in the incident, including a luggage porter and ten passengers. Dozens more were injured and it was only thanks to a certain Ben Sainty, who worked as a signalman, that more lives were not lost after he prevented another train from crashing into the wreckage.
5) As the oldest town in Britain, it seems fitting that Colchester also boasts the oldest walls in Essex, and quite possibly in England.
The walls were constructed during the Roman era and amazingly roughly a mile of the original wall still stands today.
6) The famed artist JMW Turner would often travel to Essex to paint the Purfleet Royal Gunpowder Magazine which was used to house gunpowder and also had an accompanying garrison to safeguard the valuable reserves.
Some of those paintings are now located at the Tate Britain in London.
7) Coggeshall was once renowned for its cloth and silk industry, but the town later suffered from the introduction of cheaper materials and unhelpful trade laws.
In the 19th century however, the town began producing Tambour lace, an intricately designed lacework, and among the satisfied customers were Queen Mary and later Queen Elizabeth II!
8) Did you know that in 1533 Queen Mary stopped in Essex while travelling to London to secure the crown? The Queen stayed at Ingatestone Hall, a Grade I listed country house which dates back to the 16th century, before continuing her journey.
She was not the only royal visitor however, as in the summer of 1561, Queen Elizabeth I was also a guest at the Essex estate. Reportedly her arrival was met with a luxurious display of hospitality. Today, the hall remains in the Petre family after it was built by Sir William Petre, who was Secretary of State to four Tudor monarchs from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I.
9) Two oak trees on the Wivenhoe House Estate originate from the Peninsula Wars. The owner of the house, which is now a four-star hotel, was General Rebow who decided to take a souvenir from his time at war.
The General put cuttings of cork oak in his boots and, upon returning home, planted the cuttings. They stand today as large trees in the hotel grounds.
10) Established as an inn back in the mid 14th century, The Galvin Green Man at Howe street is one of the oldest pubs in Essex.
The pub is now run by Essex-born brothers Jeff and Chris Galvin, who have given the pub its Galvin prefix and the wisdom from their Michelin-starred restaurants. The Green Man even has the rare distinction of the River Chelmer running through the beer garden.