10 things you didn’t know about Essex: Part VIII
PUBLISHED: 12:22 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:30 25 March 2020
In the latest of our monthly series, Mica Bale looks at how Essex is home to one of the longest golf holes in the world, the Maldon Grain Riots and our county’s links to the creator of Aston Martin
1) Have you heard of William Gull? Born in Colchester, Gull was a royal physician to Queen Victoria and also treated Prince Albert. His work led to the identification of many significant illnesses, such as Bright's Disease and also eating disorders.
A colourful figure, Gull was born on the barge his father owned and was keen to encourage women in medicine. Although claims were largely disputed, for a time it was considered that he might have been a potential suspect in the Jack the Ripper case. Following a successful career, his death was mourned around the world, before he was laid to rest in his home county of Essex.
2) Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, was the only known illegitimate male child of Henry VIII and was acknowledged by the Tudor monarch. Born in Blackmore to Henry VIII and his famous mistress, Elizabeth Blount, Henry Fitzroy would be acknowledged by the king despite being born out of wedlock and was once even presented by his father to the court, perhaps even having been a part of the royal nursery.
The king became a constant figure in his young son's life and in many ways he was treated with the equality of a legitimate child, rising to favour in both material and social standings.
3) Samuel Pepys, famed for his contribution to the navy and also for his diary, once visited Grays in the latter part of the summer of 1665, a year prior to the Great Fire of London that he would later document as an eye witness.
According to his diary, the time of his visit to Grays was 'a very calm and curious' morning and later in the day he would purchase 'a great deal of fine fish'.
4) Were you aware that Essex can boast the longest closing golf hole in the world?
The special hole can be found on the beautiful course at Crondon Park which also boasts a wonderful selection of other challenging holes which replicate some of the world's most famous. Affectionately known as the 'Crondon Crunch' the 18th hole measures more than 800 yards.
5) Matilda of Boulogne, the wife of King Stephen and claimant of the English throne who battled with Empress Matilda, spent much of her childhood in Essex.
Although born in France, the Queen would grow up in Chrishall. Evidently, the Essex village was impressed upon her heart as she once wrote a letter that urged the well-being and care of her fellow villagers.
6) It is nearly 500 years since the Maldon Grain Riots which began in the early months of 1629. With poor weather and a general suffering of the financial climate at the time, matters were fast escalating.
It might be said that the real height of the riots were reached when a Maldon local, the wife of a butcher, decided to storm a vessel filled with grain with at least 100 people. She continued to protest at the grain prices and gained a considerable following until she was executed for her role in the riots.
7) Were you aware that Steeple Bumpstead was among one of the very first villages in Essex to have its own village policeman following the introduction and subsequent popularity of individual forces in rural locations?
The village would have its very own police presence for more than 150 years.
8) Did you know that Robert Bamford, one of the creators of the luxury car Aston Martin, was born in Lamarsh? Aston Martin is renowned as the car of choice for James Bond and the first Aston Marsh was produced in 1915 with Bamford's role largely based on the engineering aspect of the business.
Little did he know that the nation's favourite fictional spy would later come to love his creation.
9) Some believe that Copped House in Epping has a particularly special connection to William Shakespeare and arguably his most popular play, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Elizabeth I gifted the Essex estate to Sir Thomas Heneage and the theory goes that it was his marriage that inspired William Shakespeare to write his masterpiece and that the very first performance was given at Copped Hall in the long gallery.
10) Did you know that Hanningfield Reservoir is one of the largest reservoirs in the country, dating back more than 60 years?
As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the reservoir offers more than 800 acres of reserve where visitors can enjoy finding wildlife alongside the various flora and fauna that call Hanningfield home, including tufted ducks, pochards and gadwells.