10 things you didn’t know about Essex: Part V
PUBLISHED: 13:21 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 25 March 2020
Andrea Simmons Abbott
In our latest round-up of quirky Essex facts Mica Bale looks at the history of Bateman’s Tower, how Essex featured in War of the Worlds and the origins of Maldon Salt
1) While it is true that the county of Essex as a whole is awash with many fascinating and historic stories, arguably one of the most historic of all the settlements and villages in the region is Boxted. Not far from Colchester, Boxted is a pretty example of an old Essex village and even boasts one of the very oldest houses in the region.
Characterised by its timber frame which testifies to its age, Songers cottage dates as far back as 1280 and predates a time in Boxted’s history when many of its residents took part in the Great Puritan Migration in 1630.
2) Despite the multimedia options of today, for many there is still nothing better than curling up with a good book. Although many of the nation’s libraries are fast disappearing, Thomas Plume’s library remains a wonderful collection of many thousands of books and is a living legacy of an avid bookworm.
Located in Maldon, the library as it is today was once the private collection of local resident Thomas Plume whose books numbered as many as 8,000. Interestingly, these books date back to the 15th century and the library was founded in the early 1700s.
3) Located in the pretty settlement of Brightlingsea, Bateman’s Tower is a structure similar to a lighthouse that was built by John Bateman. His daughter was suffering from consumption and so the tower was used as a place of recovery and respite.
Grade II listed, Bateman’s Tower is notable, not just for its touching story, but also because of its tilting. Apparently it was constructed upon a bedrock of faggots and is now Essex’s very own Leaning Tower of Piza!
4) There is something so inviting about the way the Essex coastline beckons, its great waters just perfect to take a vessel out on. The Colne Yacht Club would no doubt agree and as one of the very oldest in the area, its members would certainly have some tales of adventure to share.
Dating as far back as the 1870s, the club has been enjoying Brightlingsea’s waters for many generations and continues to welcome new members today.
5) Did you know that Essex is featured in the classic and highly popular novel, The War of the Worlds by HG Wells?
More specifically, the village of Tillingham is referred to, as well as Clacton, Harwich, while several other towns and settlements are named too.
6) Were you aware that the second Butlins holiday camp was opened at Clacton more than 80 years ago?
Following World War II, when the camp was used by the Army for training purposes, many of the great stars of the film and music scene, including Sir Cliff Richard, began or developed their careers at Clacton’s Butlins.
7) The village of Althorne was once the home of one of World War I’s most prominent pilots.
Receiver of the Military Cross, Phillip Scott Burge had relocated to Essex as the war began, however he was not to enjoy many years in the village as sadly, he would die in action in 1918.
8) Amazingly, Essex might well be home to the biggest toy museum in the world. Located in Stansted Mountfitchet, the House on the Hill Toy Museum is a fabulous visitor attraction to take you through nostalgic childhood memories with at least 8,000 toys on display.
With childhood favourites from the mid 20th century, the museum offers a great insight into our changing social history and how children would amuse themselves in play with toys from Teddy bears to trains.
9) Essex is one of the few sites in the UK that the Heath Fritillary butterfly can be seen. One of the county’s best areas to spot this rare and beautiful butterfly is at Pound Wood in Benfleet.
The butterfly very nearly saw extinction, however great efforts were made to ensure the species’ survival and today it enjoys growing numbers and an ideal habitat at home in Essex.
10) The Maldon Salt Company can be traced back to 1882 and this family-run firm still employs many of the same methods that would have been used in the latter part of the 19th century.
Maldon Salt was even issued with a Royal Warrant back in 2012, following a special visit by Her Majesty the Queen to the site on the Essex coast.