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

Cressing Temple Barns

Cressing Temple Barns - Credit: Archant

In our latest round-up of quirky Essex facts Mica Bale looks at Cressing Temple’s links to the Knights Templar, the history of Hedingham Castle and the Essex origins of George W Bush’s family

1) Did you know that Hedingham Castle can boast a history that dates back more than 900 years to the turmoil of William the Conqueror's era?

Throughout the castle's fascinating history, tales emerge of mighty sieges, visits by the likes of King Henry VIII and later Elizabeth I, and even throwing fish at the men of King John! Today the castle remains one of the grandest structures in the county and is a very popular venue for modern weddings with an historic backdrop.


2) Do you know the tale of how a special spring was discovered in the pretty village of Hockley? The spring, which was later found to have beneficial qualities, was discovered quite by chance after a retired couple, Mr and Mrs Clay, moved into Essex.

Amazingly, after digging their own well, it was found that Mrs Clay's asthma was aided by drinking the water. Quickly realising its potential, their important source of water was branded as a spa.


3) Were you aware that two of America's presidents, George HW Bush and George W Bush, had origins in Essex?

In the 16th century, a certain Reynold Bush was living in the Essex village of Messing and it is thought that it was in the following century that Reynold Bush's descendants decided to uproot from Essex and take the voyage to America. Little did they know their actions would come to make history in their new nation.


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4) Tragically, the first woman to be killed in the UK during World War I was a certain Agnes Morley who was local to the village of Canewdon. The year was 1915 and the war had already been waging for several months.

As tensions were continuing to heighten, a bomb dropped from a Zeppelin caused the death of the Essex local whose home was struck by the bomb. Amazingly, although her husband lay next to her, he managed to survive and attempted to save his wife from the ensuing fire, causing severe injury to himself in the process. Her death caused much upset in both the local community and further afield.


5) Did you know that the man who helped to discover argon, the third most abundant gas, was born in Essex? John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, was born in Maldon in 1842 and during his early childhood years, suffered considerably with ill health.

However, he would go on to make several significant advances in various scientific and medicinal fields and later his eldest son, Robert, was also born in Essex and became a physicist.


6) The Five Bells pub in Colne Engaine has a rich history that proudly dates back at least 500 years? Surviving to this day, the Five Bells is very much a contemporary public house while still treasuring its traditional history.

Visitors can enjoy a pint in the charming Essex village while enjoying the pub's heritage, including a list of the previous landlords dating as far back as the 16th century and other snippets of Colne Engaine's history.


7) Did you know that the very first person to successfully land an aircraft on a moving ship during World War I had connections to Essex?

Although born in South Africa, Edwin Harris Dunning's family were from Bradfield. Tragically, despite his earlier success, just a few days later, while attempting to repeat the same feat, he was killed and laid to rest in Essex.

8) Although elm trees were once a common sight in East Anglia, the Dutch Elm disease damaged numbers considerably. In fact, in Essex alone it is thought that there is just a handful left.

The village of Elmdon was once renowned for its elm trees but is now home to possibly the last few remaining elm trees in the county.

9) The man behind the world-famous department store, Harrods, was an Essex boy. Henry Charles Harrod was born in Lexden and the young entrepreneur was a miller before creating a retail empire to great success.

Today Harrods continues to attract loyal shoppers from all over the globe, all thanks to one proud Essex lad.


10) Located near Braintree, Cressing Temple is known for its fascinating connection to the Knights Templar. Cressing Temple Barns is thought to be among the first assets belonging to the order after the building and surrounding lands were granted by the wife of King Stephen in the 12th century.

Today the Cressing Temple Barns is a popular visitor attraction as well as a wedding venue.

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