May 11, 2015
These fun and interesting facts and firsts on Essex’s culture, wealth and geography might make you think so!
On 15th June in 1920, Chelmsford in Essex was the location of Britain’s first ever-public audio broadcast, songs from Dame Nellie Melba, the Australian opera singer featured in the broadcast. In fact, radio was born in Chelmsford after Marconi opened the world’s first wireless factory in the town in 1899.
More firsts for Essex…between 1560 and 1680, 545 people were accused of witchcraft in Essex, more than the figures reported in Devon and Cornwall combined. In 1566, the first witch trial was held in a secular court in Chelmsford, the suspected witch being Elizabeth Frances.
Elizabeth saved her neck in the trial after claiming she had given away the cat, Sathan, she allegedly used to harm people with. However, after a year in prison Elizabeth again found herself on trial for witchcraft where she was found guilty and hanged. At least 74 people are known to have been executed at the Essex assizes with Matthew Hopkins, known as the ‘Witchfinder General’ leading the hunt.
Essex boasts the longest coastline in Britain with 350 miles of exceptional shores. It is no wonder that the county is renowned for its fishing industry with shellfish being a gastronomic speciality including the sought after Colchester Native Oyster.
Aptly named town of Southend-on-Sea marks the most southerly point in Essex, which is also where you can find the world’s longest pleasure pier. Standing for over a century, the Southend-on-Sea pier allows you the unique opportunity to walk 1.3 miles above the waters of the Thames Estuary, or you could hop on the pier train!
Whilst we’re talking ‘big’ facts for Essex, it’s not just the coast that boasts the accolade for size – Essex is also home to the largest village green in the country.
Great Bentley, near to Colchester, lays claim to a 43 acre village green and it has also won ‘Village of the Year’ several times. This is a very historical village, which has roots reaching as far back as the Domesday Book.
On the opposite side of the size spectrum, as well as the largest village green, Essex also has the smallest town in the country! Manningtree, found in the same district of Tendring as Great Bentley, is reportedly the smallest town in the country with a population of 700 people across 20 acres.
This was confirmed in 2007 by Mayor Lee Lay-Flurrie via statistics from the Census Customer Services.
However, it is contested by Fordwich in Kent, which has a smaller population, but depending on how you measure it Manningtree is the smallest town in terms of acreage whilst maintaining its own town council.
And a fact from another ancient town in Essex… Looking back to Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’, you will find Great Dunmow in Essex mentioned for its Flitch Trials. It’s the oldest recorded competition in the world, which is still running today.
This four-yearly ritual, which was believed to have begun in the 13th Century, aims to find a married couple who has not quarrelled or repented their marriage during the preceding year and a day.
To become the winners of the flitch of bacon and proudly parade along the High Street, the contenders must convince a jury of 6 local bachelors and 6 local maidens of their marital bliss. If you think you’ve got what it takes to win the Flitch Trials then head to Great Dunmow in Summer 2016 for the next competition!
Culturally Essex boasts fame from the likes of John Constable who immortalised the rolling country hills and farmland in his paintings including the iconic Haywain painted from his hometown of Dedham Vale on the Essex-Suffolk border.
Moving to the West of Essex, to Harlow, you’ll find a rich selection of sculptures hidden in public buildings and schools. Famously you can find Henry Moore’s Family Group looking out from the foyer in the town’s Civic Centre towards the Water Gardens where Rodin’s Eve stands as well as Elisabeth Frink’s Boar.
And finally from riches of the cultural kind to wealth you can measure, according to EssexHerald.com, Essex is the wealthiest county in the UK to the extent that it would rank as the 53rd largest economy in the world.
Forbes Magazine also states that the county’s tax revenue alone would be sufficient to pay off the national debts of several emerging economies combined!