10 things you may not know about Essendon
PUBLISHED: 15:17 09 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:17 09 March 2015
It may be diminutive, but Essendon village in the south-east of the county has a fascinating history that links it to great events and a thriving modern community
A life-saving banker
Essendon Place was the seat of the Barons Dimsdale who hailed from Russia, and was home to the remarkable Thomas Dimsdale (1712-1800). Dimsdale was a partner in the bank Dimsdale, Archer & Byde, a doctor, and a pioneer of smallpox inoculation. He was made a Baron of the Russian Empire for inoculating Catherine the Great.
A life of service
Deneys Reitz, a South African High Commissioner to London, lived just outside Essendon at Bedwell End. A former soldier, his military career began in 1899 out the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War when he dutifully enlisted at the age of 17.
His autobiography Commando: A Boer Journal Of The Boer War in which Reitz’ describes the battles of the conflict in vivid detail, has been described as one of the best narrative of war and adventure in the English language.
Deneys went on to command the 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front in the First World War and become a government minsiter in South Africa.
A thousand romances
Prolific and hugely successful romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland lived in the parish of Essendon at Camfield Place. The writer, renowned for her pink gowns and purple prose, died 15 years ago at the age of 98 and chose to be buried on the estate, such was her love for it. She was laid to rest under an oak tree which was said to have been planted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1550. She opted for an environmentally friendly cardboard coffin.
Following in the literary footsteps of Beatrix Potter and Barbara Cartland, Essendon is now home to best-selling novelist Freya North, who lives with her family on an estate that includes their own wood - something she and her children love to explore.
Church and Zeppelin attack
No village would be complete without its church, and St Mary’s has quite a history behind it. Restored in 1883, its oldest remaining part is the west tower, which was built in the 15th century, complete with eight bells. The very rare font is notable for being made in ceramic by the founder of the Wedgewood factory, Josiah Wedgewood (1730-95).
A German Zeppelin L-16 airship bombed the east end of the church in 1916. Two sisters were killed in the raid which dropped 15 high exposives on the village.
At the heart of things
The Rose and Crown (roseandcrownessendon.co.uk) is the popular watering hole in the centre of the village. Built as a coach house in 1756, it has been run by the Davis family for over 20 years. They pride themselves on their food which you can enjoy in the formal dining experience of the 52-seater restaurant or more informally, at the bar.
Best foot forward
Being such a beautiful part of the county, and indeed country, there are plenty of fantastic walks to enjoy. A particular favourite among ramblers and dogwalkers is the circular route that starts and finishes at Essendon, taking in Bayford on the way. It includes lovely rural scenery and crosses fields and follows bridlepaths. For more details on the route go to walkingbritain.co.uk and don’t forget your camera.