Purleigh - The Home to the Essex HMVA Echoes of History Show

Purleigh is just south of Maldon, Essex, and can note its charter as far back as 998 where it appears as Purlea. At the time of the Domesday survey of 1086, the manor of Purleigh was held by Eustace II, Count of Boulogne. He fought on the Norman side at the Battle of Hastings of 1066, and afterwards received large grants of land forming an honour in England. In the following year, (probably because he was dissatisfied with his share of the spoil) he assisted the Kentishmen in an attempt to seize Dover Castle. The conspiracy failed, and Eustace was sentenced to forfeit his English fiefs. Subsequently, he was reconciled to the Willian the Conqueror, who restored a portion of the confiscated lands. He is one of the few proven companions of William. It has been suggested that Eustace was the patron of the Bayeux Tapestry.

As the site name suggests, to the edge of the showground, is the path once taken by the Woodham Ferrers to Maldon railway, with a Halt for the villagers of nearby Purleigh. The line was closed to passenger traffic in 1939 as part of the wartime economy measures and to freight in the 1950s, but during WW2 it was used for storing spare rail stock and also for coaling locos away from marshalling yards, which could be an easy target for bombers.

The ancestors of the Washington family came to England in 1066 with the Norman Invasion and settled in the far north of England. A pubic house at the edge of the village, known as The Purleigh Bell dates back to the 14th Century and was the home of George Washington’s great-great-great grandfather who was the rector of the village in 1634. At this time Purleigh was an important village and offered one of the best livings in Essex which allowed Lawrence Washington to live in the style that he had become accustomed in the Washington household. All seemed to go well for Lawrence who was described by his new parishioners as a 'very worthy and pius man' and Lawrence and Amphillis had three sons and three daughters.

National affairs clouded the Washington Family life in 1642 with the start of the English Civil War. The Washington family were Royalists having connections with the Monarchy over many generations, but Essex was staunchly Puritan supplying the bulk of Parliamentarians troops. Once the King was forced to flee London the Puritans controlled Essex. Loyalty of the family to the crown, did not stop future Washington’s from changing history forever and ultimately severing that link.

Maldon and the surrounding area is also home to several military museums, such as:

The Maldon Museum, http://www.maldonmuseum.org.uk/
The Combined Military Services Museum: http://www.cmsm.co.uk/
The Chelmsford Museum (incorporating the Essex Regiment Museum): http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums
Sandford Mill: http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/sandford-mill-visitor-information

As well as WW1 and WW2 airfields.