Nurse Edith Cavell died in Brussels on 12th October 1915, shot by a German
firing squad for helping Allied soldiers to escape. She became, of course,
a legend for bravery and sacrifice. But her ties with Steeple Bumpstead
occurred long before that and before she became a nurse. During 1886,
Edith was appointed governess to the four children of the Reverend Charles
Powell, vicar of Steeple Bumpstead.
The vicarage, where a stone plaque commemorates her stay, is no longer the
residence of the local vicar, but it is still there, a private residence,
on the corner of Chapel Street and Finchingfield Road. There is, in the
11th century village church, a plaque to Edith Cavell and there is also a
road named after her.
There has been a long history on non-conformist belief in the village. A
Bumpstead man was burnt to death in the parish for his beliefs in the days
of the Catholic church. Along the Blois Road, leading from Bumpstead to
Birdbrook, is a field that has been called the ‘Bloody Pightle’, and that
is where he is believed to have been martyred.
In 1527 john Tibauld and eight other village residents were seized and
taken before the Bishop of London, charged with meeting together in Bower
Hall to pray and read a copy of the New Testament. Although the
non-conformist in the village were encouraged by the powerful Bendyshe
family that lived at Bower Hall, even their influence could not save
Tibauld. He was burned at the stake.
Having fallen into ruin after use as a ‘concentration camp’ in the First
World War, Bower Hall was finally demolished in 1926 and the materials
sold off. The great staircase found its way to America.
Mott Hall, or ‘the Old Schole’, symbolises Steeple Bumpstead. Built in
1592 by the inhabitants on land rented from the Crown, in the 1830s when
it was ‘a school for farmers’ sons’ the villagers forcibly took possession
of it, disputing the claim of George Gent of Moyns to have the right to
appoint the headmaster. Eventually an Ecclesiastical Court upheld the
villagers’ claim.
Colonel J. C. Humphrey, son of the village wheelwright, invented
corrugated iron. He built and lived in the Iron House, North Street, which
was sadly demolished in the 1960s. At one time Humphreys Ltd of London
claimed to the be ‘largest works in the world’ and held a Royal Warrant as
‘supplier to His Majesty King Edward VII.’


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