An afternoon in Bedfords Park

by Barry Kirk

The Domesday Book of 1086 records the park as Haueringas an ancient folk name meaning settlement of the followers of a man called Hæfer - Not a lot of people know that!

The land that makes up Bedfords Park originates in the two adjoining estates of Bedfords, believed to be named after John Bedford, who held the land in 1362. The other estate of Earles which later became known as Upper Bedfords, was taken from John Derewin in 1212 by King John
 as forfeiture for homicide and given to William D’Aubigny for the annual rent of one Sparrowhawk. In 1452 Thomas Cooke (who was to become Lord Mayor of London 10 years later) took possession of the manor of Bedfords.
Was that a Nightingale?
IF YOU HEAR a Nightingale in Bedfords Park, have your ears syringed because they were all banished yonks ago by the Sovereign.
Not, I hasten to say our present Monarch, but one of her ancestors, the aptly name Edward the Confessor.
It is written, that said dicky birds on an excursion from the medieval equivalent to Berkley Square, were a bit high on Mead and gave the singing large while he was on one knee muttering his devotions.
The tone deaf King immediately issued a proclamation that Nightingales were out of favour in Bedfords unless in they were in a pie.
Not a lot of people know that.
This and more astounding facts came to light in one of my latest projects delving into the history of the large lump of greenery that centuries ago formed the posh Royal part of Essex..
 Waxing lyrical is not my usual mode when writing a story, but in this case it is impossible not to let the wordsmith lean towards Wordsworth.
There is a weak connection in both our names contain William, but as I wandered lonely as a cloud,
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Not looking where I did go
I snagged my woollies on brambles, woe
Drawing blood I did yell
Then trod in some doggy mess
And boy, did that smell.
SOME OF the tongue in cheek finer points of a walk in Bedfords, that inspired me to follow on from my published travelogue on the Italian dream City of Florence. The photo and journalist part of me saw the light of great interest in what is one of the great experiences of north Essex.
It also goes to show that I have a lot of time on my hands, however, back to reality.
Bedfords  Park is a treasure, and were it not for a few open minded people with Royal connections, it would have been buried and passed by unnoticed, even if it is annually full of Daffodils.
Situated on top of a hill, 350ft above-sea level, and overlooking much of London’s east end and  parts of Kent you could be forgiven for logging it as a big lump of greenery as you race past on the M25, but like all things green there are roots worth digging.
For ages it was, to me, somewhere you could get a nice cup of tea at the Essex  Wildlife Trust Café, but need a Hamstring building cycle slog up said perishing great hill and generous volumes of mud clinging manfully to the pedals and tyres.
My 'Hamstrings from Hell' show I am a regular visitor but that is perhaps being a tad over-descriptive.
A word not often used in my vocabulary is beauty, and Bedfords Park is loaded with it.
It is one of those places that you can visit no matter the season or temperature, with  the added incentive of a gentle walk against assault course.
Thoughtful Art as the artists get to work on the odd lump of fallen tree or off cut to create an added interest for park visitors
THE HILL, incline or slope, call it what you will, is just aggressive enough to build up a mild perspiration that even the strongest persperant can cope with.
Another 'big tick' is it has that built in familiar ambience about it. In some respects like an old pair of slippers or blanket: you feel comfortable just wandering through the wooden Cathedrals that have taken centuries to grow into maturity and tower above with their protective canopy giving shelter and a feeling of safety.
As the park is not known for lost tribes of cannibals or head hunters, the feeling is very Wordsworth-ish, wandering lonely as etc etc, and a calm and peaceful experience as you slip into the parallel universe where Gobstoppers grow on bushes and Liquorice Allsorts hang from branches. Nice place.  
One of the clues to Bedfords  past is in the location, Havering atte Bower, though had you been around at the time of the 1086 Doomsday Book, it would have been Haueringas, which does not have the same ring about it.
That does need an explanation; Haueringas is one of those ‘ye olde sayings’ buried in ancient crusty old volumes.
IT IS AN ancient folk name meaning settlement of the followers of a man called Hæfer and recorded as Haueringatte Bower in 1272. Quite who Haefer was is uncertain, Jolly Green Giant or good talker, it seems as if historians found him utterly boring and ignored him or her.
The atte suffix means the park had a royal residence, a reference to Edward the Confessor's hunting lodge which developed into a palace or 'bower', the start of a label making the place a sort of Royal Frinton on Sea.
The park's history is actually fascinating and included other tenants such as King Harold, William the Conquer and up to Charles ll with other no less nobles over the centuries, but it was King Henry Vlll, who bought a palace called Pyrgo, using it as a hunting lodge and other activities.
Like all good things, the bricks and mortar had a limited life span and lost the patronage as the ashtrays became full.
Bedfords Park remained Crown land until 1828 with only a few stone steps remaining today as a memorial to the noble history.
The park covers 215 acres that over time has matured into a stunning place to lose yourself. Green everywhere, the air is about as pure as you can get in a mechanised area of a big city.
It was a happy Royal hunting ground for Edward the Confessor and received a good steamrollering later from Henry the eighth on his trips out with a bow and arrow.
THOSE BOYS knew how to enjoy themselves, and thank goodness it was before they invented the machine-gun.
Historically it seems they did have a lot of fun as the deer herd had to be restocked.
Yes, we have herd roaming around, but one of Red Deer, introduced in the 1930s and surrounded in a wire fence after centuries of poachers decimated the numbers of wild deer and latterly hoards of locals achieving the same result by feeding them jaw jamming sweeties  and bulk building fatty treats such as bread and cakes.
Marie-Antoinette was only joking!
But, it is a really nice place to visit and have a picnic, stroll around or even give the mountain bike a dusting.
Festooned with Horse Chestnut. Oak and the odd Canadian Red Wood, all of which have matured to the point of being venerable and big.
When the wind gets up across the trussocks, it makes for an interesting and noisy place to walk through.
A potted history of Bedfords Park is in my blog 'Enjoying the Wind Ripping Through the Trussocks on my website
Bedfords, incidentally, is named after a John Bedford who owned the land in 1362. A beautiful little hamlet, and if Hæfer ever gets a return ticket, he will notice little has changed.
That of course does not go for the people, and one interesting family were the Pembertons.
OK, so now what do I do with this?

Mum said there would be days like this and she was right

JOSEPH and Amelia-Elizabeth lived in the village, but started a revolution in the late 1800s with their fascination and love of Roses. It could be said that they were the perpetrators of 'Roses Grow on You' saying, but it was one of their offspring,  Joseph Pemberton, born in 1852, who turned out to be the vector responsible for the legendary Rose Garden.
The family always had an interest in the noble plant, but Joseph went that extra step with a breeding and propagation programme that turned a hobby into a thriving  business.
With such names as 'Maiden's Blush, Old Cabbage and Old Monthly' to mention but a few, his beginnings are still alive to this day, and I well remember driving up to the nursery and buying a bush for my Mother that had its roots going back a century.
The link below has some interesting facts on the family as well as an elegant history of Havering Atte Bower. 
A Rose by any other name is Pemberton
THE OTHER major contribution the family made was by William Pemberton-Barnes who bought the old Hall in Broxhill Road from a Mr Field of Pyrgo  and built a new Hall around 1858.
After years of neglect, the Hall had fallen into decay with various owners doing little to keep it up to standard.
William's new Hall served his family and Rose Garden until it was bought by Trustees of Saint Francis Hospice in 1978.
Retaining the structure of the old building, the modern Hospice was built to serve the great need to the community, a service it has performed with great care and responsibility to this day.
the link to discover more about this resourceful family is: