Hempstead in Essex
Resting place of William Harvey and Sir Eliab Harvey and birthplace of Dick Turpin


The small village of Hempstead lies 6 miles east of Saffron Walden in the rolling hills of North-west Essex and part of Uttlesford District. Whilst it only has about 175 properties and a population of around 450, it sports some fascinating history beyond its size. Much has happened since it was called Hamsteda at the time of the Doomsday Book when there were 10 times more pigs than people.

New research has been recently uncovered the background of Edward Winslow, a leading figure in the foundation of New England. He served three terms as colonial Governor, then commissioner of the United Colonies. Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell promoted him to a leading diplomat, and he successfully concluded peace between Holland and England with the 1654 Treaty of Westminster. He died en route to the West Indies in 1655. What is the connection to Hempstead? Winslow Hall Road still exists, but the old Winslow Hall itself has long gone though it is represented in the village millennium tapestry. The Winslows lived in Hempstead before they moved around 1432 to Kempsey in Worcestershire, long claimed to be Edward’s place of origin.  For the full story, Liam Donnelly’s book Edward Winslow’s English Origins Volumes I and II will help. 

In St. Andrew’s church at the top of the hill lies the tomb of William Harvey 1578-1657, who discovered the circulation of blood in the human body which changed the medical world completely. The Harveian Society of London continues to visit and maintain the tomb.

And in the same family was Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey 1758-1830, Captain of the Temeraire which fought in the Battle of Trafalgar alongside Horatio Nelson’s Victory.

The most significant battle in British naval history took place at walking pace, in light winds, with the great ships of the British opposing the combined Franco-Spanish fleets, all rolling slowly in the Atlantic Swell. The British line led by Nelson in Victory took six hours to get within range. As they, at last, approached the enemy line Temeraire began to overtake Victory. Nelson was not amused. “I’ll thank you, Captain Harvey, to take your proper station,” he shouted across to Temeraire.

Eliab was named after his great grandfather, Eliab Harvey, brother of the William Harvey mentioned above. He is the last of 50 members of the Harvey family to be buried in St. Andrew’s crypt.

And then there was the Highwayman Dick Turpin, born in the pub, the Bell Inn as it was in 1705 and worked in his father’s butcher’s shop before becoming notorious and eventually hanged in York in 1739.

Welcome to Hempstead!