Discover 2020

Commemorating the spirit of adventure in a voyage around Rochford District’s rich heritage.

2020 marks the 200th anniversary of the launch of HMS Beagle in 1820: one of the most famous ships in history. She circumnavigated the globe and through her voyages; her famous passenger Charles Darwin; and her captain Robert Fitzroy, her name is synonymous with discovery in the fields of science, meteorology and even space exploration.

HMS Beagle was finally decommissioned by the Royal Navy in 1845 when she was transferred to the Coastguard and repurposed as a watch vessel stationed at Paglesham in Rochford District, where her remains are now buried in the estuary mud.

Rochford District Council is currently developing plans with the RSPB to commemorate HMS Beagle at Wallasea Island in May 2020.

But 2020 is also important across Rochford District because it marks:

  • The 1000th anniversary of Ashingdon parish church built in 1020 by the order of the king, the famous 'Canute the Great' of Denmark. The first priest at Ashingdon was one of King Canute's personal priests, Stigand, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury who crowned King Harold and officiated at the coronation of William The Conqueror in 1066. He is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.        
  • The 540th anniversary of the original Rochford Hall formerly one of the largest houses in the county which was reconstructed, as near as can be established, around 1480 and home to the Boleyn family in 1515.                                             
  • The 440th anniversary of the Canewdon Witch Trials - a ten-year period which began in 1580 during which three women were indicted for witchcraft rendering the village of Canewdon synonymous with the occult and earning it the reputation of one of the most haunted places in Essex!
  • The 50th anniversary of the Rayleigh Windmill opening to the public in 1970. This magnificent restoration has a long and dark history of financial ruin and murder dating back to the early 19th century.
  • The 750th anniversary of the construction of the first parts of The Old House in Rochford in 1270. Built of a timber frame with wattle and daub panels the house really was the height of luxury in medieval England. The panels were made from a mixture of mud, dung, reeds and rushes gathered from the River Roach, with the wood supplied from Hockley Woods.
  • The 950th anniversary of the recording of Rayleigh Mount in the Domesday Book of 1070 – the only Essex castle to be included. The mount is the remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey Castle built on a natural ridge. The first lord of the manor of Rayleigh was Sweyne, who built the castle. He was also the sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire, responsible for maintaining law and order and tax collecting.
  • Following the spirit of adventure embodied by HMS Beagle, our ambition is that the event at Wallasea Island should also mark the beginning of the Discover 2020 Festival - a multi form festival to be held throughout June 2020.

Like HMS Beagle, the Discover 2020 Festival will navigate the rich heritage of the whole of Rochford district to explore, chronicle and celebrate its vivid history. The Discover 2020 Festival will mark these significant moments in local, national and world history; reflect their impact on the present day and offer audiences new perspectives on the history and legacy of the district’s heritage assets.

We have created a Tourism Forum to curate and deliver the Discover 2020 Festival. The Tourism Forum is a coalition of partners from commerce, the public sector and the voluntary sector. Help us to create a voyage of discovery which will delight and excite residents and visitors to our district.

To get involved in the Discover 2020 Festival please contact Angela Hutchings, Strategic Director, Rochford District Council angela.hutchings@rochford.gov.uk

Discover the beauty of Wallasea Island here by watching RSPB’s latest video!