As colourful a cast of characters as ever coursed through a county has been assembled by Andrew Summers and John Debenham for their book Essex Hundred histories, which tells the story of Essex in terms of 100 incidents involving Essex men, Essex women, and occasionally – as in the story of the runaway harbour – Essex objects with attitude.

All these people and things, 100 in total, made their own mark on the wider history of England, in one way or another, whether for better or worse. Andrew and John, refer to them as “people of strong character – the good, the bad, the eccentric, and the unbelievable.” They changed the history of society, art and discovery, although sometimes, admittedly, by dragging history backwards.

Aboard for the ride are the infamous, like Queen Boadicea, who burnt down both London and Colchester, and slaughtered the inhabitants; the benevolent, like the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, the only woman apart from the Queen to so far feature on a British bank-note, and the saucy Lady Sybil de Boxted – King Edward III sent a double to a conference at Colchester in order to dally for a night with her.

There were no cameras around to record incidents such as these, and the photographers would probably have been decapitated if there were. Instead, the gap has been filled by Andrew’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Summers, whose lighthearted drawings enliven the narratives.

Elizabeth, who lives in Aldebugh, Suffolk, has provided what may well be the perfect reader profile for the stories in the book.

“I love history,” she says, “but I didn’t realise just how much of it there was in Essex.”

As an example, she cites the case of Captain Oates, the gallant member of Captain Scott’s domed Antarctic expedition, who walked out into the snow in order not to be a drag on his companions.

“I’ve grown up with those words of his, ‘I’m just going outside and may be some time’,” Elisabeth says. “But I never realised that Captain Oates was an Essex man.”

  • The Essex Hundred Histories is published by at £8.99