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Historical People

williampenn.jpgWilliam Penn was born in 1644. At the age of 11 he had a religious experience which he never forgot, and which left him convinced that he was dedicated to a holy life. In 1654 the family moved to Macroom, in Ireland, and it was here that he first met the Quakers. Penn was sent to Oxford and then to France where he met the theologian Moise Amyraut. In 1664 he moved to Italy. He was disinherited by his father because he refused to relinquish his connections with the Friends (Quakers). Whilst preaching and writing among the Friends he met and later married Gulielma Springett and they took up residence in Rickmansworth. In the mid-1670's Penn emigrated to America, where, in 1681, he obtained a grant from the King for a territory called Pennsylvania. William Penn wanted it to be called 'Sylvania' meaning 'wooded place', but King Charles II insisted on adding Penn's name - hence, Pennsylvania. Penn died in 1718 and is buried at the Friends Meeting House in the village of Jordans, near Rickmansworth. The present Basing House was built in 1740 and it is possible that part of the house in which William Penn lived is incorporated in the present building, which now houses the museum.

johndickinson.jpgJohn Dickinson was born in 1782 and began his career as a stationer. In 1807 and 1809 he devised and patented paper making machinery which could make paper as a continuous web. By 1824 he owned mills at nearby Apsley, Nash Mills and Batchworth and in 1830 he opened Croxley Mill on Common Moor, beside the Grand Union Canal. By 1887 the area had been extended by 16 acres and the mill at Batchworth closed. Paper making was now concentrated at Croxley Green and John Dickinson & Co Ltd was formed. Fifty cottages were built to house its workers at Dickinson Square, which is now designated a Conservation Area. Among the many famous brand names of paper made at Croxley were Croxley Script, Colne Valley Parchment and the range of Lion Papers. John Dickinson died at the age of 87. The firm prospered for many years but by the mid 1970's, Croxley Mill had gone into a decline and was finally closed in December 1980.

johncaius.jpgJohn Caius was born in Norwich in 1510. (It is not known when or why he Latinised his name from Keys but kept the old pronunciation). As a student he was interested in theology and Hebrew but lack of sympathy with the Reformation led him to turn to medicine which he studied at Padua, Italy from 1539. Returning to England, he was made a Fellow of the College of Physicians and for nearly ten years he had a doctor's practice in London. He rented a house just inside the entrance gate to Smithfield, which he retained from 1551 until his death. Caius never married. During these busy years in London, Caius formed a plan for enlarging and improving his old College, Gonville Hall, Cambridge and when he became the second founder the College name was changed to Gonville and Caius. At this time Caius bought three manors from the Crown - including the Manor of Croxley for £23. This manor contained three tracts of common land: Croxley Green, The Common Moor and land at Cassiobridge. He donated these manors to the College to provide an income to support the fellowships and scholarships which he had added.

Image of John Caius, reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

feargusoconnor.jpgFeargus O'Connor
was the founder of a Chartist movement which was prominent from 1832 as a radical-democratic body whose beliefs included voting rights for working people, and that everyone was entitled to a house with sufficient food and clothing. Government indifference led to protest marches, as a result of which O'Connor was sentenced to 18 months in prison. While he was serving his sentence, he worked out a scheme for a Chartist Co-operative Land Company. In 1846 it bought the 103 acre farm of "Herrinsgate", now called Heronsgate, where cottages were built to house mostly northern settlers. The cost was £1860. In 1852, O'Connor was admitted to an asylum at Chiswick but was released in 1854. He died in 1855.

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