** This post was published in 2015. Read about why Montfort became Empower in 2020. **
At Montfort, we regularly get asked where the name for our communications agency comes from. So here’s a potted history of the grand old name of Montfort and where our agency got its name.
It all begins in an area of East London called Bethnal Green.
In the Middle Ages, Bethnal Green was rather isolated from London, a quiet little village and rather grand. There were manor houses and mansions in the surrounding countryside and cottages clustered around the green itself.
In the 1200s, one of those manor houses belonged to Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester and a soldier in the service of the king who fought at the Battle of Evesham in 1265.
According to legend, he fell during the battle and was blinded. He was later found wandering by a nobleman’s daughter, who nursed the wounded soldier back to health. They fell in love and were married.
Blinded and not being able to work, De Montfort was now regularly begging in the Bethnal Green area. He became known as the famous Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green.
In time a daughter arrived, Besse, who was “a beauty most bright”. Although Besse was a beautiful woman, she couldn’t find a husband.
Besse was courted by four suitors; a rich gentleman, a knight, a London merchant and the son of an innkeeper.
Most of them withdrew their suit when they met Simon de Montfort to ask for the old soldier’s consent to the marriage, seeing only a blind beggar who they’d have to look after at their own expense into his old age.
The only man who could see past the lack of a decent dowry to the woman he loved was the courtly knight, who said he would look after booth Besse and her blind father.
The Blind Beggar revealed who he was and the knight received his reward for his nobility. The couple received a dowry of £3,000, plus £100 for Besse’s wedding dress. The benefactor? Besse’s grandfather, who was still a rich man.
When Bethnal Green became a metropolitan borough in 1900 (having previously been a civil parish) it incorporated an image of the blind beggar and his daughter on its seal.
Simon De Montfort is today remembered by Montfort House, a red-brick block of flats on the north side of Victoria Park Square. Montfort House is also where Montfort, our humble agency, calls home.
A little history about the buildings in the area:
Most blocks of flats in this area of Bethnal Green were built by the philanthropic companies. Montfort house was built by The East End Dwellings Company, founded in 1884 to house the very poor while realising some profit. The flamboyant red-brick of Montfort House, designed by Ernest Emmanuel with a Georgian porch and internal staircase, had been completed by 1901.
For more of this kind of history, take a look at Bethnal Green: Building and Social Conditions from 1876 to 1914.
If you want to experience more of the Bethnal Green history for yourself, you can have a drink or three at the legendary Blind Beggar pub – home of the first Brown Ale and regular haunt of the Kray twins) or book yourself into the De Montfort suite at the nearby Town Hall Hotel for just £2,500 a night.
Now you know where Montfort got its name from, why not contact us to find out how we could work with you?
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Ben Matthews is a Director at Empower, a digital, social and content marketing agency for people who change the world for good. He blogs at benrmatthews.com and tweets at @benrmatthews.