Bumstead is not an easy name to sort out. History books tell us it means `a place where flax or hemp grows'. This could well be true, as several osier beds were discovered in parts of the village
Nurse Edith Cavell died in Brussels on 12th October 1915, shot by a German
firing squad for helping Allied soldiers to escape. She became, of course, a legend for bravery and sacrifice. But her ties with Steeple Bumpstead occurred long before that and before she became a nurse. During 1886, Edith was appointed governess to the four children of the Reverend Charles Powell, vicar of Steeple Bumpstead. The vicarage, where a stone plaque commemorates her stay, is no longer the residence of the local vicar, but it is still there, a private residence, on the corner of Chapel Street and Finchingfield Road. There is, in the 11th century village church, a plaque to Edith Cavell and there is also a road named after her.
There has been a long history on non-conformist belief in the village. A Bumpstead man was burnt to death in the parish for his beliefs in the days of the Catholic Church. Along the Blois Road, leading from Bumpstead to Birdbrook, is a field that has been called the 'Bloody Pightle', and that is where he is believed to have been martyred. In 1527 john Tibauld and eight other village residents were seized and taken before the Bishop of London, charged with meeting together in Bower
Hall to pray and read a copy of the New Testament. Although the non-conformist in the village were encouraged by the powerful Bendyshe family that lived at Bower Hall, even their influence could not save Tibauld. He was burned at the stake. Having fallen into ruin after use as a 'concentration camp' in the First World War, Bower Hall was finally demolished in 1926 and the materials sold off. The great staircase found its way to America.
Mott Hall, or 'the Old Schole', symbolises Steeple Bumpstead. Built in 1592 by the inhabitants on land rented from the Crown, in the 1830s when it was 'a school for farmers' sons' the villagers forcibly took possession of it, disputing the claim of George Gent of Moyns to have the right to appoint the headmaster. Eventually an Ecclesiastical Court upheld the villagers' claim. Colonel J. C. Humphrey, son of the village wheelwright, invented corrugated iron. He built and lived in the Iron House, North Street, which was sadly demolished in the 1960s. At one time Humphreys Ltd of London claimed to the be 'largest works in the world' and held a Royal Warrant as 'supplier to His Majesty King Edward VII.'