Thurrock Local History Society
A-Z of Thurrock History by Kevin Diver
By Norma Leach
AT our November meeting we were taken on an A-Z history tour of Thurrock by local historian Kevin Diver. He started at Aveley where a mammoth was discovered in 1964. This was followed by various bridges, including the WW1 pontoon bridge from Tilbury to Gravesend and continued through the cement industries and the docks, where the new DP World and Tilbury are still expanding.
E covered evolution as discovered by Alfred R Wallace, with F standing for the fleece which the Sturgeon family sold from their stock of Merino sheep obtained from George III. I was for invasion, forts being strategically placed where the Thames narrows. The Jacobites were held at Tilbury Fort after the battle of Culloden and the Kynoch Works produced explosives, their Lion logo still being used in the USA.
L stood for lost landmarks, including Belmont Castle, Belhus and now Tilbury Power Station. M covered the Mucking dig where Saxon pottery etc was discovered. There were several Naval Training Ships in the Thames where orphans and street urchins were trained. The Orient Line was next, their ships all beginning with the letter O; also used in WW2 for troops and merchant shipping. P was represented by PLUTO (pipeline under the ocean – across the English Channel), which was 70 miles long and assembled at Tilbury Docks. Queen Elizabeth I was ‘Q’, famous for her armada speech at Tilbury in 1588. R covered the riverside where Grays beach opened in 1906 and now has container ports, warehouses and industries. S was the shoes made by Bata at Tilbury from the 1930s until it closed in 2005, the estate providing affordable housing, a cinema and swimming pool.
There were various tunnels in the area; the Tilbury/Gravesend one was never built, but the Dartford Tunnels were operational from 1963 and 1980, with the bridge in 1991. They carry 130,000 vehicles per day, with a new crossing now being discussed. Vincent motorbikes covered V, their 1940 Black Shadow was the fastest motor bike in its time; Philip Vincent is buried at Horndon. W was Water supplies, including Cash’s Well at Vange. Our area is built on chalk which provides a reliable source of fresh drinking water. X stood for Extras, used in the film industry, including The Guns of Loos, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Quatermass 2, Batman Begins and the TV series Taboo. Yachting represented Y, the local club being active since Victorian times. For some time it used the The Gull lightship as its headquarters but all that is left now is the lantern. Finally, Z was for the Zeppelin L15 which the Purfleet gunners played a part in bringing down in WW1.
Kevin gave us an enjoyable illustrated trip through the alphabet, with a plethora of facts.
Our Christmas meeting is at 8pm at the Grays Adult Centre on Friday 15 December when we will be celebrating our 65th Anniversary.