Thursday, October 6, 2022

Thurrock Local History Society: The History of Aveley

AT our first meeting since the Covid-19 lockdown we welcomed our Chairman Susan Yates who gave a well-illustrated talk on the History of Aveley. The village has a long history, dating back from the stone and bronze ages. In July 1964 at the Tunnel Cement pit in Sandy Lane the remains of a woolly mammoth and an elephant were found, both from different periods of history. Such was the interest in the finds that a viewing platform was erected, which Susan took advantage of. Later, in 1994 the remains of a lion were also found whilst work was carried out on the A13.

Romans and Anglo-Saxons lived in the area. Essex had several windmills, including the one at Aveley. The cottage in Mill Lane is still there, but the post mill was demolished in WW1 with the remains removed in 1923. We saw slides of the old vicarage where Rev Bixby Luard was a vicar from 1871 to 1895, father of Kate Evelyn, known as Evie, who served as a nurse in the Boer War and WW1. Kate had enlisted in the Queen Alexander Imperial Military Nursing Reserve Service, working on the front lines. She was awarded the rare Royal Red Cross medal 1st class and bar for her services; her letters home have since been the basis of two books. A plaque commemorating her life is now in the memorial gardens of St Michael’s church.

St Michael’s was built about 1120, when there were fewer than 30 Anglican churches in Essex and now there are over 300. In 1703 a big storm took off the spire, which was replaced with a smaller one. By 1830 it was in poor condition and unsafe, marked for demolition. However, the Aveley people paid £1000 for its repair. The War Memorial was originally erected at the Maltings but is now in the memorial gardens.

Several slides showed outings for the Aveley residents, mainly gathering at The Ship, maybe awaiting their Harris’s coach. In 1921 the windows of The Ship were broken, and further damage done by the soldiers of the Irish Regiment who went on a rampage in the village.

There were five manors in Aveley including Kennington, Courts and Bretts. The village boasted many pubs – The Harrow, (opposite the church and demolished by 1850), The Ship dating from 1754, The Crown and Anchor dating from the 15th century, The Lennard Arms dating from 1779 and the Prince Albert (now a Chinese restaurant) originally built about the 16th Century. A map of 1593 of the High Street showed a wider road where the market took place, still in evidence today.

A 1777 map showed the site of Belhus Manor, home of the Barrett-Lennards. It was this house that sparked Susan’s love of history when she first saw it after moving to the area as a child and was shown round. The parkland had been restyled by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1755. Thomas Barrett-Lennard would today be considered a ‘green’, setting out the grounds, including the Long Pond. In 1919 the Barrett-Lennards moved out and it was sold in 1923. Damage was done to the house by soldiers billeted there in WW2. Repairs were considered too costly and it was demolished in 1957. The walled garden has been built over but the ice house and the stench pole are still there. As part of a parks and gardens survey a recent a geophys by Historic England was carried out and a drone survey found the Tudor garden was still there under the golf course. The local Council are interested and are keen on discovering more.

This was a very detailed and interesting illustrated talk, a fine start to our 2021/22 season. Our next meeting is at 8pm on Friday 15 October at our new venue, St John’s Church hall in Victoria Avenue, Grays, when John Matthews will be giving us a talk on Anglo-Saxon landscapes. Visitors are most welcome.


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