Herbert E Brooks
||The family that brought the cement industry to
|The cement industry came to Thurrock in 1871 with the
foundation of Brooks Cement Company by Edmund Brooks. Thurrock,
was an ideal location for cement manufacture because of the
chalk deposits that stretch from Purfleet to West Tilbury, the
availability of clay and the access to transport via the Thames
and the railway.
Chalk from Thurrock's deneholes had been used
in farming to lighten the heavy clay soil. It had also been used
in construction, as a building material in its own right and to
produce lime mortar - an important component of medieval and
early modern construction.
However, after the invention of Portland cement, Thurrock's
chalk deposits began to be mined on an industrial scale. Over
the course of about 100 years, more than 5 billion cubic metres
of chalk were extracted from the quarries around Devonshire Road
and Warren Lane.
Many companies followed the lead set by Brooks and in the
late nineteenth century, the banks of the Thames between
Purfleet and Grays were lined with wharves, cement works and
lime burning. Beyond the banks was a stark industrial landscape
of quarries, tall chimneys, railway tracks and rolling stock.
||In the 1890s, Edmund Brooks stepped down to pursue his
philanthropic work and Edmund's sons took over management of the
In 1900, the Brooks company amalgamated with a number
of other companies to form the Associated Portland Cement
Manufacturers. Among Edmund's sons was Herbert Brooks who became
a prominent figure in the national cement industry.
For a while
Herbert owned Belmont Castle, but was more interested in the
chalk deposit that it was built on than in the house itself.
Among Brooks hobbies was the local history of the area and in
1883, when a denehole was discovered in a company chalk pit, he
made a plan of it and invited the Essex Field club to view it.
In 1928 he published William Palmer and his School, a history of
what is now Palmer’s College.
Notes of his research are stored in the Thurrock Library as
the Brooks papers, extracts from which have been published in
Panorama – the Journal of the Thurrock Local History Society.
He was also prominent in local affairs as a JP and as the deputy
Lieutenant of Essex. His many other public offices included
Chairman of the Grays Urban District Council and Chairman of the
Essex County Council. He remained a county alderman until his
|Herbert died in 1931 at Stifford Lodge which had been his
home for 40 years. In 1933, Champion Branfill Russell, another
local landowner, unveiled a memorial to Brooks in the parish
church at Stifford.
Plans for garden in his memory at the top of Orsett Road
were approved by Grays Town Council and the garden was opened in
1933. The name sign at the main entrance and the brick shelter
have typical Art Deco features.
The garden is still there and now also contains a holocaust
memorial, with pebbles bearing the names of extermination camps.
It is used as the focus for an annual event of Holocaust
Memorial day in January.
Thurrock's cement industry largely ceased production in the
1970s. It had provided employment for many people, but covered
the area in cement dust and had left behind a scarred landscape
of abandoned pits. The memorial garden is one of the few
remaining reminders of an aspect of Thurrock's history that is
rapidly becoming forgotten.
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