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Chadwell St Mary - Brick works of Daniel Defoe

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Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) English novelist, journalist and pamphleteer, was born in Cripplegate, London, the son of a butcher, James Foe. His parents were Nonconformists, in those days known as Dissenters, who were anti the established Church of England because it was tending towards Catholicism with the pro-Catholic James II on the throne. Daniel was well educated and intended for the Nonconformist ministry but he preferred to be a merchant in London. His Protestant beliefs influenced his support for the Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II, and involved him in the unsuccessful rebellion against the king in 1685.

He spent some years on the continent and returned to England in support of the accession of Protestant William of Orange and Mary to the throne in 1689 after James II was deposed.

In 1694/5 Daniel Defoe came to Tilbury, then part of the parish of Chadwell St Mary, and became at first the secretary to and later the owner of a pantile and brick factory. He used his stipend as Accountant to the Commissioners of the Glass Duty to further the project and gained in 1697 a contract to supply the bricks for the new Greenwich Hospital. At one time he employed as many as 100 families. His association with this area lasted for some 9 years.

In 1701, Daniel Defoe wrote a poem, The True-born Englishman, which proved very popular but was followed in 1702 by a satirical pamphlet The Shortest Way with Dissenters, which found disfavour with High Churchmen (Queen Anne was now on the throne and not sympathetic to Dissenters).

In 1703 Defoe was arrested, imprisoned in Newgate, tried and sentenced to the pillory. Meanwhile the brick factory at Tilbury was running down and eventually it closed.

In 1719 Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, 1722 Moll Flanders and A Journal of the Plague Year, and among his other works, ATour of the Eastern Counties in 1724.

See Thurrock and Its Link with Literature by I.G.Sparkes, The Thurrock Historical Society Journal 3 and Daniel Defoe: His Trail Uncovered by Randal Bingley, an article on discovering the location of Defoe's house and factory, Panorama 27