Thurrock Local History Society Meeting:
17th September 2001: History of Aveley
Thurrock Local History
Society Meeting: 15 October 2021 - Anglo-Saxon Landscapes by John
An 1841 Vange Tithe Map showed boundaries. It is still possible to find something mentioned in the charter, even when modern Basildon was built, using major roads. There were various boundary changes to Vange, Ralph FitzTurrold holding from the Bishop of Vange added parts of Fobbing.
Using the Geographical Information System John pointed out various boundary points, superimposing maps. We were taken on a journey round the boundaries, comparing the tithe map with a modern one as far as possible. On Bells Hill Road, an ancient ditch and hill or bank still existing today. Various modern scenes of points mentioned in the charter were shown – landscapes, wood, roads, a deer park, creeks and rivers – names of boundaries shared by others being described as ‘used to be by the tree stump’ etc. The word street was the Roman name for road and a highway was suitable for an army.
When the fifth century arrived people settled where they wanted. By the 10th century, with landowners being taxed by the king, estates covered the whole of the landscape. Vange appeared to be a much more important place than it is today, but John made it come alive.
At our November meeting Martyn Lockwood gave us a whistle-stop tour of Essex, citing many heroes and villains who lived there. He started with Eliab Harvey of Chigwell, a Rear Admiral who fought at Trafalgar and was one of the pallbearers to Nelson, also serving as an MP. There was also a connection with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who were brought home from their time in Australia and installed on farms in Greenstead and High Laver before going to Canada.
Julian Hedworth Byng commanded the army at Vimy Ridge in WW1. He was born in Hertfordshire but lived and died in Thorpe le Soken. Six soldiers from Essex were awarded VCs, the first being Sidney Frank Godley who died in Epping and the youngest Jack Cornwall aged only 16 who was born in Leyton and served in the battle of Jutland.
Another hero was Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker who did much for the welfare of prisoners, especially women and is buried in Barking. Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, was a mistress of Edward Prince of Wales, a great socialite who spent her life in Easton Lodge, Great Dunmow.
Top of the villains list was Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General in the English Civil War. About 100 women in Essex were accused of witchcraft. He lived in Manningtree and was buried in Mistley. Edith Thompson lived in Westcliff on Sea and Ilford. She and Frederick Bywater murdered Edith’s husband Percy and were hanged, being buried at Brookwood.
Several writers lived in Essex including Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers and H.G. Wells. Augustus John, who painted Lawrence of Arabia lived with his wife and mistress, sometimes touring in a gypsy caravan. A blue plaque was awarded to Henry Winstanley, born in Saffron Walden who invented the lighthouse; another plaque celebrates George Shillibeer who lived in Chigwell and invented the horse drawn omnibus. Dick Turpin, who never had a horse called Black Bess, was a highwayman who committed violent murder as part of the Gregory Gang; he was also a smuggler and had a cave in Epping Forest. Other Essex notables included Grayson Perry, an artist who lives in Chelmsford, and Joan Hickson who lived in Wivenhoe, best known for her portrayal of Miss Marple.
Martyn mentioned many more people with Essex connections including William Morris (Arts and Crafts Movement and much more), actresses Maggie Smith and Juliet Stevenson, David Livingstone, Fa Thomas Byles, and doctors William Harvey, Joseph Lister and William Gull. William Moxon Armitage (aka Noel Gay) was the first person to have the most musicals on at the West End at one time. We were also told about William Calcraft, a hangman who was born in Little Baddow and sold meat pies outside the prison. The Nobel Gold Medal was awarded to John William Strutt of Rayleigh’s Dairies, who discovered argon and Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless.
Essex has for many years
been the butt of jokes, but this illustrated talk showed that Essex folk
deserve better, showing so many important people with connection with
At our first meeting in 2022 we welcomed Phil Edgar, showing many old photographs around Thurrock, too numerous to mention, but here are a few of them:
Purfleet was covered by images of the chalk pits and the garrison, only one of the powder magazines remaining (now a museum). There were several photos of the 1953 floods showing how devasting this was for local industry. The Royal Hotel with its connections with Edward VII was shown, together with the T.S. Cornwall berthed off Purfleet and the dovecote and lighthouse on Beacon Hill. We also saw the Dartford crossings, the bridge being opened in 1991.
Aveley covered the Belhus mansion, its fireplace still in Grays museum. The unusual round tower of South Ockendon church was shown, together with the now demolished windmill. Pictures of West Thurrock depicted St Clements church, where pilgrims visited before crossing to Kent for Canterbury. Views of the chalk pits gave us a glimpse of what was there before Lakeside. We saw Belmont Castle at South Stifford which was bombed in WW2 and several photos showed the many pubs around Thurrock, including the newly opened Wharf.
Grays was covered by the old High Street, the Dutch house, the parish church, behind which stood Palmer's Boys School, Seabrooke's brewery, Grays beach and the Exmouth swimming pool, evoking fond memories. Phil also showed us images of Joyes, Ambrose market, the railway station and the war memorial where a toilet used to stand. Also covered were the cinemas, library (now where Thameside stands), The Dell where Alfred Wallace lived and Piggs corner, now an OAP complex. Little Thurrock gave us the church, a map of the daneholes and hangmans woods.
Stifford church and Ardale Homes were shown and at Orsett we saw old views of the workhouse, Piggs bakery and the Foxhound. Chadwell covered Chadwell Place, home of the Temple family, Sleepers Farm and the Cross Keys public house. There were many photos of Tilbury where Daniel Defoe once lived, showing the old brickworks, Tilbury Riverside booking hall, Tilbury Hotel, St Clere's Hall, Coalhouse Fort and Batas, complete with swimming pool.
Views of Horndon showed the woolmarket, windmill base and church. There were cattle markets just off Victoria Avenue in Stanford le Hope, where we also saw the old Doctor's House on The Green. Corringham and Coryton were also represented. Fobbing was where the Rev John Pell who invented the division sign lived, The Five Bells being a prominent pub.
This was an enjoyable trip down memory lane (and before), showing us what a diverse borough Thurrock is. As our Christmas party had been cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, we also held the delayed raffle.
At our March meeting we welcomed Twigs Way, Research Consultant with the Essex Gardens Trust. Working with the Land of the Fanns she worked on a project to find the lost gardens of Thurrock. The project was in four parts - 50 Fabulous Features, 17 Sites on an inventory and 15 Lost Gardens. Across the projects, there were 12 Volunteer Researchers.
The project focused on the whole area, Thurrock, Havering and Langdon. Ms Way delivered a series of inter-active training sessions for an enthusiastic band of researchers, using photos, historic material etc. They looked at garden history and landscapes, noting the changing history of the area and looking at what remains. They looked at sites with fresh eyes, seeing the wider context of landscape as a whole, visiting the Essex Record Office and other venues. More sites were discovered, focusing on finding the 18th and 19th century period, using maps. One of the sites visited was Belhus, when a Tudor garden was discovered.
For the 50 Fabulous Features each volunteer was asked to study at least one individual feature. They looked at what was valuable in the area, something that had not been done before. Although there are no Chatsworths in the area, a feature could be anything - gardens, WW2 river barriers, spa water bottling industry, ponds, trees, brickworks, stepping stones etc. It was great fun and features such as a paddling pool, rock gardens and Grays park were studied, each different and fascinating. Her many slides showed such things as the stench pipe at Belhus Park. Research brought features together to provide a better understanding of previous parkland etc.
When Covid struck volunteers communicated via Zoom and did online research, using aerial photos, survey maps and satellites, also LiDAR which shows the bare bones of the landscape, including Belhus Park Tudor gardens. After lockdown Historic England were amazed at the findings and sent in specialists using geo-physics and drones showing what is now underneath the golf course. All discoveries were mapped and photographed and now published as '50 Fabulous Features'. Some are the only fragments left of a wider feature, an important heritage aspect. A handbook for Essex Gardens Trust was also published.
The next programme is Unforgettable Gardens. Historic England has a register showing an inventory of national and regional important gardens, but do not include local parks. So, back to basics, researchers listed all parks and gardens in the area looking at past maps etc. The group visited different sites and looked at factory estates, cemeteries, artificial beach and gardens, quarry sites, memorial gardens etc. So much is under threat of redevelopment and we need to know what is important in the area. Now all their findings are recorded and lodged with the planning department of Historic England. Seventeen sites are now documented and mapped and will benefit posterity through knowledge and awareness. The whole project consisted of more varied and thorough work than ever before. Thurrock researchers now feature in the Essex Garden Trust magazine.
The last Project featured lost gardens - sites that no longer exist but have an amazing background including Chadwell park, Belmont Castle, The Dell, The Elms, Moore Place, the Globe Pit allotments, Duvals and The Echoes. These fifteen new lost gardens show so many amazing sites in Thurrock, reflecting the landscape and history of this area. A new book is to be published through Historic England Parks and Gardens.
This was an amazing and enthusiastic journey showing how the past affects the present, Twigs Way and her volunteers giving us a wider picture of the area.