Meeting Reports: 2021 - 2022

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Thurrock Local History Society Meeting: 17th September 2001: 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.

Thurrock Local History Society Meeting: 15 October 2021 - Anglo-Saxon Landscapes by John Matthews

At our October meeting John Matthews gave a very detailed talk on the Anglo-Saxon landscapes covering place names, topography, buildings, archaeology and documents in the Barstable Hundred. In Saxon times men regularly met at Basildon Hall (now an earthwork). He showed a charter boundary of Vange. The A-S charters can take the form of a will, diploma or writ, but some are forgeries. Landowners built churches which became parishes and their boundaries, which came into being in the 13th century.

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.



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