2002 - 2003: Our "Golden" Year


The Society's 50th Anniversary

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The 50th anniversary of our society fell in the same year as Queen Elizabeth II 's Golden Jubilee, 50 year's since her accession to the throne. Our first event, a trip on the Pocahontas, took place on Saturday, 1st June, the weekend of the Jubilee celebrations.

Members and friends met at the landing stage at Tilbury on a bright sunny day and boarded the Pocahontas for a trip down river, in the first instance, in order to view the whole of the Thurrock waterfront. Throughout the voyage the Captain gave a running commentary on the boats and buildings that we passed. We saw many interesting vessels, some of which were on their way to Chatham to take part in the Royal Navy Day at the Historic Dockyard. Both shorelines were of interest, Coalhouse Fort and Tilbury Fort on the Thurrock side and the New Tavern Fort, the pier and St. George's church at Gravesend where Pocahontas, the native American princess, is buried. On reaching the end of Thurrock's shoreline the Pocahontas turned and headed upstream.

An appetising buffet luncheon was laid on and our Chairman, John Webb, gave a short speech and all those present raised their glass of 'bubbly' for a Loyal Toast to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and a toast to the Society for it's successful first 50 years.

The voyage continued upstream as far as the Ford Motor Company at Dagenham where we heard that there used to be a ferry to carry the numerous workers who travelled from the south bank to the Ford factory. Here we turned back towards Thurrock and as we approached the QEII Bridge, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew over in full view of all on board. The wide expanse of the river and the elegant suspension bridge made a fine sight as the planes flew overhead. This unexpected occurrence made a fitting end to a perfect day.

50th Anniversary Dinner

The highlight of our 50th Anniversary year was a dinner held on 29th November, 2002, at the Lakeside Moathouse Hotel (formerly Stifford Lodge).

The Mayor and Mayoress of Thurrock, Gordon and Beverley Barton, were honoured guests, together with Patrons of the Society, Sherwin Chase and Christopher Harrold. The dinner was held in the Blenheim Room at the Lakeside Moathouse Hotel at North Stifford. Also present were the Heritage and Museum Officer, Jonathan Catton and Chairman of the Heritage Forum, Roy Offord.

In these historic surroundings, members and guests enjoyed a very convivial evening. There were after-dinner speeches by the Mayor, the Patrons and the Chairman, John Webb, which paid tribute to the achievements of the Society in the course of 50 years. The company drank a loyal toast to the Queen in recognition of her Jubilee year and a toast to the Society, which has grown from a small group to over 100 members. The original aims to encourage interest in, to collect and disseminate information on the history of Thurrock and protect as far as possible historic buildings, monuments and landscapes, are still the objectives of the Society. Members have made active contributions to such projects as the Saxon and Romano British archaeological dig at Mucking in the 60s and 70s, the Coalhouse Fort Project and Davy Down as well as producing the highly regarded journal 'Panorama'.

As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations, members and friends enjoyed a coach trip to Suffolk on 15th May, 2003. We visited two interesting and picturesque venues, Lavenham and Long Melford both evidence of the wealth that the wool and cloth industries had brought to Suffolk during the 14th - 16th centuries.

Members at the Angel, Lavenham

Arriving at Lavenham in time for morning coffee, members then had time to explore this medieval town with its fine parish church of St Peter and St Paul, mostly built in the late perpendicular style, and the Guildhall of Corpus Christi built about 1530, as well as numerous half-timbered 15th and 16th century buildings. Lunch had been reserved at The Angel restaurant and members enjoyed a convivial English meal before being transported to Long Melford.

A guided tour had been arranged at the parish church of Holy Trinity, mostly rebuilt between c.1460 and c.1495. Our well-informed guides split the party into two groups and gave us a most enlightening tour of the church including the history of the stained glass, the brass and stone memorials and the Lady Chapel which had also been a school for poor children. Tea and biscuits were provided by friendly parishioners to round off a very pleasant day.

The Fred Dibnah Celebrity Lecture

On Wednesday 10th March 2004, the Thameside Theatre was sold out for an evening with Fred Dibnah the celebrated TV personality , steeplejack, and devotee of steam-engines. Thanks to an Awards for All Lottery Grant, the event was organised by Thurrock Local History Society in partnership with the Thameside Theatre and was the final occasion in the Society’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. The Deputy Mayor, Tony Fish and Patrons of the Society were honoured guests. Fred Dibnah was introduced by the Chairman of the Society, Susan Yates.

Fred, complete with flat cap and working clothes, regaled the audience with stories of his life from his schooldays, his early work experiences and National Service in Germany, to his eventual success as a steeplejack and his love of steam vehicles. His tales of schoolboy pranks, army life, pompous authority, runaway steamrollers and felling tall chimneys, including one at Canvey Island, kept the audience captivated and greatly amused for the whole evening.

After the lecture he signed autographs and talked to members in the bar. Here he signs an autograph for Susan Yates watched by Society patron, Chris Harrold

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