Daniel Defoe is one of the major literary figures who have lived in Thurrock. In 2014, James Canton spoke to a society meeting about his book, OUT OF ESSEX Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (Signal Books, 2013). In chapter 7 of the book he describes his search for Daniel Defoe.
He met Jonathan Catton and Randal Bingley (who are both greatly missed) in the World’s End pub. Randal had identified the site of the house built by Defoe (Panorama 27). Although not named, this can be seen on the Chapman & Andre map of Essex in the Tilbury marshes in the parish of Chadwell. Randal took Canton to a site where he could see the remnants of the drainage sewer that had served the house and tile works.
In his search for Defoe, Canton also contacted John Martin, a Defoe biographer (The Man That Never Was, APF Ltd, 2013). Martin had also been shown the drainage sewer by Randal. Martin believes that Defoe was born in 1644 and that his mother Ellen was related to Edward Lawrence who owned the Gobions Manor in East Tilbury. According to Martin, Defoe was educated there in the period 1658-1662 and lived there with his brother Thomas for some ten years to 1705. Randal took us to East Tilbury where we were able to inspect the former site of the manor house. Martin’s biography has not been well received by some reviewers. According to Sheldon Rogers of the University of Portsmouth, Martin’s biography “is … tainted by fiction, inaccuracies, and an unreliable chain-forging of evidence”.
Whatever the details, there is no doubt that Defoe lived in Tilbury and built a house there. However, there is no Thurrock Heritage Plaque to mark this association. Does Defoe deserve a plaque, and if so where should it be placed?
In March, 2014, the Essex Record Office played host to a conference “The Fighting Essex Soldier: War Recruitment and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century”. The conference theme was inspired by Neil Wiffen’s reading of Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War by Curry and Hughes. On the 6th May 2017, the same venue hosted a launch for the book of the conference. This has now metamorphosed into The Fighting Essex Soldier Recruitment, war and society in the fourteenth century (published by the University of Hertfordshire Press with sponsorship from the Essex Journal and the Friends of Historic Essex; priced £18.99). The afternoon began with a seemingly endless supply of cream and chocolate cakes together with copious cups of coffee. There was also the opportunity to buy not just the book itself but many other Essex history publications from the Essex Society for Archaeology and History. We then went in to the lecture hall for the main event which was a talk from Dr Adam Chapman of the Victoria County History project on “Soldiers of the English Realm: Essex and beyond c.1300-c.1450” which drew on both the new book and also on his own publication – Welsh Soldiers in the Later Middle Ages, 1282-1422 (Boydell & Brewer, 2015, price £60).
He gave us a fascinating account of the “English” army at the beginning of the Hundred Years War (at that time mainly composed of Welsh archers, who were depicted by an anonymous clerk as wearing shoes on only one foot). By the middle of the fifteenth century this army had become a more professional and locally recruited force with participants expected to supply their own arms and armour. We were introduced to the longbows and the arrows; to the procurement of the arms and the pay of the soldiers and to ships from Essex and Monmouthshire. Especially interesting to the Thurrock historian, was an account of the small village of Fobbing.
Fobbing’s role in the Peasant’s Revolt is reasonably well known. The late Randal Bingley wrote about Thomas Baker, Hanged on the fourth of July in Panorama 44 (1987) and a photograph of the memorial at Fobbing can be found on the society’s web site. But Dr Chapman also gave us the less well known fact that in the fourteenth century, Fobbing supplied the crown with naval vessels and crew. In 1372, forty eight mariners came from Fobbing, while Stanford le Hope provided forty four more. Even East Tilbury chipped in with a further seven. There is a detailed account of the Essex contribution to the 14th century navy and the possible link to the Peasant’s revolt in chapters 6 and 7 of the book.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day; all involved deserve many congratulations.
Romano-British Settlement and Cemeteries at Mucking by Sam Lucy and Christopher Evans. Published by Oxbow Books; 456 pages; ISBN 978-1785702686.
Despite the fact that the Mucking excavation began more than fifty years ago, until recently, there has not been a full publication of the findings. The site atlas and a report on the Anglo-Saxon settlement were eventually published in 1993; the report on the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries appeared in 2009 and the findings from the Mesolithic, through the Bronze Age into the Iron Age were published at the end of December, 2015. The final report on the Romano-British settlement and cemetery was published in September.
The Mucking excavation has rightly been given a prominent place in the archaeological literature of the last fifty years. However, as the authors point out, Mucking’s findings on the Roman period have been somewhat overlooked. The latest volume will perhaps redress this neglect. It is has greater similarity to a conventional excavation report than its predecessor (Lives in Land, 2015) although it does provide an abridged version of the background given in the earlier volume. This volume contains detailed analysis of finds, photographs, maps, charts and interpretation from the Romano-British period. Although most of the illustrations are of the finds, there are a few photographs that show the excavation in progress and particularly its proximity to the continuing gravel extraction.
This book is not cheap. It is priced at £40 on Amazon. However, it is essential reading for anyone who wishes to read firsthand the evidence that was dug up on that windy hillside half a lifetime ago. It is sad that so many who worked on the dig are no longer around to read the report.
The cover of the latest (and last) volume
Lives in Land – Mucking excavations. Christopher Evans, Grahame Appleby and Sam Lucy. Oxbow Books, 2015, ISBN: 9781785701481.
The main excavation at Mucking began more than 50 years ago and continued for 13 years. Thousands of people took part including many members of the Thurrock Local History Society. However, for various reasons, the full excavation report has not yet been published. Initially, Margaret Jones, the excavation director, felt that it was more urgent to proceed with the dig, ahead of the gravel extraction, rather than spend time preparing the results for publication. Subsequently, the sheer scale of the task, the lack of funds and in due course the death of many of the key figures made publication a slow process.
The site atlas and a report on the Anglo-Saxon settlement were published in 1993 and the report on the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries appeared in 2009. A great deal of information on Roman and earlier periods has been deposited in the Archaeology Data Service web site. In view of the dramatic changes in the approach to archaeological reporting, a deliberate decision was made to draw a line between the previous publications and the final two reports. These are “more scrap-book like” and include interviews with surviving participants. At the end of 2015, Oxbow books published the first of two volumes entitled Lives in Land – Mucking excavations. The Roman period is expected to be published in August 2016.
These two volumes will cover both the detail of many important structures and assemblages and also provide a comprehensive synthesis of landscape development through the ages. This includes settlement histories, changing land-use, death and burial, industry and craft activities. Volume 1 takes us from the Mesolithic, through the Bronze Age into the Iron Age. This volume also discusses the methods, philosophy and archival status of the Mucking project given the organisational and funding background at the time. The authors talk about the fundamental changes in archaeological practice, legislation, finance, research priorities and theoretical paradigms which have taken place since the dig began. This volume is available from Oxbow books, currently at the special price of £30.
One of the bugbears of the late Randal Bingley was metal detecting. He would often add some derogatory remarks about dectorists when talking about something else. (Although there was a rumour that towards the end of his life, he tried it himself.) I wonder how he would have felt about the next meeting of the Local History Society which is Steve Newman talking about Metal Detecting.
Randal’s objection was that important finds could go unreported and even if they were reported, the archaeological context would be unknown or even destroyed. To some extent, these concerns have been addressed by the portable antiquities scheme which was instituted in 1997 to encourage reporting by metal detectorists and others. It is certainly the case that the Staffordshire Hoard was found only as a result of metal detecting.
Nonetheless, it is still the case that local historians are less well aware of the results of metal detecting than they should be. There is a “productive site” in (East?) Tilbury that deserves greater study and investigation, but for which the details are little known. It could be an interesting evening.
The meeting is at 8.00pm at the Adult Community College, Richmond Road, Grays on Friday 20th November.
- Bill Nye interviews Richard Milner
Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, the co-discoverers of evolution by natural selection, had a high mutual respect. But in 1876 they found themselves on opposite sides of an argument about spiritualism. One of Thomas Henry Huxley’s zoology students had brought a legal case for fraud against a renowned spirit-medium, Henry Slade. Wallace’s belief in spiritualism put him on the opposite side to Darwin. Richard Milner will be talking to society members about this forgotten episode in the history of science, and offers entertaining insights into the personalities and beliefs of the co-founders of evolutionary biology. This will be on 29th July at 2.30 in the Thameside Theatre.
The event is free and all are welcome.
Richard Milner is an Associate in Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, and currently co-editor of Special Alfred Russel Wallace Issues of Natural History and Skeptic magazines.
Victorian Freemasonry and the Building of Tilbury Docks is a new book about Tilbury.
The book will be launched on 8th July at the TRAAC building, Ferry Road, Tilbury at 2.30 pm. It is the story of how and why the Tilbury Docks were built and how seven of those most closely concerned with its construction were freemasons who founded a new lodge. But while the docks were being built, they became involved in a dispute which brought the mighty East & West India Docks Company to its knees and eventually lead to the formation of the Port of London Authority.
There will be a short talk by Richard Burrell, the author, who will also sign copies of the book. The cover price is £12.99 but you can buy a copy on the day at a discount.
Entry is free and refreshments will be provided.
For more information, contact Annie O’Brien on 01375 859911
or e-mail: enquiries
Susan Temple lived at Chadwell Place in the early years of the 17th century. The house had been bought by her father – Sir Alexander Temple – in 1607 following the death of his first wife, Susan’s mother. He owned it until his death in 1629.
Susan was married twice. She had three children with her first husband – Sir Giffard Thornhurst – including Frances Thornhurst who was the mother of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Her second husband was Sir Martin Lister. Their son – Dr Martin Lister – was a prominent scientist and fellow of the recently founded Royal Society. Her brother, James Temple, was a regicide who signed the execution warrant for Charles I.
In 1620, her portrait was painted by Cornelius Johnson who was favoured by the new gentry of the Jacobean period. Karen Hearn has written a monograph about Johnson (published last week). Susan’s portrait appears on the cover and inside.
More details will be found on Amazon.
At the March meeting of the Thurrock Local History Society Mike Ostler used his personal collection of maps to show how they have changed in format over the years. He went back in time, firstly showing military maps from when he was in the RAF in Borneo and Burma. They were from various sources, being important for navigators, especially in wartime, showing contours. A 1934 Ordnance Survey (OS) map showed lighthouses and their signals.
He illustrated various local maps, including Bartholomew’s 1924 map showing the old A13, also the 1” to 2 miles OS map of Basildon. Other OS maps plotted Zeppelin raids, including Purfleet, also target ranges. The 1906 OS Barnstaple map was issued for the purpose of mobilisation, also manoeuvres, showing camps and rifle ranges.
The OS Victorian East Anglia map of 1897 was 4” to the mile, showing lighthouses, including Purfleet. The 1895 map for the Thames was blank where Tilbury Fort was, a security precaution. The railways were added to the 1843 map in 1888. In 1837 Mogg printed its Strangers Guide to London showing buildings along the Thames, a forerunner of today’s tourist maps. Maps by Patterson showed roads from London, describing routes. The 1779 Marstow map showed roads of England and Wales, giving miles between towns.
Earlier maps were Chapman and Andree in 1777 and various others in the late 17th century showing routes in strips, with places to visit, even windmills. The 1610 map of London was a panoramic view of the Thames and an earlier Norton map of 1594 also showed some roads in Essex.
Our latest Panorama No.53 was on sale at this meeting and can be obtained via our website, price £4.
Thurrock Goes To War by Roger Reynolds and Jonathan Catton (published in 1997) gives a detailed account of the people and events that defined Thurrock’s role in the Second World War. D-Day forms a small but interesting section in this story. Perhaps the best known activities concerned the floating harbours code-named Mulbery and the PLUTO pipeline which supplied petrol to the allied armies in France. Tilbury was one of the centres of production for both of these. There is a little more on the Tilbury and Chadwell Memories web site.
Reynolds and Catton also mention the build up of traffic bound for the Normandy beaches during the weeks and months preceeding D-Day. This topic has been picked up in a blog post from the Essex Record Office. This includes their document of the month – a detailed map of the marshalling areas around the Port of Tilbury. Although described as a map of Tilbury, it actually covers most of Thurrock.