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?
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
On Monday 4th November, Jonathan Catton (Thurrock’s Heritage Officer) gave a talk at the Thameside Theatre on the history of Tilbury Town. He started with a late 18th century map showing an empty marshland landscape. The 19th century saw the arrival of the railway and the building of the docks a few years later. He moved rapidly though the 20th century, finishing with the power station which was closed earlier this year.
The talk was lavishly illustrated with objects (such as the Tilbury bell), ephemera (nostalgic ads from the local newspapers) and old photographs (including another outing for the famous “Tilbury Scrubbers”). He included a couple of Items from the Tilbury and Chadwell Memories web site (www.tilburyandchadwellmemories.org.uk).
There was an large audience, mainly members of the Local History Society but with a number of visitors as well. In addition to Jonathan’s talk, there was also a showing of the video: Tilbury – The Story behind the Roads which gives a lot of background information about the origin of the street names in Tilbury and which can be viewed on the Memories web site or YouTube.
Several audience members had recently been trained to provide guided walks in Tilbury. There were a lot of gems for them to include the next time they are leading a party around what Ed Morrow described as “the mean streets of Tilbury”.