Category Archives: Tilbury Docks

The Roman town of Tilbury

In February and March 2019, Thurrock Museum held a vote to decide which object from their collection would be featured in a travelling exhibition. One of the candidate objects was a Samian ware dish found on the Thames shore at Tilbury.

The Thames became tidal at Tilbury during the Neolithic. At that point or shortly after, a natural salt marsh was established, replacing the previous woodland landscape of oak, alder and hazel. This salt marsh was exploited during the Bronze and Iron Ages for salt making and (probably) fishing and grazing.

The Tilbury marshland was sufficiently remote that it attracted at least one hermit – Thomas the hermit was there in 1161. The hermitage was eventually suppressed by Henry VIII in the 1530s, although it is not clear whether there was actually a hermit continuously on the site throughout the period from 1161 until 1540.

However, between the early and late Roman period, the river level dropped by about 1.5 metres. Since by this stage there was a mature salt marsh that only flooded at the highest tide, a drop of river level of this magnitude took the marshes well above the level of the high tide. These 3rd century water levels, significantly lower than now, made it possible to establish a settlement in what later reverted to salt marshes. This permitted prolonged occupation and probably arable farming.

Evidence for a Roman settlement in Tilbury was found while the docks were being built. The archaeological evidence illustrates life during the Roman period. Roman tiles and pottery, with bones and food refuse, oyster and snail shells, tiles and flint blocks were all observed. These finds were on a “mossy and grass-grow surface” at a depth of 7 feet (just over 2 metres). This is almost exactly the depth at which Devoy notes a peat layer which he dates to 1750 BP (roughly AD 200). Peat is not produced in a salt marsh. Romano British occupation of the marshes is supported by Jonathan Catton who noted that in 1920, 3 hut circles (dated to 1st or 2nd century AD) were discovered on the East Tilbury foreshore below the current high water mark. Unfortunately, the location is now lost under a land fill site.

A dispute among Freemasons that brought a major Victorian company to its knees

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