Thurrock’s Great War

On 17th January, 2014, Jonathan Catton, Thurrock’s Heritage and Museum Officer, spoke to the Local History Society about Thurrock’s plans for commemorating the 100 years since the 1914 – 1918 Great War. Jonathan explained that Thurrock had long been an area connected with the defence of the realm. The Royal Gunpowder Magazines at Purfleet were part of a military garrison with a musketry range on the Rainham marshes to test the quality of the powder. Tilbury Fort, apart from the defence of the Thames, was a mobilisation store; the parade ground was full of storage sheds. The Royal Engineers set up searchlights at Coalhouse Fort for illuminating against river attacks by night. Kynochs Munitions Factory near Corringham was extremely busy employing hundreds of women as well as men. Wages were high because it was dangerous to work with explosives. While the home front was being organised there was great enthusiasm to join up and take part in the war “that would be over by Christmas”. Soon the enthusiasm changed to alarm as the mounting casualties proved that the war would be a series of long and hard-fought battles.

To mark the centenary, there will be a display of exhibits relating to the war which will be on show in the Thameside Museum in Grays for the duration of the 5 years. The Grays and Tilbury Gazette of that era, gives detailed information on the preparations, the recruitment, the casualties and the progress of the war. There is also an on-going project to keep alive the memory of all the courageous people from the area by collecting reminiscences and mementos from family members, including

• Stories about relatives in the war;
• Pictures from the period;
• Medals, plaques, certificates, newspaper cuttings, postcards, or other memorabilia;
• Information about people who appear on a local war (or peace) memorial.

Some photos and memories have already been posted on the Great War section of the Tilbury and Chadwell memories web site –

A History of Tilbury Town in about an hour

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 (

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”.