People and places
of historical interest in Thurrock
|The village of Purfleet
falls within the parish of West Thurrock.
In 1765, in the reign of George III,
Purfleet Garrison was built to service 5 powder
magazines, arising from concern that powder
stored at Woolwich presented a potential danger
to London in the event of an explosion.
Much of the site has been
demolished for a 1970s housing estate - the
Garrison Estate. A few of the garrison buildings
and parts of the inner security wall survive. The
surviving buildings include the clock tower,
which still contains a working clock.
The area is now one of
seven conservation areas in Thurrock.
|Another surviving building
is the proofing house (known locally as the
barrel store). In the proofing house, the quality
of the gunpowder was tested before accepting a
new delivery for storage in the magazines. This
involved igniting a small quantity of gunpowder -
a process known as "flashing".
The proofing house had become
neglected and overgrown, but in 2003 it was
restored by volunteers and with help from the
Heritage Lottery and other sources.
The building is now used
for local activities such as a toy library and a
Saturday club for Dads and their children.
|The gunpowder magazines
were built of brick with thickly copper plated
doors. The nails are copper and the roof space
was filled with sand. There are no windows. All
the buildings were designed to protect the
surrounding area should an explosion occur. The
magazines could each house over 10,000 barrels of
these magazines (No.5) survives and is a
scheduled ancient monument. It now houses the
Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre including a
museum displaying household objects from the past
as well as artifacts and photographs from all
three services. On the wall there is a
Thurrock Heritage plaque celebrating Benjamin Franklin who
visited the Royal Gunpowder Magazine in the 1760s.
At the unveiling in 2012, Jonathan Catton,
Thurrock Heritage and Museum Officer, said: “While living in
London, Benjamin Franklin visited Purfleet. He recommended that
the magazines should be equipped with pointed iron rods. The
King overruled Franklin’s pointed rods theory, in what was
probably a political statement, and had iron rod sphere
conductors fitted at the gunpowder magazines.”
See "Exploring Thurrock"
by Chris Harrold and Panorama 28.