Meeting reports 2002 -2003


Society meeting, 21st September, 2002

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The first meeting of the 2002/03 season was very well attended with over 90 members and visitors present. The opening of the Dovecote and St Clements Church for Heritage Open day had been well advertised in the Thurrock Gazette and as well as bringing many visitors to the sites brought several new members to the Society.

The speaker for the first meeting was Randal Bingley. Randal is a well-known Local Historian, Patron of the Society and former Curator of the Thameside Museum. His lectures are always full of interest and are always well received; tonight's was no exception. His theme for this talk was Georgian Thurrock, a period of British history which is of special interest to Randal. The talk was well illustrated with pictures of houses from the period, portraits of well-known local celebrities who both lived and worked in Thurrock, including Daniel Defoe. There were maps of the area showing the layout of the land both "then" and "now" showing the changes progress has brought to Thurrock. He discussed the local estates, industries and transportation of the period and how it affected the landscape.

There were also comments (good or otherwise) from writers of the time who had passed through Thurrock.
Randal considers the Georgian period to be a time when "Britishness" was at its height and the countryside most representative of the "British " way of life

The audience enjoyed the lecture very much and expressed its appreciation and hoped Randal would give another talk in the very near future.

Society meeting, 18th October 2002

Mrs Anne Padfield was the speaker for the October meeting. Mrs Padfield has visited us many times before and her talks are always eagerly awaited. This time her lecture was on "Some Almshouses in Essex". She described how the Almshouses were founded by the Church for the needy, how they developed through the ages and were later supported by local benefactors. Many prominent landowners had Almshouses on their estates to help the members of the community, mostly the widowed and the elderly who otherwise would have no other support. She had many illustrations of the buildings many of which are still in use.

The members enjoyed the talk very much and are now looking for any examples of Almshouses still left in Thurrock

Society meeting, 15th November 2002

Speaker: Roy Tricker

A very entertaining and instructive evening with our old friend, Roy Tricker, which drew on his vast knowledge and experience as a Field Officer for the Church Conservation Trust. Roy showed some of the beautiful treasures of art and architecture to be found in many of our old and redundant churches in Essex and further afield and in some cases their interesting historic connections. Another plus was not only the detail of the churches but often views from afar showing the churches in their English countryside setting.

Society meeting, 13th December 2002

The Christmas meeting was the usual combination of light hearted quizes and food and drink. Brian Burton gave us a slide show from various society outings over the last few years and invited us to say where the places were or answer a question about what was going on. The museum provided us with a selection of old (and odd) objects and we had to work out what they were used for. One joker in the pack was something that seemed to be used in playing a game, but even the museum didn't know what game or how to use it.

Society meeting, 17th January 2003

Canals: Early Days to Modern Holidays
Speaker: David Young

David Young is well known to our members. He has lectured on the Sundials of Essex and also been our guide on a coach tour around Essex on the same subject.

On this occasion he gave a very interesting, illustrated lecture on the canals of England from the very early days to modern holidays. He showed how and why the canals were originally built to transport raw materials and goods, before the coming of the railways. The first major English canal was the Manchester - Bridgewater (1761-76) constructed for the Duke of Bridgewater to carry coal from his collieries to Manchester. Another enterprising businessman, who had the vision to see the advantage of canals for transporting raw materials, was Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795) the renowned potter whose name and company live on today.

David Young described the life of the workers on the canals who lived with their families in very cramped conditions although the interiors of the barges were beautifully decorated with brightly coloured paintings of roses and castles. He also described the role of the lock system which enabled the barges to travel up hills and down which saved many miles of canal digging by not having to go round the hills.
The barge was pulled by a horse, which in most cases belonged to the bargee, and great care was taken of this beast of burden because in the early days the horse was the only means of pulling the barge along the canals. It is for this reason that all canals have a very defined 'tow path' which have become a means of leisure activity for walkers and cyclists in modern times. From the early 1920s, the barges began to have diesel engines and the horse gradually became redundant.

With the coming of the railways, the canals were unable to compete with the speed of rail transport and this unique way of life died out although there were some barges still operating along the Grand Union Canal from the Midlands to the Thames after the Second World War (1939-1945).

However, David Young was optimistic about the future of the canals because groups of enthusiasts have restored many of them throughout England and they are now a source of pleasure for many holidaymakers who enjoy the calm progress in the countryside along the picturesque canals. The canals themselves and the lock systems remain as a historical record of a bygone age.

Society meeting, 14th February 2003

History through Essex Public House Signs
Speaker: Keith Lovell

Keith Lovell's first visit to the Society provided an amusing yet informative lecture on the history that he has unearthed relating to the great variety of public house signs in the County of Essex.

His interest in the subject began at the age of eleven when his father bought a car and his mother made the suggestion that Keith might like to record all the public house signs that they passed on a journey, in the hope that this would ward off car sickness!

Keith explained that in the days before people could read or write illustrated signs were used to identify hospices and hostelries. The cross was one of the earliest signs and also the king's head. Before Henry VIII made the break with Rome in 1534, the sign would show the Pope, as Head of the Roman Catholic church. These signs were changed to the head of Henry VIII when he became head of the church in England and this is still the king who is most commonly depicted at the 'King's Head' The other is Charles I who was beheaded in 1649, after the civil war, when the Parliamentarians (the Roundheads) led by Oliver Cromwell, decreed that Charles must be executed. 'The Royal Oak' is another common public house sign which relates to the incident when Charles II took refuge, with one of his supporters, in an oak tree while his pursuers roamed the forest in search of him.
There is a sign of the 'King's Head' at the popular pub and restaurant at West Tilbury and 'The Royal Oak' at South Ockendon.

Keith Lovell's lecture covered so many pub signs, too numerous to mention them all, which included 'The Spa' at Hockley, relating back to the town of Spa near Liege in Belgium where there were very famous medicinal baths. Also 'The Pullman' the pub near the level crossing in Grays which depicts the renowned Pullman railway carriages painted umber and cream. 'The Phoenix' at Rainham was originally a sign of the resurrection. We heard the mythological story of George and the Dragon, a pub of this name can be found at Linford. Many others, such as the Coach and Horses, Captain Mannering at Shoeburyness, The Bull, The Mayflower at Billericay (relating to the Pilgrim Fathers) Bugle Horn at Colchester (near the garrison) were described in detail and their history revealed. In all it was a very enjoyable and instructive progress around the public houses of Essex.

Society meeting, Friday 21st March, 2003

Church Brasses of South Essex

Martin Stuchfield gave a very informative talk on origins of the Monumental Brass Society and their aims in preserving and recording monumental brasses in Anglican churches.

The society was founded in 1887 and early research focused mainly on English brasses of the medieval and early modern periods. Over the years, the field of research has widened to include the twentieth century and also churches on the continent.

The talk was illustrated with slides, which showed priests, knights in armour and how the armour evolved, and the changing fashions of the costumes of wives and daughters through the centuries. Some brasses were known to be palimpsests, that is to say a tudor brass, for instance, when lifted and turned over was seen to have been used before, at a much earlier date, and the incisions of the previous design could be clearly seen. There were also slides of indents in the stone, indicating that a brass had been stolen. This was the case at St Clement's, West Thurrock , where a brass of the father and son of the Heies family dated 1585, was stolen in recent times. A replica has replaced the original.

The Monumental Brass Society are publishing a county by county record of monumental brasses. The most recent was a volume of the brasses of Durham and the next county, soon to be published, is Essex. For more information visit the website of the Monumentral brass society:

Click here for the monumental brasses of Thurrock

Annual General Meeting Friday, 11th April 2003

The meeting was well attended. After the usual business of the AGM the election of officers resulted in a significant change in the Committee. Mr John Webb, Chairman since 1987, stepped down and the previous vice-chairman, Ms Susan Yates was elected Chairman of the Society with immediate effect and Mr Derek Austin was elected Vice Chairman. In recognition of John Webb's service to the Society and to projects relating to the history of Thurrock, such as the Mucking Excavation, the Coalhouse Fort project, Editor of Panorama, the members unanimously agreed to make John a Patron of the Society. John agreed to remain a committee member and to edit Panorama as part of an editorial committee.

Miss Eileen Suckling was presented with crystal goblets to mark her 40 years as Secretary and Treasurer.

After refreshments, Roy Offord gave an interesting talk on the history of Grays Beach. The talk was illustrated by slides and a display of photographs of the beach area from the early days, circa 1906.

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