Behold the Painful Plough

  Country Life in West Tilbury, Essex 1700 - 1850 by Randal Bingley
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22nd March, 2010 saw the long awaited publication of Behold the Painful Plough, Randal Bingley's latest local history book. It focuses on West Tilbury between 1700 and 1850.

It will be a must buy for anyone interested in Thurrock's history, but will be of interest to a much wider audience. It contains a wealth of information on the people, events and buildings in one of the villages in our area that has retained its identity into the 21st century.

The family historian will find a host of anecdotes about West Tilbury people. There is for example, Arbuckle Lawson, a gunner from Tilbury Fort, who has "a striking memorial" in West Tilbury churchyard. There is also Medlock Bibby ("a turbulent trade unionist") whose Romany ancestors had married in West Tilbury and who went on to be a Tilbury councillor.

The book can be read from cover to cover, but you can also dip into it and find on nearly every page some interesting incident. For example, the mock attack on Tilbury Fort that took place in August 1780, watched by thousands of spectators. Or the sale in December 1793 of farm equipment from two local farms - including "ten fat bullocks, a herd of cows and heifers and 50 sheep".

The farm and village buildings of the period (many of which survive) are described in loving detail. The description is often accompanied by one of Randal's reconstructed illustrations so that we can see how it would have looked.

The photographs range from a portrait of Sir Adam Gordon who was rector of West Tilbury, through an early photograph of 'Polwicks' - one of the local farm houses - to Randal's own photograph of springtime flowers in Rainbow Shaw - shaw is the Essex name for a thin strip of woodland.

Fortunately, Randal allows himself to stray beyond the period 1700 - 1850 when he needs to in order to present a complete picture. He is also prepared to comment on the current situation of the village - "damaged now by electric pylon lines looping out from Tilbury 'A' and 'B' power stations.

Behold the Painful Plough has over 400 pages and includes photographs, maps, and extracts from original documents. There are a vast number of drawings by the author, illustrating the text.

The book is extensively indexed and contains separate indexes of personal names, locations, farms and estates and institutions.

The contents are annotated with notes and sources that allow the interested researcher to pursue the subject further.

The book is published by Thurrock Unitary Council Museum Service and was launched at the Thameside complex with a short talk by the author, who also signed copies. It is published as a softback (priced at 10) and is available to be purchased from the booking office on the ground floor of the Thameside complex.

Randal was the curator of Thurrock's museum for many years. His other publications include Fobbing: Life and Landscape and The Diary of Martha Randall of Orsett, 1858 - 61. He has provided many contributions to our journal (Panorama) as well as Farmer's Weekly, Country Life, Essex Countryside and Essex Journal.

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