Category Archives: Heritage Policy

The Grays Library

The Thurrock Council has plans to dispose of the Thameside complex which houses the library and museum. Here is a brief history of the library based on the museum’s heritage file.

The history of Grays Library dates back to November 1893 when the Local Government Board appointed a committee to consider establishing a Public Library Service. The first Library was situated in Grays High Street. By 1902 the Library was becoming short of space and the library committee decided to write to Andrew Carnegie, appealing for a donation towards the cost of building a new library building.

Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835. In 1848 his family moved to the United States, and settled in Pennsylvania. When he was 65 he sold his steelworks to J.P Morgan for $480 Million and devoted the rest of his life to Philanthropic activities. One of Carnegie’s life long interests was the establishment of Free Libraries available to anyone as a means of self-education. The project was started in 1881 and he eventually spent over $56 Million and established 2,509 libraries throughout the world.

A reply on 23rd June 1902 said that Carnegie was willing to donate £3,000 provided a site could be found. Charles Seabrooke and his business partner Mr Astley of Seabrooke’s Brewery donated a piece of land in Orsett Road where the present Thameside Complex is now located. A local architect, Christopher Shiner, designed the new Library. The Countess of Warwick opened the Library on 11th November 1903. The cost of the building was £2,591.15.0. The turret clock had been presented by the school children of Grays; this clock was salvaged during demolition and is in the care of the local museum service.

Thurrock Council and Thurrock Heritage

Ahead of the local elections in May 2021, we asked the Labour and Conservative parties about their policy on heritage. Here is the response from Labour Councillor, John Kent:

In my view, the council needs to genuinely work in partnership with community groups (this goes beyond heritage) to deliver services, facilities and attractions that we would all like to see.

A really good example of this is Hardie Park.

As I am sure you know, the park had been almost entirely abandoned before the local community got involved and turned it around. It is now a terrific park that is well maintained, well used and is home to many groups and activities.

To me, it demonstrates what can be achieved if people are allowed the space to get on deliver things they are passionate about.

Council support needs to be refocused to concentrate on helping to facilitate community groups delivering their projects – this support might be some professional advice or expertise or cash, a relatively small amount of funding can make a big difference to many groups.

We asked about the level of support from the council for Thurrock Heritage (including the museum); the future of Coalhouse Fort and continuing concerns about Keepmoat and the Treetops quarry gardens.

On the three specific examples you have raised I would really want to explore what the heritage community sees as the way forward and try to work with them to deliver their vision – I know that is easy to say but I genuinely believe the “council knows best,” centralised approach has held us back.

We need to see a step change in the status we afford the heritage, culture and the arts in Thurrock.

When I became leader of the council, over a decade ago, the local business community told me there was no relationship between the council and business.

We hosted a business breakfast conference that over 100 businesses attended and, from that event, we created the Thurrock Business Board which gives a regular opportunity for business and the council to discuss issues.

We should have a big heritage, culture and arts event – designed in partnership and funded by the council – to help create a new approach.