A family portrait of Lord Dacre, his wife and child

On 30th October, the BBC4 TV programme, looked at a portrait of George Oakley Aldrich which the programme’s presenter, Bendor Grosvenor, believed could be attributed to Pompeo Batoni. During the programme, his co presenter, Emma Dabiri, visited the Essex Record Office to look at a Batoni painting in their collection. This was a portrait of Thomas Barrett-Lennard (17th Lord Dacre), with his wife, Anna Maria Pratt, and their daughter, Barbara Anne who had died before the work was painted.

The Barret-Lennard’s lived at Belhus, in Aveley. The portrait discussed in the programme is among a large collection of paintings donated by the Barrett-Lennard family. They range in date from Lady Dacre and John Lennard, both painted around 1600, to the fifth Baronet, painted in 1936. A few of the portraits in the collection are on display in the public search room at the ERO. In addition to Batoni, the collection includes works by Gheeraerts and Lely. More than a dozen are illustrated on the Art UK website which also lists others without illustration.

The Barrett-Lennard collection in 1974 (not all of which are in the Essex Record Office) was photographed and a list published by the Courtauld Institute of Art. However, some works from the collection had already been sold in the Belhus sale of 1923. The ERO has a typescript entitled A Short Account of the Previous Owners of Belhus since it was built, with Catalogue of the Family Portraits there, and of the armorial glass in some of the windows, April 1917. This has been heavily annotated in manuscript. Information about most of subjects of the portraits can be found in An account of the families of Lennard and Barrett written by Thomas Barrett Lennard and published in 1908. A copy of this is available in the Grays Central library, which also has a copy of the 1923 sale catalogue.

The Tilbury Landing Stage

Amberly Publishing has produced a new book – Tilbury Landing Stage Through Time by Geoff Lunn. It is a paperback and the format is similar to many books of old photographs, usually two images per page with a few lines associated with the image providing more information about the subject featured in the image. There is a two page introduction which gives some background context together with an abbreviated history of the landing stage since 1926. Of the 96 pages, 91 are used for illustrations most of which are photographs taken by the author.

Despite the title, most of the photographs are of ships on or near the landing stage, although there are a few that depict the landing stage itself or associated buildings and some others that include recognisable buildings. There are some images of ephemera such as cruise ship menus or brochures. There are a small number of photos of or including various incarnations of the ferry and one photo of a bus. Unfortunately, very few of the photos have a precise date and there is no index.

Historical photos are always popular. There is a dedicated following for books about Transport (and ships) and this book is likely to be an irresistible addition to the library of any enthusiast. It will also stimulate the memories of local residents.

The book is priced at £14.99 and is available on Amazon or from the publisher (currently at a special offer price of £13.99).

Commemorative mugs

A few months ago, the Society was offered a commemorative mug celebrating the coronation of King George VI. It was marked on the bottom “Thurrock Urban District Council”. As far as we can tell, a mug was given to all Thurrock school children in 1937. Yesterday, I drank my coffee from a similar mug – this time celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. I wonder how many other occasions have been celebrated with a “Thurrock mug”?

Seaborough Hall

In 1913 Seaborough Hall belonged to the rectory of Limehouse and was occupied by a Mr Francis. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments records that it had a cross-wing at the west end and inside the building were some old battened doors.

The hall appears on the 1946 Ordnance Survey map where it is shown as being in Orsett. In 1801 it was named Sibbery Hall in a map by William Mudge and is in the same position. It also appears on the 1777 Chapman & Andre map as Seboroin Hall, and again in the same position. However, some documents place it in Mucking – the road between Chadwell and Orsett is the parish boundary between Orsett and Mucking and some arable fields, pasture, and woodland belonging to Seaborough Hall were in Mucking. The Place-Names of Essex lists it in the Mucking section and gives two possible derivations for the name – Seven barrows or Seofa’s Hill.

The name is recorded in the 13th century and intermittently thereafter. It is occasionally called a manor, but there is little evidence that enjoyed this legal status, although the name “hall” is often given to a Manor House. Seaborough Hall was on the western side of the road from Chadwell to the Orsett Cock. Today, at the side of the road, there is the remnant of a stone wall. Beyond the wall there is rubble from a demolished building. This rubble is all that remains of Seaborough Hall.

Education of an Elizabethan Gentleman

Binding of book donated by Sir Alexander Temple, courtesy of Christopher Skelton-Ford, New College Library, Oxford, BT3.193.6 © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford

Chadwell’s Sir Alexander Temple was an educated man. He was literate, conducting business and personal correspondence and he spent some time studying at Lincoln’s Inn. However, unlike his brother who graduated from Oxford, Sir Alexander was not listed in the standard reference works as attending either of the ancient universities.

However, evidence from a book donated to an Oxford college library has recently come to light that suggests he may have atended New College, although he probably didn’t graduate. There are more details in the 11th edition of New College Notes .

Lodge Lane

The society received an enquiry about the Lodge Lane area and particularly some house built on Lodge Lane around 1902. The name “Lodge Lane” is puzzling – what “Lodge” ? The route itself seems to be of considerable antiquity along the ridge of chalk and gravel cut off from the North Downs by the changing course of the Thames in pre-history.

From the 1910 Ordnance Survey map

The road was probably resurfaced, widened and slightly repositioned in the 1920s/30s. It is possible that the road gets its name from the lodge to the Grays Hall Estate. This was quite a large estate and probably had a lodge. Lodge Farm was just north of Lodge Lane. A scheme for building houses south of Lodge Lane on the Greys Hall estate was announced in August, 1918 and a more detailed plan was published in 1921. According to Terry Carney’s book, Thurrock in the Twenties, in 1928, two newly built houses on Lodge Lane were on sale for £500. The Oak had its license application granted in April 1929 and a number of shops were built adjoining it at the beginning of the 1930s. The “Nutberry” estate on the north side of Lodge Lane was also built at the beginning of the 1930s. The name “Lodge Estate” was applied to these various developments and it was described in the Thurrock Gazette as being “like a new suburb or Garden City”.

One of the early houses on Lodge Lane was built to the design of and to be lived in by Christopher Shiner the local architect and another was lived in by William Edwards, school master and council chairman after whom the school was named.

(Contributions from Susan Yates, John Webb and Norma Leach.)

Items from the military career of Sir Francis Whitmore

Earlier in the year, the Thurrock Local History Society was contacted by a lady from Orsett who believed she had a wooden chest that had belonged to Colonel Sir Francis Whitmore. It had come with the property when they bought it about 20 years ago. She was in the process of selling her house and associated buildings and wondered whether anyone in Thurrock was interested in the chest.

It was a large wooden chest with a metal lining, probably lead. There were small ventilation grills near the bottom at each end. It appeared to be in good condition. The outbuildings were part of the Orsett Fruit Farm and it may have been used at one time for storing fruit.

Inside there were named bags for Lt Col Whitmore, and for Major Whitmore as well as 2 – 3 incomplete tents, together with an incomplete campaign table and bed. The chest and contents have been donated to the Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre. It is hoped that they can form part of an exhibit in the Heritage Zone at this year’s Orsett Show.

We are very grateful to Mrs Frances Schwar for donating these items and ensuring they remain part of Thurrock’s heritage. We are pleased that the Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre has been able to provide them a new home.

An Update on Scalford King

In August 2018, we published a photo which was part of a local history collection donated by the family of Bill Hammond. It showed Scalford King, a shire horse owned by W Gridley of Fearings Farm, Corringham and advertised for stud.

Mr Gridley does not appear to have been a member of the Shire Horse Society, but his horse appeared in the 1918 edition of the stud book and was foaled in 1916. This confirms that the photo and advertisement date from between the two World Wars. Many thanks to Angela Whiteway of the Shire Horse Society for providing this image of the stud book entry.


The Roman town of Tilbury

In February and March 2019, Thurrock Museum held a vote to decide which object from their collection would be featured in a travelling exhibition. One of the candidate objects was a Samian ware dish found on the Thames shore at Tilbury.

The Thames became tidal at Tilbury during the Neolithic. At that point or shortly after, a natural salt marsh was established, replacing the previous woodland landscape of oak, alder and hazel. This salt marsh was exploited during the Bronze and Iron Ages for salt making and (probably) fishing and grazing.

The Tilbury marshland was sufficiently remote that it attracted at least one hermit – Thomas the hermit was there in 1161. The hermitage was eventually suppressed by Henry VIII in the 1530s, although it is not clear whether there was actually a hermit continuously on the site throughout the period from 1161 until 1540.

However, between the early and late Roman period, the river level dropped by about 1.5 metres. Since by this stage there was a mature salt marsh that only flooded at the highest tide, a drop of river level of this magnitude took the marshes well above the level of the high tide. These 3rd century water levels, significantly lower than now, made it possible to establish a settlement in what later reverted to salt marshes. This permitted prolonged occupation and probably arable farming.

Evidence for a Roman settlement in Tilbury was found while the docks were being built. The archaeological evidence illustrates life during the Roman period. Roman tiles and pottery, with bones and food refuse, oyster and snail shells, tiles and flint blocks were all observed. These finds were on a “mossy and grass-grow surface” at a depth of 7 feet (just over 2 metres). This is almost exactly the depth at which Devoy notes a peat layer which he dates to 1750 BP (roughly AD 200). Peat is not produced in a salt marsh. Romano British occupation of the marshes is supported by Jonathan Catton who noted that in 1920, 3 hut circles (dated to 1st or 2nd century AD) were discovered on the East Tilbury foreshore below the current high water mark. Unfortunately, the location is now lost under a land fill site.