“When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality.”
Russell Brand, born and raised in Grays Thurrock
The name “Thurrock” is a Saxon name meaning “the bottom of a ship” and is clearly a link to the historical importance of shipping in this area, from antiquity up to the present day. Other names in the area have also arisen from history. In 1195 Sir Henry de Grey (1155–1219), who was a favourite courtier of King John was granted the Manor of Thurrock in Essex which later became known as Grays Thurrock.
Significant historical events have occurred in the area. In 1381, villagers from Fobbing, Mucking and Stanford-le-Hope instigated the Peasants’ Revolt when they were required to pay the poll tax. The narrowing of the river where Tilbury now stands meant it was important in the defence of London, and Henry VIII built three blockhouses, two on the Tilbury side and another on the Gravesend side of the river. In 1588 Elizabeth I addressed her troops not far from the Tilbury blockhouse as the Spanish Armada sailed up the English Channel.
The parish of Thurrock was formed in 1936. The present-day borough was created in 1974 from Thurrock Urban District and Thurrock parish. In 1998 the borough was made a unitary authority, although it remains part of Essex for ceremonial purposes such as lord-lieutenancy.
“If you tell the truth, you have infinite power supporting you; but if not, you have infinite power against you.”
Lt. Col. George Gordon (later to become General Gordon of Khartoum) who supervised the completion of Coalhouse fort in 1874
Coalhouse Fort is an artillery fort near East Tilbury, built in the 1860s to guard the Thames from seaborne attack. It was constructed during a period of tension with France, its location on marshy ground caused problems from the start and led to a lengthy construction process. The slow construction and the rapid pace of artillery development at the time meant that it was practically obsolete for its original purpose within a few years of its completion.
The fort’s armament was revised several times during its 70 years of military use, as its role evolved in the river’s defensive system. It was initially a front-line fortification, and then, as batteries and forts further downriver became the front line of the Thames defences, the fort was stripped of its main weapons. It was altered to support smaller quick-firing guns intended to be used against fast-moving surface and aerial targets. Its last military use was as a training facility for a few years after the Second World War.
Decommissioned in 1949, the fort was used as a storehouse for a shoe factory before it was purchased by the local council. The surrounding land was developed into a public park, and from 1985 it was leased to a voluntary preservation group, the Coalhouse Fort Project, which had been working to restore the fort and use it for heritage and educational purposes. Funding for its restoration was provided in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Warner Bros. film studio, which used the fort as a location for the opening scenes of the 2005 film Batman Begins. The group closed in 2020.
“We saw Tilbury Fort and remembered the Spanish Armada, Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich – places which I had heard of even in my country.”
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Frankenstein
The first fort on the site, a small blockhouse with artillery covering the river, was constructed by King Henry VIII to protect London against attack from France.
The famous ‘Speech to the Troops at Tilbury’ was delivered at or close to Tilbury Fort on 9 August Old Style (19 August New Style) 1588 by Elizabeth I to the forces assembled in preparation for repelling the expected invasion by the Spanish Armada.
The speech contained the famous line:
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too
The fort was reinforced during the 1588 Spanish Armada invasion scare, and Parliamentary forces used it during the English Civil War. It was enlarged following naval raids during the Anglo-Dutch Wars, to form the familiar star-shaped defensive work, with angular bastions, water-filled moats and two lines of guns facing onto the river.
In the 18th century Tilbury also began to be used a transit depot and for storing gunpowder and a new artillery battery was added in the south-east corner during the Napoleonic Wars. It became a strategic depot, forming a logistical hub for storing and moving troops and materiel throughout the First World War. The fort had only a limited role in the Second World War and was demobilised in 1950.
Tilbury Fort is now operated by the charity English Heritage Trust as a tourist attraction.
Davy Down consists of around 6-hectares of attractive landscape, nestled amongst large modern developments. As a part of the Mardyke Valley and Thames Chase Community Forest, the area provides a great opportunity to explore and enjoy the countryside on your doorstep, with links to Aveley and Bulphan along the Mardyke Way.