Thurrock

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Thurrock (/ˈθʌrək/) is a unitary authority area with borough status in the English ceremonial county of Essex. It is part of the London commuter belt and an area of regeneration within the Thames Gateway redevelopment zone. The local authority is Thurrock Council.

It lies on the River Thames just to the east of London. With over 18 miles (29 km) of riverfront it covers an area of 64 square miles (170 km2), with more than half defined as Green Belt. With Greater London to the west and the river to the south, the county of Essex abuts the Borough to the north and east, and across the river lies Kent.

The local authority is Thurrock Council. Elections are held 3 out of every 4 years.

Thurrock is covered by two parliamentary constituencies. Thurrock includes most of the borough while South Basildon and East Thurrock includes some wards in the east of the borough. Both seats were Conservative gains from Labour at the 2010 general election.

Thurrock has a population of 157,500 people living in 90,500 homes. The Metropolitan Green Belt covers 70% of the borough. There are 494 acres (200 ha) of land available for industrial use. There are seven conservation areas, 19 scheduled ancient monuments, including the dovecote at High House Purfleet, and 239 listed buildings.

The borough contains ten sites of special scientific interest:

  • Globe Pit, Grays
  • Grays Chalk Pit
  • Lion Pit, Grays
  • Purfleet Chalk Pits
  • West Thurrock Lagoon and Marshes
  • Inner Thames Marshes
  • Vange and Fobbing Marshes
  • Basildon Meadows
  • Mucking Flats and Marshes
  • Hangman’s Wood and Deneholes

Despite much of the borough being protected Green Belt land, Thurrock provides localised opportunities for further industrial and commercial development. The borough forms part of the Thames Gateway regeneration area, a corridor of opportunity that has been identified by central government as the area with greatest development and commercial potential in the country. Thurrock Development Corporation took over much of the borough’s planning functions from its creation in 2005 until its demise in March 2011.

Much of the population and commercial activity is centred along the riverfront. This includes many large and important industrial sites, including two large oil refineries, manufacturing industries, a container port, cruise liner terminal, distribution warehousing and one of Britain’s largest refuse disposal sites at the appropriately named settlement of Mucking. Thurrock is also home to the Lakeside Shopping Centre.

There is one multiplex cinema attached to the Lakeside Shopping Centre, and the Thameside Theatre in Grays. Live shows are held at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet. Open space includes Chafford Gorges Nature Park, Langdon Hills Country Park and Grove House Wood, managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Museums and historic buildings include Coalhouse Fort at East Tilbury, Tilbury Fort in Tilbury, Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre, High House, Purfleet with its historic farm buildings, the Royal Opera House’s Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop, The Backstage Centre and ACME artists’ studios, Thurrock Museum and Walton Hall Farm Museum.

Next to Lakeside Shopping Centre is Arena Essex, a motor sports complex, where speedway, banger and stock car racing takes place.

Thurrock in Bloom is a voluntary group that works in partnership with Thurrock Council and co-sponsors such as Sandown Nursery and Elm Horticulture to promote floral displays. It is part of a more general “in bloom” initiative organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. The Thurrock initiative includes an annual competition and sponsorship of roundabouts. Award winners include Woodside Primary School which has received silver and gold awards for its wildlife garden.

Mammoths once grazed in the Thurrock area and archaeologists recently unearthed the remains of a jungle cat. Man has been in the area since prehistoric times and the land has been farmed by the Romans and Anglo-Saxons Thurrock has numerous archaeological sites including the major excavation at Mucking.

Horndon-on-the-Hill was the site of an 11th century mint as well as the 15th century woolmarket which gives an indication of the area’s wealth in the 15th century. 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, following the end of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Later, in 1588 Elizabeth I addressed her troops not far from the Tilbury blockhouse as the Spanish Armada sailed up the English Channel. Between 1670 and 1682, the Tilbury blockhouse was substantially rebuilt into a much larger fortification (Tilbury Fort) and Coalhouse Fort was built further down river, close to the second blockhouse. The importance of the forts in defending the country continued through Napoleonic times and into the two world wars. The land where Tilbury Town now stands was farmland and marsh grazing until the building of the docks in the 1890s. Thurrock includes the Bata village, built for workers of the shoe company in 1933. Eight homes and the factory are listed.

Historically, the area was renowned for mineral extraction, including clay, aggregates and notably the digging of huge amounts of chalk from the West Thurrock area for use in the now defunct cement industries. When chalk extraction ceased one of the disused pits was redeveloped as Lakeside Shopping Centre. A number of former pits have been used to form the Chafford Gorges Nature Reserve, managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.

The present-day borough of Thurrock was created in 1974 from the former area of Thurrock Urban District. The Local Government Act 1972 left the boundaries mostly untouched, although part of it, in Basildon New Town, was ceded to the Basildon district and the district gained borough status.

It was given administrative independence from Essex County Council on 1 April 1998 by The Essex (Boroughs of Colchester, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock and District of Tendring) (Structural, Boundary and Electoral Changes) Order 1996. It remains part of Essex for ceremonial purposes such as lord-lieutenancy.

The body of Captain Kidd was displayed in Thurrock. He had been convicted of piracy and hanged on 23 May 1701, at ‘Execution Dock’, Wapping. His body was gibbeted — left to hang in an iron cage over the Thames at Tilbury Point — as a warning to future would-be pirates for twenty years. Some sources give the location that his body was exhibited as Tilbury Ness, but this may be an alternative name for the same place. There is some uncertainty as to whether his body was displayed at what is now called Coalhouse Point or at a site a few hundred yards up stream, close to the present Tilbury Docks.

On 31 January 1953, the low-lying areas of Thurrock were inundated by the North Sea flood of 1953. The Van den Berghs and Jurgens margarine factory, which manufactured Stork margarine, was forced to stop production for many months. Since the output of this factory constituted one third of the country’s ration allocation, this led to a severe strain on the supply of margarine in the UK. Most schools in Thurrock were closed, either as a direct result of the flooding or in order to use them to help the relief effort. More than 1300 people in Tilbury and other low-lying areas were evacuated to schools on the higher ground. Chadwell St Mary Primary school was used as the main welfare centre for the homeless. By 15 February, most schools had returned to normal. The last to resume were the Landsdowne school in Tilbury and the newly opened Woodside Primary School – then called Tyrell Heath School. On Friday 13 February, the flooded areas were visited by the young Queen Elizabeth II Despite severe loss of life in nearby Canvey Island, only one person in Thurrock died as a result of the floods.

In 2002, a partnership between Thurrock Council, Thurrock Heritage Forum and the Thurrock Local History Society began an initiative to place heritage plaques marking the famous people, events and organisations associated with Thurrock. By June 2013 there were plaques to:

  • Joseph Conrad
  • Alice Mangold Diehl (Musician and Novelist, born in Aveley)
  • Dracula’s connection to Purfleet
  • The arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury on 21 June 1948.
  • The training ship Exmouth
  • The Kynoch factory in the Corringham marshes
  • The shooting down of Zeppelin L15 at Purfleet in 1916
  • Philip Vincent
  • Alfred Russel Wallace and his house at the Dell
  • Arthur Young
  • The establishment of the town of Tilbury in 1912
  • John Newton’s connection with Aveley and Purfleet
  • Benjamin Franklin’s connection with the design of a lightning conductor for the Purfleet gunpowder magazine
  • Henry de Grey who gave his name to Grays.

Thurrock has been the scene of several major films. St Clement’s Church and street scenes at West Thurrock were used in the making of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Thurrock can also be seen in 28 Days Later. Scenes from the films Alfie (2004), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were shot at Tilbury docks. The opening scenes from Batman Begins (2005) were shot at Coalhouse Fort in East Tilbury. Some filming also took place for the film Essex Boys in and around the Bata estate at East Tilbury. The State Cinema where Eddie met Roger in the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit can be found in Grays.

There are a number of examples of Art Deco architecture in Thurrock. The baggage hall at Tilbury was opened in 1930. It has an art deco interior, designed by Sir Edwin Cooper and is a grade II listed building. The State cinema is also a listed building and dates from 1938. It is one of the few surviving examples of 1930s cinema architecture. It has the original cinema organ which can still be played. However, in the early 21st century the building became disused and faced dereliction. In September 2015 it was announced that J D Wetherspoon had bought the property for conversion to a public house. Building of the Bata Shoes estate in East Tilbury was begun in 1933 and this is now a conservation area.

Chadwell St Mary has one of the few examples of a “Sunspan” house designed by the architect Wells Coates. Although built in the 1950s, Woodside Primary School’s architecture has been described as the slightly earlier “ocean liner” style of Art Deco. The building features a number of bricked curves and circular windows, while the wrought-iron banisters on the stairs are deliberately set to lean out at an angle.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1911 2,500
1951 82,100 +3184.0%
1961 114,300 +39.2%
1971 125,000 +9.4%
1981 127,400 +1.9%
1985 124,600 −2.2%
1991 128,700 +3.3%
1995 133,400 +3.7%
2001 143,300 +7.4%
2005 148,900 +3.9%
2007 152,200 +2.2%
2011 158,300 +4.0%
All totals rounded to nearest hundred
Source: Populstat & NOMIS

At the census of 2011, there were 157,705 people, 62,353 households and 45,985 families residing in the borough. The population density was 9.7 people per hectare. There were 63,869 housing units. The racial makeup of the borough was 86% White, 3.8% Asian, 7.8% Black, 2% Mixed Race, 0.6% other.

There were 62,353 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 72.7% were married couples living together, 52.5% of all households were made up of individuals, 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.

The median age in the borough was 42. 25.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.3% of residents were between the ages of 19 and 24; 30.3% were from 25 to 44; 24.2% were from 45 to 64; and 38.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.3% male and 50.6% female.

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Thurrock at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional gross value added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 1,406 8 657 741
2000 1,737 4 677 1,056
2003 1,995 5 664 1,327

 

List of places in the borough

  • Aveley
  • Bulphan
  • Chadwell St Mary
  • Chafford Hundred
  • Corringham
  • Coryton Refinery
  • East Tilbury
  • Fobbing
  • Grays
  • Horndon-on-the-Hill
  • Little Thurrock
  • Mucking
  • Orsett
  • Purfleet
  • Shell Haven
  • South Ockendon
  • Stanford-le-Hope
  • Stifford
  • Thames Haven
  • Thurrock Village
  • Tilbury
  • West Thurrock

Historic buildings

  • Coalhouse Fort
  • St Clement’s Church
  • The State Cinema
  • Tilbury Fort
  • The Woolmarket, Horndon
  • Palmer’s College
  • Orsett Hall
Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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