Historical parishes of Thurrock

Chadwell St Mary, incorporating Tilbury Town

Parish facts:

  • In the 1660s Samuel Pepys travelled down the Thames from London on several occasions, once to drink at a small ale house close to Tilbury Fort and once came off Grays in his boat to purchase fish from the local fishermen, before retiring to a Gravesend Inn to cook and eat them.

  • Daniel Defoe purchased a small farmstead on the Thames marshes in the parish of Chadwell St. Mary around 1698, to set up a tile and brick works. A close neighbour at that time was a man called John Friday. In 1719 Defoe, having left Thurrock for a number of years, published his book "The life and strange surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe".

  • In 1746 the Scottish prisoners captured after their defeat at Culloden were brought by boat to be imprisoned on floating prison hulks and in Tilbury Fort. Eventually many of the prisoners were either deported or sent as slaves abroad while some were executed in London and others were freed. The last prisoner to leave Tilbury Fort had been there some five years.

  • A Thames Tunnel was started some 800 yards. east of Tilbury Fort, to join Tilbury to Gravesend in 1798. Much difficulty was experienced with flooding so a steam driven pump was used. After a number of disasters the pumping was abandoned and a figure of £15,242.10s.4d. was expended on the project before the share holders called it a day. Not so much a tunnel but a well!

  • The first recorded death of a Royal Engineer 'diver' occurred on the 21st May 1838 off Tilbury Fort. In trying to blow up the wreck of the collier brig William Corporal Henry Mitchell became entangled in the rigging and drowned. Buried at St. James West Tilbury with full military honours, the memorial headstone being paid for by his Commanding Officer Col. Pasley R.E.

  • In the 1860's Charles Dickens the famous Victorian novelist published 'Great Expectations', this includes references to the Mucking Lighthouse and the Thames defences manned at this time. Dickens is known to have used the London to Tilbury railway and Tilbury to Gravesend ferry while travelling between Rochester and London.

  • Tilbury Docks, opened in 1886, developed and was enlarged in 1930 to increase the passenger liner service, the floating landing stage was opened by Prime Minister Ramsey McDonald. The importance of the dock economy inspired the borough motto, "By Thames to all peoples of the world".

  • Mark Twain on arriving at Tilbury Docks in 1907, referred to the moving welcome he received by the Tilbury Stevedores, amongst other things he said that they were "the men who build civilisations" in a speech to the Savage Club in London on the 6th July in his honour.

  • In 1912 Tilbury was given Town status, having grown from a shanty town around the new dock developments in the 1880's which were actually in the parish of Chadwell St. Mary. After 1912 the village of Chadwell St. Mary is referred to as the Upper ward and Tilbury Town the lower ward.

  • Prime Minister Ramsey McDonald, when opening Tilbury landing stage in 1930 referred to the importance of travel along the Thames and the Tilbury Dock and landing facilities. He makes reference to the Thames as "Liquid History".

  • George Orwell in the 1930's describes Tilbury Hotel as a fine example of English architecture, in an argument with two Romanian friends about the quality of architecture between the two countries, when returning from Paris on a ferry about to dock at Tilbury. It is quoted in his autobiography "Down and out in Paris". The Hotel was incendiary bombed in 1944 and completely destroyed.

  • In 1943-44 PLUTO line assembled in Tilbury Docks, Pipe Line Under the Ocean. This flexible pipe for pumping fuel oils from England to France, post D-Day 1944. The pipe was assembled, welded and wound on to a floating bobbin, whose code word was Conundrum, this was later attached to the back of pipe laying vessels. Nearby to the docks Phoenix units were also constructed using local cement, these when joined together formed Mulberry harbour.

  • Fatima Whitbread, European and world javelin champion was brought up in the Chadwell housing estate.