History on the River Thames

Grays Park and Beach in Victorian and Edwardian times

Grays Park and Beach have a surprisingly long history.

The Park

In 1898 the Grays Town Council agreed to purchased 8 1/4 acres of land in the centre of the district at a cost of £2,100. This was a derelict ground having been part of the extensive clay pits used for the important local brick industry. Within this land purchase was 1 1/4 acres set aside for a council depot. This included stabling for horses, needed to pull the council's carts and other equipment. The total cost of the depot came to £3,400 and additional buildings a few years later were constructed at a cost of £850 pounds. (Still occupied by Thurrock Council and called the Stanley Road Depot).

The remaining land was laid out as a public recreation ground. Though small, the park forms a useful open space, which would have otherwise been taken up with housing. An extensive concrete wall had to be constructed on the north and east side of the part to shore up the steep cliff faces of the quarry. This is 6'6" high and cost 8s. 6d. per yard including the foundations and it was noted in 1912 there had been no expense for maintenance! Ivy was planted against this wall to form a good background for the gardens and shrubs. The park was used much during the summer holidays with its band stand often occupied by the Grays Temperance bands concerts, their was also Pierotts players and other events staged to entertain Grays families.

The Beach

In 1903 the Council purchased 4 3/4 acres of land adjoining the River Thames at a cost of £1,880, the owner having given 1 acre as a memorial of the Coronation of King Edward VII. The land is situated on both sides of the river wall. The riverside section has been covered with Thames ballast and sand to form a beach, and the ground is known as "The Beach". This was not done, as widely assumed with the idea of making Grays a seaside place but as an economical method of rendering useful, the mud flats which are covered by the spring tides. It was much appreciated by the children of the neighbourhood who make use of it during the summertime.

On the land ward side it was proposed to build a model yachting pond as well as an enclosed open-air swimming bath. However, a loan could not be raised through the Local Government Board for a swimming bath but the Sewers Commissioners issued an order to raise the river wall by 18". It was decided to excavate a deeper pond, to provide the materials to raise the sea river wall and make the pond available for swimming. Water was supplied to the pond during the spring tides, by a 21" pipe joined to the towns own water storage tanks which collected rainwater. The bottom of the pond was only of mud, but the bathing proved such an attraction that in the autumn of 1905, it was decided to deepen the pond and line it with 6" of concrete, reinforced with wire netting. The pond is 90 yards long by 50 yards wide; it is 1'9" deep at the sides where there is a 70' x 30' section in front of the diving stage, which is up to 6'9" deep.

A refreshment kiosk was built on the same level of the river wall, beneath which is a store for model boats and conveniences for both sexes. Altogether some 4,500 pounds has been spent on this work. In 1912, the pond was open daily during the summer months from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. until sunset, at a charge of 1d, and the charge of a private dressing box was 2d. Ladies were admitted free from 9 to 11 daily, and boys of school age from 9 till noon on Saturdays. On other days the boys from the elementary schools have the use of the pond for swimming instruction.