Thurrock historical places

East Tilbury Methodist chapel

The village of East Tilbury straddles the two ancient highways as they join to descend on to the River Thames marshes at an historic crossing point, which has been used by traders, travellers, pilgrims and soldiers for nearly 2000 years.

The village, set on the higher gravel terrace overlooking the river, has preserved its basic ribbon development. A church, village green, pubs, Manor House and domestic accommodation including a school have all been present at some time in the village. One just-surviving building in the middle of the village is the Methodist Chapel.

Methodism is thought to have reached East Tilbury in 1807, and by 1819 the village appears to be on a regular circuit by a minister based at Gravesend, Kent. By 1853, the Dagenham Tract Society covered most areas in Thurrock, and services in the village were undertaken in a house opposite the present site of the Chapel.

In 1855, the need to have a permanent chapel building for the East Tilbury faithful was satisfied by Eleazer Williams, who leased land on a peppercorn rent for 100 years 'for the purpose of building a chapel'. A Trust was formed in the same year and by 1862 the chapel was in full operation. There was capacity for 130 adults and in 1885 around 90 children attended Sunday school with Mr W. Mott being the Superintendent.

In the year 1887, extra land was attained and an extension for a permanent Sunday school accommodation was built. It is interesting to imagine Colonel Gordon, who regularly visited the new building works of Coalhouse Fort, and often chatted with Mr Deeks who ran the shop and was the main stay of the chapel's administration. He was a deeply religious man and probably cast his eye over the building from an architectural as well as a spiritual point of view.

The chapel has been used regularly since its construction up until the 1980s. It was restored internally in 1935, narrowly missed being bombed in the 2nd World War and now stands empty, waiting for the next development in its history. In 2003 new owners to the site have set up temporary accommodation as they await planning permission to develop the site.

East Tilbury Village, like its counterpart West Tilbury, retains its almost medieval landscape. East Tilbury with its advantageous views over the wide estuary has been uniquely occupied by the Army over the last 500 years, and is now recognised for its historic national importance by the wide spread of scheduled military sites and local listed buildings. It would be pleasing to see the chapel preserved in the village building line as part of the overall conservation policy. This would ensure a balanced interpretation of religion and life of a Thurrock village in the 19th-20th Century.