Posts Tagged ‘Thurrock’

The Corringham Light Railway was a line built in 1899, opened in 1901, as part of access to the Kynochs munitions factory on the site of what is now Coryton. It went from the London Fenchurch/Tilbury/Southend line at Thames Haven down to Corringham and Kynochtown to allow for transport to and from the munitions site but was used as late as 1971 for oil refining activities.

The line has been at first glance removed without trace, but plenty of remnants begin to appear when you follow the line closely which we did in 2013 with the Corringham Light Railway Preservation Society with great thanks to Lisa Sargent. We found remains of the CLR and Kynochs munitions works all the way from the housing area near the Pegasus Club in Stanford-le-Hope out into the remote farmers fields where we stopped. We found ponds near the Pegasus Club that would’ve been used for brick works serving the railway, as well as sewage works left by Kynochs serving the works colony, and also Brickfield Bridge now in the water-logged fields that the CLR would’ve run over. Trackbed remains such as sleepers, and surrounding fences, still survive too. The station platform at the start of the CLR also surves in a garden in a residential area. Inside Coryton refinery, which is of course heavily guarded due to terrorist threats, the 1919 Coryton Station platform survives.

This article was written in January this year as an overview of Beyond the Point’s coverage of the First World War for the Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Partnership which we are proud to be a part of. In light of remembrance 2015, its now here on Beyond the Point.

I shall begin by introducing our organisation. BeyondthePoint.co.uk is Essex-based and was established by myself (Liam Heatherson) and my friend Joe Mander, in 2011 when we were fourteen years old. Like this site, we created it using WordPress (originally as a blog). We were awarded Best National Community Archive, Website, and Heritage Group of 2012. We use our site to share and document our fascination with local history, offering an innovative approach to the subject by focusing on what is usually glossed over by historians; primarily what remains of our heritage today. The ‘hands-on’ nature of exploring local heritage in our opinion is a good way to fascinate a younger audience. Also, we use professional-quality video equipment to produce documentaries on the places we visit found on the site.

We were encouraged to join the Centenary Partnership by the Bay Museum who is also a partner, whom we know very well. Like ourselves, they believe seeing and investigating remains of the Great War is the most effective way to really capture people, like history did to myself many years ago.

Beyond the Point has been running a series of articles on relating to the First World War, and we have many planned for the future. We began our investigation by having a look at the remembrance of the sacrifice paid. Joe and I took a trip to London and visited the poppies at the Tower of London, and also the Tower Hill Memorial for those who lost their lives in both world wars in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets. You can read about our visit and our partnership with the IWM here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1if Next we paid a visit to the Imperial War Museum London itself as it was only fitting. We visited the First World War exhibition there. Read more here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1mb

Having paid respects to the more obvious commemoration of the Great War, we then set out to provide our own contributions. As we usually explore and document historic remains, we took a trip to Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve which held the ruins of the Ministry of Defence site that was there as far back as the 1700s up until recent. It served most notably as a firing range during the First World War. Joe and I took two friends with us and they were definitely fascinated like ourselves. We tracked down the ruins of an anti-submarine blockhouse, which shot down a zeppelin in March 1916, explored the impressive remains of the 1915 firing range, and ventured inside a gloomy anti-aircraft ammunition magasine; one of the original eight. We provided a downloadable trail guide on our website to enable viewers to discover the remains for themselves. You can read the whole detailed investigation, see all our photographs, and get the trail guide here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1s6

This is only the one of our investigations into remains of the First World War on the home front and we plan several more for the future. BTP created a 5-minute short documentary on Southend in The First World War based on the book ‘Southend at War’ by Dee Gordon. It visits sites that were bombed, or used in the war effort. Read the article here: http://wp.me/p1HP6Z-1md

We will be visiting the site of a First World War Kynoch munitions factory that is currently thought to be gone without trace by historians, to conduct an archaeological search, after we found signs of ruins corresponding to the original plans via Google Earth. We visited a similar site, now a nature reserve, in Pitsea, several years ago (Wat Tyler Country Park) which made much of the .303 ammunition for the standard-issue Short Magasine Lee-Enfield rifles used by troops in the Great War. This is somewhat antiquated content on our site which is not representative of the quality of our articles at present, although you can read about this here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-Xl We also visited a munitions factory from the same era in 2013 at Cliffe, whose ruins span miles of Thames-side marshland in Kent to this day: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1af Finally, again in 2013, we visited Stow Maries Aerodrome which was abandoned up until recent years in which a restoration project has taken place. They fly contemporary aircraft from the site, and hold a collection of restored and left-natural buildings from the time of the First World War. Read here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-Sx

Thanks very much for reading and thanks very much to the Imperial War Museum for the First World War Centenary Project which we are grateful to be part of.

BTP Joe and I have been busy over the past few months updating our stall display which we feature at local community events. We decided to create a ‘giant’ MDF pillbox to replace our table, and after applying wood ‘bricks’, a pva and sand mixture, and layers of paint, we managed to create an authentic concrete texture. We even added ivy to create an ‘abandoned look’. To go along with it we decided to upgrade the display board from what was originally just a map showing historic remains across the Thames, to a hand-drawn and painted antique-looking map featuring particular historic structures across the estuary. Photographs and drawing of these places brought them to life, whilst the addition of a iPad-holder made from an old picture frame enables us to play videos at our stall. We put this display to use in September at the Canvey Archive Heritage Trail, and at the Canvey Transport Museum Open day in October. Follow our Facebook and Twitter to check for upcoming events where we will showcase our display!

Canvey Island Transport Museum (October)
Canvey Archive Heritage Trail (September)

As for other site content, we have numerous features lined up covering a variety of places and traditions. In production are documentaries on Dover Castle and it’s tunnels, Westcliff Highschool for Boys, Canvey’s Occidental Oil Refinery with guest Chris Fenwick (manager of Dr. Feelgood), and the history of tea whilst the boys taste their way through the B Tea P Party. Proposed upcoming content includes East Tilbury Bata Shoe Factory, Coalhouse Fort, a Halloween feature, and a rare opportunity to film the renown Edwardian Severall’s Asylum in Colchester. We also plan to give Beyond the Point a facelift over the next few months looking into a more accessible modern site layout with a new homepage video.

Grisly adventures at Severall's Asylum - 105 years old

Grisly adventures at Severall’s Asylum – 105 years old

The Rainham/Purfleet area has been in use by man since the days of the so –called ‘Cavemen’. You can see some of the petrified tree trunks still remaining today from a 6,000 year-old Neolithic forest, opposite the very northern end of Wennington Marsh, in the Thames foreshore. However, much of Rainham came to use in the last few centuries by the Ministry of Defence on Aveley Marsh; this is what we investigated with guests Luke Baker and Michael Clark, paying a visit to the now RSPB-owned nature reserve.

The article following has been designed in manner which both documents our visit, informs readers on the location, and offers advice enabling you to make a visit yourself as part of our ‘iBTP’ scheme. If you do wish to visit, follow the numbers on the satellite map below which correspond to the places mentioned in the following article. We recommend you download and print our ‘printer-friendly’ trail-guide version of the article found below the map. Please note trail shown on map is not to be followed religiously. May contain errors or be subject to change over time. Please note the historic structures shown in the article are not accessible and are on potentially dangerous land. However, they can be clearly viewed at leisure from the footpaths.

Purfleet Train Station (not to be confused with Rainham Station further down the river) is part of the C2C train line. It will take you towards London or Southend-on-Sea. Trains only run roughly once an hour so make sure you plan a train. Alternatively you can drive and park in the Rainham Nature Reserve car-park next to the visitor’s centre. The reserve has been designed with nature in mind, although with respect to the sites heritage, so the marshes are well worth a visit if bird-watching or any other kind of wildlife enthusiasm is of interest to you.

ibtpRainhamMap

Download Printer-Friendly Trail Guide Here

  1. Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre is a museum set up inside 1759 Magasine No.5 from the Royal Magasine of Gunpowder Check opening times here: http://www.purfleet-heritage.com/pages/contact.html We took some video footage and photographs during our visit, and were fortunate enough to speak to founder Alan Gosling. We will release a short video and more in-depth article on the building in the near future which will be linked here.
  2. Rainham Marshes Visitors Centre was built around 2006 after the MOD land was bought and cleared by the RSPB in 2000. It has a café and toilet facilities, and houses views of the marshes as well as its own impressive architecture. We visited and the food/facilities were respectable and ideally located.
  3. The Anti-Submarine Blockhouse can be found at the end of one of the longest sections of the walk (around 10 minutes) which takes you to the western side of the central reserve. However, you can appreciate views of the Thames from here, also ideal for bird watching. This is a pillbox-type outpost made of brick and concrete, although much larger than conventional pillboxes, and is the first sign of the areas use during the First World War. It is said that in March 1916, decoy beacons were lit on Wennington Marsh, and the structure shot down a German zeppelin via the machine gun that would’ve been mounted on its roof. It remains in fair condition, but is water-logged and inaccessible.
  4. The Firing Ranges span across the green line marked on the map, and divide the two marshes. The war department created this rifle range in 1906, and the structures you see today were built in 1915. The firing range sheds (‘mantlets’) remain, which were where the target-mechanism operators would stand, as does one of the three ‘butts’ (the area in which the targets are set up).  The target area (butt/backwall), made up of a brick ‘Aztec-looking’ plinth with wooden numbers on, is visible from path. Its size means it can be seen across most of the reserve. It is on private land and inaccessible to the public. The surface of the remaining butt is littered with quite sizable bullet-holes in the brickwork, probably inflicted by the standard issue service rifle of the time – the Lee-Enfield and its .303 calibre bullets. The firing sheds (mantlets) were on private land and are inaccessible. They were made of metal and still held original wooden seats and other decor, as well as a corrugated iron shed. The mantlet roof was covered with earth from the bank to protect the target-mechanism operators from fire coming at the back-wall overhead. They span the entire western side of the central reserve in two sections. The green line on our map above marks their location. They were highly impressive.

  5. The Cordite Store was a large magazine building that once stood on the square area extant today. You can see the blast mound around the outside of this which would’ve contained an accidental explosion. We can imagine this must have been an immense building when it stood, more like some form of hangar or hall than a store-room.
  6. Only one of the eight Anti-Aircraft Ammunition Magasines remains today; ruined and overgrown just north of the visitors centre. The rest were demolished shortly after the RSPB gained the land in 2000. It lies off of the main footpath and is not accessible to the public. It was surprisingly large and had a small walkway between the blastwall and the exterior of the main structure. Window-frames inside were still present although no other features survived. You can see all eight magasines in the 1940 image at the bottom of the post.
The marsh in 1940

The marsh in 1940

That concludes the trail. If you decided to follow it you can now return to the Visitors Centre or go straight back to the C2C train station. Beyond the Point certainly enjoyed our visit and found it highly fascinating. First-time heritage-explorer Michael Clark said the trip was “thrilling; history meets adventure, and it really captivated me”, in the same way that BTP Joe and Liam were by their numerous adventures into remaining glimpses of the past.

Chafford Gorges

Posted: April 21, 2014 by BTP Liam in Event Review
Tags: , , ,

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Transformed from chalk industry giants of the 20th Century, these huge craters in the landscape now form nature reserves due to the mineral-rich soils. What’s more, is that water collects in the bases of them, forming lakes. One of these can be walked to after ten minutes, as soon as you cross the Lakeside c2c railway footbridge. The chalk was harvested from the gorges for use in making cement at the Tunnel Portland Cement factory roughly on site of the QE2 bridge (Essex side), built in 1874.

A photo of the industrial site at Thurrock, 1948. Courtesy of Britain From Above.

A photo of the industrial site at Thurrock, 1948. Courtesy of Britain From Above.

The gorges, some taken over as Nature Reserves, others left ‘abandoned’ to form lakes, were visited by myself and Jack Swestun early Winter 2013. We discovered a few remains such as a shell of a small outbuilding, manholes, and pipes. Climbing around a gate to get to a restricted path on the opposite side of a fishing lake in one of the gorges, we were rewarded by tons of fresh apples growing on trees. However, we should’ve turned back, as carrying on around the lake meant we had to tackle a metal spiked fence by stacking chairs found nearby, after rolling down the bottom of the cliff-face among heaps of chalk. Dangerous, and best not repeated!

Wikipedia explains:

The reserve is on the site of three major chalk quarries – Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge, and Grays Gorge which were worked from the end of the 18th century for around 150 years.[2] In the Lion Gorge are the remnants of an old tramway cutting created in the nineteenth century to transport chalk from Lion Pit to the riversidewharves.[3] The tramway ran roughly south from the chalk diggings to the Lion Works – a Portland cement factory opened in 1874. (Until about 1980, Thurrock was a major centre for cement production.) Part of the course of the tramway can be seen under the bridge where the railway line crosses a path from The Chase to Hedley Avenue and is also visible on London Road between The Chase and Foxton Road.

Tilbury Fort

Posted: January 16, 2014 by BTP Liam in Case Study, Event Review
Tags: , , , ,

Aerial view of the Fort, courtesy of English Heritage. The 'ravelin' can be seen as the triangular island front-most.

Aerial view of the Fort, courtesy of English Heritage. The ‘ravelin’ can be seen as the triangular island front-most.

Whilst a fort – the ‘Thermitage Bulwark’, was built on the site, under Henry VII, in 1539, the current incarnation was built in 1670 as a defense against the Spanish Armada. Slow construction meant the fort would not be completed until some ten years later. As well as the main star-shaped brick fort, a brick and earthen gunline was also constructed facing across the Thames. In 1724 Daniel Defoe estimated there to be around 100 guns on-site. Captain Charles Gordon saw much remodeling such as the heaping of earth around the original walls to protect them from the effects of high velocity modern guns firing within the vicinity. Henry VIII’s blockhouse adjacent was demolished as part of these developments, in 1867.

By the First World War, anti-aircraft guns were added, and shot down a German zeppelin. This was the only time the fort actually had any military success throughout its long history. Of course, we must remember that if defences such as Tilbury Fort were not built throughout history, the country would be allowing enemy invasion. It could be said it acted more so as a deterrent. The 18th Century barrack blocks were damages in the Second World War, and were demolished in 1950.

A replica Spigot Mortar on one of the two remaining Spigot Mortar mounts on the site. These were used by the Home Guard - the site saw use as a defense of the Home Guard during World War Two.

A replica Spigot Mortar on one of the two remaining Spigot Mortar mounts on the site. These were used by the Home Guard – the site saw use as a defense of the Home Guard during World War Two.

The original 400 year old explosives magazine was later connected by a tunnel system in the Victorian era, featuring two cartridge lifts on the way. There a several magazine tunnels around the site.

Original defences of this fort included two moats; such defence had seen use since the Medieval era and long before. Also dominant is a ravelin (an ‘island’ in the moats before the entrance). Redans are also present; triangular outcrops in the wall facing the expected direction of attack. This would allow troops to cover every section of the fort’s walls from attack, unlike traditional walls which would mean there would be ‘blank points’ when the enemy got right against the wall.

Sighting up the spigot mortar

Sighting up the spigot mortar

The dead house was a room with a trap door used to store the sick and injured as a kind of quarantine – it was either die or recover!

Kevin Diver, site manager, invited us to visit the fort and took us on an exclusive behind the scenes tour, in which we were able to see the tunnels, dead house, and housing block rooftop.

The Victorian semi-detached accommodation housed the ‘officer’s mess’; the officer’s personal quarters. We were fortunate to go up through the officer’s mess and onto the rooftop of this classic Victorian ‘urban’ house-type block.