The Cement Industry in Thurrock – the people and the landscape

Featured image: The cover of the booklet

The Land of the Fanns wanted to make it easier for the public to understand and enjoy the local area. Eleven landscape character areas had been identified, one of which was the “West Thurrock Quarry Townscape”. This “townscape” had been the heart of Thurrock’s cement industry for about 100 years from 1871. In 2019, the Thurrock Local History Society was awarded the Land of the Fanns Community Action Fund grant to increase awareness of the impact of the cement industry on Thurrock’s people and its landscape.

September 2019 saw the “Land of the Fanns Heritage Zone” at the Orsett Show. The Orsett Show is the local event that generates the most interest and attracts the largest number of visitors. The Heritage Zone included a major display dedicated to Thurrock’s cement industry. The story of the industry was told in a series of interpretation panels covering many aspects of the industry and its impact. One of our volunteers gave us copies of many old photographs. The Thurrock Museum was kind enough to lend us a valuable book of colour plates to display. This included paintings of various scenes showing the industry in Thurrock and elsewhere. We were also able to give away copies of the first edition of our 24 page booklet: The Cement Industry in Thurrock – the people and the landscape. Visitors to the Zone included both of the local MPs, Jackie Doyle-Price and Stephen Metcalf. Our visitors were able to share with us more memories of the industry and its effect on their lives. In total, about a dozen people contributed memories.

Thurrock’s MP, Jackie Doyle-Price with “Daniel Defoe” and “Jane Austin”

Inside the Land of the Fanns Heritage Zone

In February 2020, a talk on the Cement Industry in Thurrock was given at the monthly meeting of the Thurrock Local History Society. This gave the audience answers to various questions about the history of the cement industry:

  • why did it came to West Thurrock and South Stifford?
  • how did the industry transform the landscape?
  • what has happened since the industry closed?

The audience included a number of former employees of the industry and following the talk several of the them talked about their memories of the industry.

A significant legacy of the project is a web app designed to provide access to information about the cement industry in Thurrock. The initial screen displays a map of Thurrock on which there are 18 icons of different types. Each icon indicates a location associated in some way with the cement industry or its historical antecedents. The user can click on any of the icons and a pop-up appears which has a visual image, a brief description of the connection to the cement industry and a clickable link to a web page with more information about that feature (a virtual interpretation board).

The app can be used while out and about, enabling the user to learn more about something they are looking at. It can also be used at home to enable virtual exploration of the landscape. Unlike traditional (physical) interpretation boards, the app can be easily updated to add features, provide new information or correct mistakes. The app is hosted on the Thurrock Local History Society website.


The main screen of the App

A few activities which we had planned had to be put on hold as a result of government Covid19 restrictions. These included a guided heritage walk that was planned to last about two and a half hours. The walk would have included former chalk quarries, the Chafford Hundred housing estate, part of the Chafford Gorges nature park, former factory sites, the location of now abandoned industrial railways, local buildings and street names associated with the industry. It is hoped to reinstate it in a programme of walks in 2021.

The route of the planned guided heritage walk

We have published a revised and enlarged 2nd edition of the booklet about the cement industry. This includes local people’s memories of the industry and has a two page bibliography enabling anyone who is interested to look at the subject in more depth. This will be distributed at Thurrock Local History Society meetings and heritage events, once these resume.

When the Covid19 restrictions were introduced, we were in the middle of filming a documentary video. This will be completed later this year and uploaded to video sites on the web such as YouTube.

John Matthews
Thurrock Local History Society

Thames Chase Trust, Pike Lane
Upminster, Essex RM14 3NS

01708 642970

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