The University of Thurrock?

Posted in Education at 9:55 pm by henrysgauntlet

Thurrock is not really natural territory for The Guardian newspaper.  Local people have too firm a grip on the realities of life to be taken in by its promotion of fashionable causes and its subservience to radical posturing.

All the same, there are occasionally items in the paper of local interest.  Its Education Supplement last week contained details of the Borough Council’s hopes of creating a university campus in Grays in the foreseeable future.  This would help to raise the proportion of Thurrock University Graduateyoungsters going into higher education.  The Universities of Essex and of East London, along with other bodies, have been drawn in to help.

No one is against getting more of Thurrock’s young or older people into higher education. But the Borough Council’s priority should be to improve the performance of Thurrock’s secondary schools.  Their results are well below the county and national average.  Little progress is being made despite organisational changes which often amount to little more than new names being given to long-standing projects or institutions.

A very high price has been paid for the abolition of our local grammar schools – Palmer’s Boys and Girls’ schools – simply to appease Labour Party prejudices.  They offered a good standard of education for children from a wide range of backgrounds including those on low incomes.  Other local schools like Torells have perished because the LEA failed to support its governors and parents when it could and should have done.

Let us not make the mistake of creating a University of Thurrock before our schools have improved greatly. They are where our resources, our Council Tax payments and the funds available from the Exchequer should be invested.  Coverage in The Guardian may impress left-wing sympathisers but will not help Thurrock’s young people.

Posted by Ol Grumpy





The “open plan” post office

Posted in Post Office at 9:16 pm by henrysgauntlet

GPO badgeThis week I have been to the new main post office in Grays for the first time.   Although it has been open for a few months, I have not had occasion to use it before.   Like many across the country, it is situated in a branch of WH Smith in the shopping precinct.

It was OK.   Yes, there was quite a long queue, but then there always was at the old general post office in George Street, now empty and no doubt deteriorating.   The back portion of the WH Smith store has been taken over, and it has been decorated and furnished in a pleasant, modern way.   There are six customer positions  –  promising  –  with four of them open.   The staff all seemed very pleasant, and the young lady who served me was most helpful.

What really surprised me, though, was the “open plan” aspect.  

We have become so used to high security in banks and post offices.   Certainly the little sub post office in a general shop at the corner of my road has high security.   The shop owner, who is the sub postmaster, was made to glass in the back corner of the shop completely, (hopefully it’s bullet-proof glass!), and the customer position has the same sort of narrow slot as banks have under which you push your grubby fivers.

But here at the WH Smith post office there are simply wooden screens which end at about head level of the sitting staff.   Anyone could easily reach over and grab things from the counter.   What is more the screens end either side of each counter clerk, so there is a completely open space of about two feet wide in front of each clerk.   Presumably the cash and stamp supplies are kept in under-counter drawers, but there would be plenty of scope for an evil-doer to put a gun in the face of a counter clerk.

I am perfectly happy for the post office to be in a private shop.   One could feel pleased that no necessity has been perceived for high security barriers.   But we must all hope that an armed attack on this post office never happens.  


Tilbury, Horndon and the Armada

Posted in Local History at 7:10 pm by henrysgauntlet

Queen Elizabeth I The Armada PortraitSome dates and some events are easily fixed in people’s memories.   Local and national history is full of them.   Fobbing and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is one example.   So, too, is the story of the Spanish Armada of 1588 and of Queen Elizabeth I’s visit to her army at Tilbury and stay at Horndon-on-the-Hill.   Michael Portillo covered this episode in a recent television series that showed him outside the fort at Tilbury.

It is easy to see how such events give rise to myths.   The threat of invasion by the troops carried by the Spanish fleet and those it was intended to carry across the channel from the southern provinces of the Low Countries was the most formidable faced by England until the successful Dutch invasion of 1688.   Extensive preparations were made.   The English fleet let the Spanish fleet pass up the Channel whilst battering it from a distance with much superior gunpower until it was scattered by fireships and the wind off the coast of Flanders.   In England itself, an army of some 2,000 cavalry and 16,000 foot soldiers under the command of the Earl of Leicester was formed to protect the approaches along the Thames to London on the southern side of the river.

But this force was not placed at Tilbury.   The land there was far too low-lying and sodden to allow an army to be stationed there.   It was on the higher ground at West Tilbury with its excellent view of the river downstream and in full view of the improvised boom across the Thames at Tilbury itself that Elizabeth’s army was placed.   And it was there that Elizabeth, having come downriver by barge, made her famous speech to her troops.   She told them that

“under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects;  and therefore I am come amongst you as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, and to lay down for my God, and my Kingdom and for my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.   I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma [the commander of Spanish force in the Low Countries] or Spain, or any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm;  to which, rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.   I know already for your forwardness you deserve rewards and crowns;  and we do assure you, in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you.”   The response of her soldiers could be heard for miles.

This was oratory of the highest class.   It still resonates today.   Historians agree that it has her mark and style and was almost certainly delivered as we have the text today.   She was a ruler of the highest ability and of great courage who kept England safe from the wars of religion dividing France and the Low Countries.   It was during her reign that England became an overwhelmingly Protestant country.

The Queen, of course, had to stay somewhere.   She could not be expected to live in a tent at West Tilbury.   Arrangements were made for her to sleep in Mr Rich’s house at Horndon-on-the-Hill.   Traditionally, this has been thought to have been Arden Hall.   But, as John Norden noted in 1594, Mr Rich’s house was at Saffron Gardens.   It was there that she stayed.   The low red-brick wall facing south is the only surviving part of the property that she might recognise today.   But she was not allowed to stay for long.   The rumour that the Duke of Parma’s forces were crossing the Channel led to severe pressure from her Councillors for the Queen to return to London so that she might be out of the way in the event of a battle.   Against her will, she reluctantly consented and returned to the capital by river.

It was West Tilbury, not Tilbury, that featured in this episode and Saffron Gardens rather than Arden Hall that accommodated the Queen.

Author  –  Christopher Thompson


New Local History post coming this week

Posted in Local History at 10:37 pm by henrysgauntlet

Thurrock salutes the Royal Anglians

Posted in Armed Services, Ceremony at 10:05 pm by henrysgauntlet

What a grand day it was in Grays on Thursday when the Royal Anglians had their Homecoming Parade.

The Regiment returned from Afghanistan before Christmas, and this Royal Anglians Homecoming Parade Grays February 2008was the opportunity for the people of Thurrock to show their appreciation of and support for these soldiers who have been fighting for their country and putting themselves in great danger.

C (Essex) Company of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, led by Major Phil Messenger, paraded from Sherfield Road into New Road, halting by the Civic Offices, where the company was inspected by the Mayor of Thurrock, Cllr Mrs Diane Revell.   The parade then continued to the end of New Road, before turning back along the road for a civic salute taken by the Mayor and Lt Col Dennis Vincent, Royal Anglians.   The company then marched to Sherfield Road before dispersing.

There was a good turnout of Councillors, Member of Parliament, and respresentatives of Mayor and Colonel take the salutelocal ex-services organizations.   Particularly pleasing was to see groups of children who had been brought from local schools.   Both the soldiers and the Mayor spent some time talking to the children after the ceremony.

Both sides of New Road were packed with onlookers, and the  Royal Anglians received a huge cheer and sustained applause when they first appeared, and that continued throughout the parade.

Well done Thurrock for hosting a Homecoming Parade for these brave young soldiers.

Our thoughts and thanks are with them, and with the families of the nine of theirAn old comrade and the Standard number who lost their life in Afghanistan.