26/04/2008

A Dutch Artist’s View of Thurrock in 1661

Posted in Local History at 11:25 pm by henrysgauntlet

Very few accounts of Thurrock survive from the period before 1700.   Fewer still come from the pens of foreigners.   But there is one made by a Dutch artist who passed through the area in July, 1661.   It gives us a glimpse of the area while it was still overwhelmingly agricultural in character and before local communities began to grow significantly in size.

William Schellinks was born in Amsterdam in 1623 and pursued a career as an artist in the Golden Age of Dutch painting.   In July, 1661 he set out in the company of a merchant shipowner, Jaques Thierry, and the latter’s son to visit England and other European countries as part of a Grand Tour.   They landed at Harwich on 17th July and travelled across Essex towards the crossing to Gravesend.   Two days later, they reached the top of Laindon Hills where Schellinks described in his journal “a beautiful view over the finest landscape we had so far seen in England”.   He thought it “a memorable sight”.

Schellinks and his companions “descended from this hill into a fertile valley full of wooded groves” and went from there in a coach to Horndon-on-the-Hill where they picked up a guide to West Tilbury, a village at the bottom of the valley.   They could see during their descent many English and Dutch ships in the river Thames waiting to go upstream while others were drifting on the ebb tide down towards the sea.

His last impression of Essex was of the blockhouse or castle at Tilbury itself which had been built there by the order of Queen Elizabeth.

Schellinks at least appreciated the beauties of Thurrock in its Golden Age.

Author  –  Christopher Thompson

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