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Gateway-Clocktower at Purfleet - geograph.org.uk - 323278.jpg
Gateway Clocktower
Purfleet is located in Essex
Location within Essex
OS grid referenceTQ555775
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtRM19
Dialling code01708
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°28′48″N 0°15′00″E / 51.480°N 0.250°E / 51.480; 0.250Coordinates: 51°28′48″N 0°15′00″E / 51.480°N 0.250°E / 51.480; 0.250

Purfleet is a small town or large, modern village in the Thurrock unitary authority in Essex, England. It is contained between the A13 road to the north and the River Thames to the south and is within the easterly bounds of the M25 motorway but just outside the Greater London boundary, it was within the traditional Church of England parish of West Thurrock. There is some industry to the south and the area forms part of the Thames Gateway redevelopment area. Purfleet is one of seven conservation areas in Thurrock.[1]


In the 18th century, Purfleet Royal Gunpowder Magazine was established as a location for the storage of gunpowder together with a garrison to protect it. There was a constant danger of explosion as a result of lightning strikes. Benjamin Franklin was asked for advice on the design of a lightning conductor and a committee of the Royal Society supported his design for pointed conductors. After the American Revolution the powder store was protected from lightning which hit the building, though metal drainpipes actually did the work; when King George III heard of this, he insisted they be replaced with blunt conductors and the president of the Royal Society was forced to resign.[2][3]

Magazine number 5, the only one remaining of the original five, is now the Purfleet Garrison Heritage and Military Centre and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it is run by volunteers and contains a wide range of local and military memorabilia (including from RAF Hornchurch) and is open to the public on Thursdays, Sundays and bank holidays.

J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) made sketches of Purfleet in 1805-08 mainly featuring the Powder Magazines. The sketches are collected in the River and Margate Sketchbook which are part of the Tate Britain collection and accepted as part of the Turner Bequest in 1856. [4]

Other surviving 18th century buildings include the proofing house (now used for community activities) and the gatehouse clock tower (described by English Heritage as forming "an integral part of the finest ensemble in any of the Ordnance Yards, consistent with the high standards practised by the Ordnance Board in its designs for fortifications and barracks from the C17").[5]

In his history of Essex (1848) [6] W. White describes Purfleet as having 704 inhabitants including 199 from the barracks. "Purfleet is a village and military station....at the mouth of a rivulet, and at the west end of West Thurrock ...sometimes called a township...and has a pleasure fair on the 13th of June. Near it are the extensive limeade chalk pits of W.H.Whitbread, the lord of the manor; the harbour is often full of shipping business and animation: and joining it is a large government powder magazine, consisting of five detached bomb-proof and well-protected store-houses, barracks for a company of artillery, a store keeper's mansion, and a good quay. The magazine was built in 1781,and has room for the safe keeping of 60,000 barrels of gunpowder." [7]

In March 1916, anti-aircraft gunners based at Purfleet shot down the German Zeppelin LZ15 – a first; as a result, the gunners received a prize from the Lord Mayor of London.[8]

From 1921 to 1936, Purfleet formed an urban district of Essex including the parishes of Aveley, West Thurrock and South Ockendon, it covered an area of 8,900 acres (36 km2) and in 1931 had a population of 8,511. The parishes and urban district were abolished in 1936 and their former area was used to form part of Thurrock Urban District.

Reflecting a strong port and storage history, Purfleet was listed by the Ministry of Food as one of 14 sensitive A-bomb targets in 1955, including for the supply of tea.[9]

In Bram Stoker's novel, Count Dracula purchased the fictional "Carfax Abbey" in Purfleet which was next to a Lunatic Asylum.[10]

High House Production Park[edit]

In 2006 Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation initiated a project to regenerate High House Purfleet by renovating historic farm buildings dating back to the 16th century and encouraging the development of some creative industries buildings on the 14-acre site; the Royal Opera House's Bob and Tamar Manoukian scene-making facility for its operas and ballets opened on the High House site in December 2010 followed by a Costume Centre in 2015. Creative & Cultural Skills opened The Backstage Centre at the park in March 2013;[11] the Backstage Centre now houses the national headquarters of Creative & Cultural Skills. [12] In July 2013 ACME Studios, opened 43 artist studios in the park.[13]


Purfleet has been the site of a Unilever (formerly Van den Berghs & Jurgens) works producing Stork, Flora, Bertolli, and ICBINB! margarine since 1917, reputed to be the largest in the world.[citation needed] It is also the location of an Esso lubricants plant, a ro-ro ferry terminal, and the head office of Carpetright, the UK's largest flooring company, it is also home to Scania GB Ltd's largest European workshop/office.[14]

Nearest places[edit]


There are transport links to towns such as Basildon and Grays, as well as Lakeside Shopping Centre with buses operated by Imperial Buses, Ensignbus and Arriva Southern Counties. Railway services operated by c2c from Purfleet station offer frequent services to London Fenchurch Street, Barking, Grays, Tilbury and Southend.

It is also one of the ends of the London LOOP long distance footpath.


Thurrock F.C. (formerly Purfleet F.C.) play in the town and the local council assist in seven leisure centres and one country club in the Borough, the nearest centre being in Springhouse Road, Corringham.[15] The Circus Tavern in purfleet formally played host to the PDC World Darts Championship from 1994-2007, as well as hosting the Players Championship Finals in 2009 & 2010. [16] [17]


  1. ^ "Conservation Areas in Thurrock". thurrock.gov.uk. Thurrock Council. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  2. ^ Van Doren, Carl (1939). Benjamin Franklin. London: Putnam. p. 429.
  3. ^ Christopher Harrold (editor) Exploring Thurrock (Thurrock Local History Society, 2008)
  4. ^ Tate website [1]
  5. ^ listed building description
  6. ^ History, gazetteer and directory of Essex, 1848
  7. ^ Quoted in Brian Evans (2004), Grays Thurrock, A History, Phillimore
  8. ^ Thurrock Council | Thurrock Heritage | Parish Facts Archived 8 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | Nuclear threat sparked tea worry
  10. ^ Bram: Dracula, Chapter 2, 1897 ISBN 978-0141439846
  11. ^ http://www.thebackstagecentre.com
  12. ^ http://www.ccskills.org.uk
  13. ^ http://www.acme.org.uk/studios/highhouse
  14. ^ Financial Times, 16 December 2015
  15. ^ Tourism Dept – Leisure Facilities Archived 4 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Thurrock B.C Retrieved 23 July 2013
  16. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/darts/6516989.stm
  17. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20081104132556/http://www.planetdarts.tv/page/LatestDetail/0,,10180~1410774,00.html

External links[edit]