Grays skyline as seen from Broadness Marsh.
Grays is located in Essex
Location within Essex
Population44,341 (2021)
OS grid referenceTQ615773
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townGrays
Postcode districtRM16-RM17, RM20
Dialling code01375
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°28′30″N 0°19′48″E / 51.475°N 0.330°E / 51.475; 0.330

Grays (or Grays Thurrock)[1] is the largest town in the borough and unitary authority area of Thurrock, in the ceremonial county of Essex, England. The town, which is both a former civil parish and one of Thurrock's traditional Church of England parishes, is located on the north bank of the River Thames.

It is approximately 20 miles (32 km) to the east of central London, and 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the M25 motorway. Its economy is linked to Port of London industries, its own offices, retail and the Lakeside Shopping Centre at West Thurrock.


Archaeological evidence indicates that the area now occupied by Grays has been inhabited by humans since the Palaeolithic period.[2]

Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that he visited Grays on 24 September 1665 and apparently bought fish from the local fishermen.[3] Parts of Grays and Chafford Hundred are set within three Victorian chalk pits; the largest two being the Lion Gorge, and the Warren Gorge. Another area of the Chafford Hundred residential development is built on a Victorian landfill site. Thurrock Town Hall on New Road in Grays was built in the 1980s;[4] work on an extension began in January 2020.[5]

In 1931 the parish had a population of 18,173.[6] On 1 April 1936 the parish was abolished to form Thurrock.[7]

On 23 October 2019, the bodies of 39 people were found in the back of a lorry at Waterglade Industrial Park in Eastern Avenue. They are believed to have been victims of human trafficking, or migrants being smuggled into Britain. The vehicle, registered in Bulgaria, was thought to have travelled to the UK through Purfleet from Zeebrugge. A 25-year-old lorry driver from Northern Ireland was arrested by Essex Police on suspicion of murder[8] and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April 2020.[9] Essex Police launched an investigation afterwards and the lorry was moved to the nearby Port of Tilbury.[10][11] It is the biggest murder investigation in the history of Essex police. On 26 May 2020, a total of 26 further suspects, most of whom Vietnamese nationals, were arrested in Belgium and France.[12]

Origin of the name

The origin of the name "Grays Thurrock" comes in two parts. Thurrock is a Saxon name meaning "the bottom of a ship".[13] The element "Grays" comes from Henry de Grai, a descendant of the Norman knight Anchetil de Greye,[citation needed] who was granted the manor of Grays Thurrock in 1195 by Richard I.


A map of the wards of Thurrock with Grays' wards coloured red

Grays contains the wards and residential areas of Grays Riverside, Grays Thurrock, Stifford Clays, Little Thurrock Blackshots, Little Thurrock Rectory and Chadwell St Mary.[14][15] Parts of Chafford Hundred and North and South Stifford are also in Grays.[16]

The nearest places to Grays are:


A map of the town from 1946

Local sites of interest include the Thameside Theatre, the Thurrock History Museum, Grays Beach, The White Hart, and the former State Cinema.

The Dell was of the earliest houses in Britain to be built of concrete.[17] It was built on the instructions of Alfred Russel Wallace, who lived in the town from 1872 until 1876.

From the top of the Derby Road Bridge in Grays one can look down to Thurrock Yacht Club, Grays Beach children's playground and the River Thames.

As well as Thurrock Yacht Club, Grays Beach is the site of the local landmark The Gull, a lightship built in 1860, which has lain on the foreshore for decades and is now in a serious state of dilapidation. The light from The Gull has now been removed, restored and installed on the foreshore of the yacht club.

The Thameside Theatre was built in 1971 and is the only theatre in Thurrock.[18][19] In July 2021 Thurrock Council declared it to be surplus to budget requirements and announced plans for its closure.[20] The Labour opposition in the council opposed the plans and an online petition calling for its preservation was signed by over 1000 residents.[21] Grays native Russell Brand gave his support to saving the theatre on an Instagram post and pledged to perform a show there to help prevent its closure.[22] In January 2022 Thurrock Council announced that they supported a counter proposal that will see the theatre remain open under community ownership.[23] A group dedicated to saving the theatre began negotiating with the council, and had to provide it with an affordable business plan for the theatre by 13 July 2022.[24] However, after an unnamed organisation expressed interest in buying the theatre, the council has delayed the deadline to September to allow it to put forward an alternative business plan.[25]

The town is approximately 20 miles (32 km) to the east of London on the north bank of the River Thames and 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the M25 motorway. Its economy is linked to Port of London industries, its own offices, retail and Lakeside, West Thurrock. Its variously used riverside (from homes through wild bird-habitat marshland to importation, storage and distribution) faces Broadness Lighthouse in Kent.[26]


See also: List of schools in Thurrock

Primary education

Primary schools in Grays include:

Quarry Hill Primary and Pre School and Thameside Primary School were formed from the amalgamations of failing infant and junior schools.[38][39] Since then, both schools have received favourable grades from education watchdog Ofsted.[40][41] Belmont Castle Academy was renamed in honour of Belmont Castle, a demolished gothic mansion that was located on the school site.[42] The Gateway Primary Free School is situated on the site of Gateway Academy,[43] and is the only primary school with free school status in Grays.

Secondary education

Secondary schools in Grays include:

Since 2007, all of these schools have had specialist school status.[49] Gateway Academy and Hathaway Academy have specialisms in the arts. In the case of Hathaway Academy, these include digital media and the performing arts.[50][51] Gateway Academy also specialises in design and engineering.[50] William Edwards School and Orsett Heath Academy share a sports specialism,[52][53] with both schools utilising the ability to admit 10% of their intake by academic aptitude in this subject,[54][55] an ability granted to all sport specialist schools.[56] Grays Convent High School maintains a language specialism[57] and Thames Park Secondary School has specialisms in artificial intelligence and digital technology.[58][59]

Gateway Academy was formed in 2003 from a fresh start merger of Torells School in Grays and St Chad's School in Tilbury.[60][61][62][63] The Torells School site has since been demolished and replaced by the sites of two special schools, Treetops School and Treetops Free School.[64] Comedian Joe Pasquale and Olympic medallist Fatima Whitbread both attended Torells School.[65][66] Footballers Chris Cohen and Max Porter went to William Edwards School.[67][68] Actor, YouTuber and comedian Russell Brand attended the Grays School, making his acting debut at one of the school's Bugsy Malone productions.[69] Grays Convent High School was attended by journalist and former Thurrock MP candidate Polly Billington and runner Jessica Judd.[70][71]

All of these schools are coeducational academies or free schools, with the exception of Grays Convent High School, which is instead a voluntary aided Catholic school for girls.

Further education

A sixth form was operated by Gateway Academy before 2014, but it closed that year.[72] In 2011, Ofsted deemed the sixth form as satisfactory, which meant it required improvement. This was primarily because of concerns over the number of students dropping out, which was above average.[50] Hathaway Academy intended to open a sixth form some time before the 2014/2015 academic year,[73] but this never came to fruition.

Thurrock Technical College opened in 1952 on Dell Road. Between 1954 and 1957 the college was based in parts of the site of Grays County Technical High School (which would become Grays School) and Grays Hall. In 1960 it reopened on Woodview Road, later establishing a second campus in Aveley.[74] The college later merged with Basildon College to form Thurrock and Basildon College, with the Woodview Campus remaining in operation. The college then amalgamated with South East Essex College of Arts and Technology in 2010, forming South Essex College.[75] The Thurrock Campus relocated from Woodview Road to a new complex in Grays town centre in September 2014.[76][77]

The local sixth form college is USP College Palmer's Campus.[78] Palmer's dates back to 1706, when the merchant William Palmer founded a charity school for "ten poore children" of the parish of Grays Essex. The school was located in the local churchyard and evolved into a boys' school. In response to the enactment of the Elementary Education Act 1870, the school reopened on a new site on the hill above the town in 1874. A girls' school opened on the site in 1876.[79] Both schools were grammar schools,[80] operating on the same site until 1931, when the girls' school relocated to Chadwell Road.[81] From this time, Palmer's became a public school. This meant that students were no longer admitted on academic performance regardless of background and were instead admitted by fee. This was reversed in 1944, however wealthier students were still prioritised, even if they failed the 11+ exam required for enrolment. In 1971 the girls' school began its conversion into a sixth form college,[82] reopening as Palmer's College in 1972 after it amalgamated with the boys' school and Aveley County Technical High School. The college merged with Seevic College in August 2017, forming USP College.[83]

There is also Thurrock Adult Community College which is located in multiple venues and community hubs across Thurrock and used to be based from Richmond Road in Grays.[84]


Grays has good road links, being close to the A13 road and the M25 motorway. The A126 London Road is the main road which links Grays town centre with Lakeside Shopping Centre, Purfleet and Tilbury.

Grays railway station runs through the centre of the built-up core and is served by c2c services to London Fenchurch Street to the west and Shoeburyness to the east. The typical journey time into London is 35 minutes.

Grays bus station, outside the railway station, is a hub for most bus services in Thurrock. The bus services are operated by Ensignbus, First Essex and NIBS Buses.


The town is served by BBC London and ITV London with television signals received from Crystal Palace TV transmitter,[85] BBC South East and ITV Meridian can also be received from Bluebell Hill TV transmitter.[86]

Local radio stations are BBC Essex, Heart Essex, Radio Essex, Gateway 97.8,[87] and Thames Delta Radio, a community based radio station.[88]

The Thurrock Gazette is the town's local weekly newspaper.[89]


The area's local football team is Grays Athletic, previously based in Grays but now in nearby Aveley, which plays non-League football and has won the FA Trophy twice.[90]

Notable people

Actors and authors


Politicians and nobility




  1. ^ Gateway Primary Free School and Gateway Academy are located between the two communities that they serve, Chadwell St Mary and Tilbury.[35] The schools' official addresses, however, are in Grays.[36][37]


  1. ^ Moncrief, AR Hope; Bruhl, L Burleigh (1909). Essex. Adam and Charles Black. p. 107.
  2. ^ "Parishes: Grays Thurrock | British History Online". Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  3. ^ "When Samuel Pepys visited Grays". Thurrock Gazette.
  4. ^ "Competition: Thurrock Civic Offices". Architects Journal. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Demolition begins as part of plans for Thurrock Council's £10 million new offices". Your Thurrock. 27 January 2020. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Population statistics Grays Thurrock AP/CP through time". A Vision of Britain through Time. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  7. ^ "Relationships and changes Grays Thurrock AP/CP through time". A Vision of Britain through Time. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  8. ^ "Lorry driver held as 39 found dead in trailer". BBC News. 23 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Essex lorry deaths: Driver Maurice Robinson admits manslaughter". BBC. 8 April 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Murder investigation launched after 39 people found dead in lorry container | Essex Police".
  11. ^ "39 found dead in lorry 'were Chinese nationals'". BBC News. 24 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Camion charnier de Londres : Treize interpellations en France, 13 autres en Belgique" [Mass-grave truck: thirteen arrests in France, 13 more in Belgium]. (in French). 27 May 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  13. ^ PH Reaney (1969). The Place-Names of Essex. CUP.
  14. ^ "Additional licensing for HMOs | Houses in multiple occupation | Thurrock Council". Thurrock Council. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  15. ^ "Thurrock Council – Community Needs and Open Spaces Study Accompanying Maps" (PDF). Thurrock Council. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  16. ^ "Thurrock Council – Areas for Additional HMO licensing, 2019-2024" (PDF). Thurrock Council. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  17. ^ ""The Dell" plaque". The Alfred Russel Wallace Website.
  18. ^ "When the Thameside threw open its doors". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  19. ^ "Protesters show their support to save Thameside theatre complex in Grays". BBC News. 25 November 2021. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  20. ^ "250 residents protest against closure of Thurrock's Thameside Theatre". The Stage. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  21. ^ The Editor (July 2021). "Residents back petition against closure of Thameside and its theatre". Retrieved 15 December 2021. ((cite web)): |author= has generic name (help)
  22. ^ Willis, Anna (12 December 2021). "Russell Brand teases potential show to help save Essex theatre". EssexLive. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  23. ^ "Thameside Theatre: Council backs community group proposal". BBC News. 14 January 2022. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  24. ^ "Save the Thameside Theatre group given deadline". Your Thurrock. 8 April 2022. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  25. ^ Speight, Neil (6 July 2022). "Thameside Theatre campaigners halted in their tracks as a new mystery bidder comes to town". Thurrock Nub News. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  26. ^ Grid square map Archived 27 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine Ordnance survey website
  27. ^ "Quarry Hill Primary and Pre School – GOV.UK". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  28. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for West Thurrock Primary School". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  29. ^ "Belmont Castle Academy – GOV.UK". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  30. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for Woodside Primary School". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  31. ^ "Warren Primary School – GOV.UK". Find and compare schools in England. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  32. ^ "Thameside Primary School – GOV.UK". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  33. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for Deneholm Primary School". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  34. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  35. ^ "Gateway Academy 2011 Ofsted Report". Ofsted. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  36. ^ "The Gateway Primary Free School". Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  37. ^ "The Gateway Academy". Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  38. ^ "Quarry Hill Ofsted-Working hard to tackle fresh challenges". Your Thurrock. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  39. ^ "Council to consult on Thameside junior and infants becoming one school". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  40. ^ "Quarry Hill Academy". Ofsted. 8 October 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  41. ^ "Thameside Primary School". Ofsted. 1 October 2021. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  42. ^ "Banquet as academy celebrates". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  43. ^ "New school building is on course". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  44. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for The Grays School Media Arts College". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  45. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for Grays Convent High School". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  46. ^ "BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Performance results for William Edwards School and Sports College". BBC News. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  47. ^ "Thames Park Secondary School | Secondary schools | Thurrock Council". Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  48. ^ "Orsett Heath Academy | Secondary schools | Thurrock Council". Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  49. ^ Smith, Alexandra (1 February 2007). "Specialist schools in England now total 84% of all schools, new figures show". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  50. ^ a b c "Gateway Academy 2011 Ofsted Report".
  51. ^ "The Hathaway Academy – Academy Transformation Trust". 19 March 2015. Archived from the original on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  52. ^ "Thurrock Council Cabinet Meeting 13 June 2018" (PDF). Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  53. ^ "About Us". Orsett Heath. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  54. ^ "Admissions & Appeals – William Edwards". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  55. ^ "Admissions and Appeals – Orsett Heath". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  56. ^ "Specialist schools' selection 'illegal'". BBC News. 11 July 2003. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  57. ^ "Educational Visits". Grays Convent High School. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  58. ^ "Thames Park Approved – Thames Park". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  59. ^ "Welcome from the Head – Thames Park". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  60. ^ "Torells School – GOV.UK". Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  61. ^ "St Chad's School – GOV.UK". Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  62. ^ "The Gateway Community College – GOV.UK". Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  63. ^ "Call for more secondary school places in Tilbury". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  64. ^ O'Neill, Lottie (29 June 2018). "Three new schools to open in South Essex to battle 30,000 population rise". EssexLive. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  65. ^ Read, Julian (9 May 2016). "Joe Pasquale: Essex boy at heart". Great British Life. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  66. ^ a b Whitbread, Fatima (5 July 2012). Survivor: The Shocking and Inspiring Story of a True Champion. Random House. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-4481-3225-6.
  67. ^ a b "Chris Cohen retires from football at the age of 31". Your Thurrock. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  68. ^ a b "Successful Thurrock District Old Boys". Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  69. ^ Brand, Russell, "My Booky Wook", Hodder & Stoughton, 2007
  70. ^ a b "Polly goes back to the Convent to encourage girls to chase "hopes and dreams"". Your Thurrock. 8 July 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  71. ^ a b Staff Reporter (5 August 2017). "Athletics: Great run by Jess Judd in World Champs". Your Thurrock. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  72. ^ "Gateway Academy Sixth Form to close". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  73. ^ "PROSPECTUS" (PDF). Hathaway Academy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  74. ^ "Parishes: Grays Thurrock | British History Online". Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  75. ^ Welcome to the College Archived 2010-01-08 at, South Essex College, UK.
  76. ^ "Gibberd design South Essex College's new campus in Thurrock". Gibberd – Architecture, Interiors, Conservation. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  77. ^ "South Essex College – History of South Essex College". Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  78. ^ "Our Campus – Palmer's". Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  79. ^ Herbert Brooks, William Palmer and his School. Being an account of the founder of Palmer's Charity at Grays Thurrock, Essex (Colchester, 1928).
  80. ^ Lord Strang, 'Fifty Years Ago', in J. R. Hayston (ed.), 250 Years on. To commemorate the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the trust deed by which William Palmer endowed in 1706 a school in Grays Thurrock (1956), p. 59. See also Strang's autobiography, Home and abroad (1956)
  81. ^ "Down Memory Lane: take a look back at Palmers school". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  82. ^ "William Palmer College Educational Trust". Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  83. ^ "Our History". Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  84. ^ "Thurrock Adult Community College relocates bringing new education opportunities to residents | Thurrock Council". Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  85. ^ "Full Freeview on the Crystal Palace (Greater London, England) transmitter". UK Free TV. 1 May 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  86. ^ "Full Freeview on the Bluebell Hill (Medway, England) transmitter". UK Free TV. 1 May 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  87. ^ "Gateway 97.8". Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  88. ^ "Thames Delta Radio". Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  89. ^ "Thurrock Gazette". British Papers. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  90. ^ Grays Athletic at the Football Club History Database
  91. ^ Barnes, Mike (27 January 2012). "Ian Abercrombie, Elaine's Boss on 'Seinfeld,' Dies at 77". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  92. ^ Read, Julian (9 May 2016). "Joe Pasquale: Essex boy at heart". Great British Life. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  93. ^ "Joe Pasquale". BBC. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  94. ^ "Michelle Harrison » About me". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  95. ^ "Phil Davis". IMDb. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  96. ^ "Russell Brand: Grays bad boy made good talks about his life, times and new 'Booky Wook'". Thurrock Gazette. 16 November 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  97. ^ "Adam Newton Stats". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  98. ^ "Charlie Whitchurch". Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  99. ^ "Fatima Whitbread re-opens Co-operative after £460,000 revamp". Thurrock Gazette. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  100. ^ "Stuart Barnes". ESPNscrum. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  101. ^ "William Kennedy : West Ham United". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  102. ^ "MP Biographical Register". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  103. ^ "". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  104. ^ "". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  105. ^ "Louisa Johnson – The Vogue". Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  106. ^ "Australharmony – Sara Flower". Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  107. ^ "Alfred Russel Wallace and 'The Dell', Grays | Thurrock historical people | Thurrock Council". Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  108. ^ "Elisabeth Vellacott: a quiet but insistent voice | Art UK". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  109. ^ "Murder victim Breck Bednar's family 'taunted online'". BBC News. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2021.

Further reading