January 1881 saw the worst blizzard on Essex weather record and between East Ham and Tilbury a total of 50 barges were sunk. On one barge a man froze to death in the freezing weather conditions. In 1933, the summer weather was so hot that a temperature of 33C was measured near Tilbury. It was the highest temperature in a full week when the weather did not drop the temperature below 31C. During the awful weather event of 1953, the tidal surge led to more than 5000 being evacuated from the town (half the population) and the sewage works being swamped.
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The history of Tilbury is closely linked to its location on the River Thames and a settlement can be traced to Roman times. Tilbury is mentioned in both the Domesday Book and the earlier writings of the Venerable Bede. Since the earliest records, Tilbury has been the site of a ferry which has moved across the mouth of the Thames Estuary, between Tilbury and Gravesend, in Kent. It was when, in the 12th century, the river embankment was built up to reclaim marshland for farming that the settlement at Tilbury became navigable by a channel deep enough to allow ship building and portage in the port. In 1539, Henry VIII built Tilbury Fort to offer defense of what had become a key strategic location and was designed to create a crossfire with a similar fort in Gravesend. The fort was reinforced during the Spanish Armada when perhaps the most famous event in Tilbury took place. On 19th August 1588, Queen Elizabeth I gave a speech to rally her troops and uttered the now immortal words, "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too". Between 1945 and 1972 Tilbury docks acted as the departure point for the 'Ten Pound Poms' emigration scheme operated by the Australian government which saw as many as 60000 emigrants each year.
The most notable of residents to have called Tilbury home was the writer of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe. He operated a tile and brick factory at Tilbury Marshes in 1696 and lived in the town. Thomas Horrocks Openshawe (1856-1929), who was one of the recipients of the infamous Jack the Ripper letters following his involvement in investigations of that terrible affair, was the consultant surgeon at Tilbury Hospital.