Throwback Thursday: Brentwood historian reflects on the day royalty came to the borough

Brentwood's old Council Offices were opened in 1957 by HM Queen Elizabeth.

Brentwood's old Council Offices were opened in 1957 by HM Queen Elizabeth. - Credit: Archant

This week for our Thursday Throwback, Enjoy Brentwood More’s history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle, Sylvia Kent reflects on previous visits from royalty to the borough.

Brentwood's Town Hall has now been remodelled.

Brentwood's Town Hall has now been remodelled. - Credit: Archant

It was a great pleasure to present a copy of my new book Brentwood in 50 Buildings to His Royal Highness Duke of Kent during last week's opening of the newly refurbished Town Hall in Ingrave Road.

This was not the first time that royalty had come to Ingrave Road, as in October 1957, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were present to open the first building then known as the Council Offices.

With Brentwood's close position to London, along that famous old Essex Great Road, (the Roman road from London to Colchester), residents have always enjoyed royal visits from early days when King Richard ll was reputed to have visited the town. Other monarchs paid visits including King George lll, who stayed at Thorndon Hall in 1778 with his wife Queen Charlotte at the invitation of the ninth Lord Petre.

Great and Little Warley Commons were of huge importance to Brentwood in the 19th century when Warley Barracks were built.

The Duke of Kent and band drum major Jack Whiting. Picture: Brentwood Borough Council

The Duke of Kent and band drum major Jack Whiting. Picture: Brentwood Borough Council - Credit: Archant

Military summer camps had been taking place in this area from 1742 until 1805 before the permanent barracks were constructed.

This raised the national military importance of the town, particularly during war periods when army troops needed to be trained.

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In May 1842, the East India Company's accommodation at Chatham became inadequate and a decision was made to move the troops from Brompton Barracks to Warley, with the engineers and sappers remaining at Chatham.

The company purchased the barracks and the land for £15,000 with the proviso that the government would have the first option to purchase, should the EI Company subsequently decide to leave.

After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Crown took over the administration of India and the East India regiments were incorporated into the British Army.

In 1861, control of Warley Barracks reverted to the War Office, which they bought for £60,000.

Immediately, work started in altering the existing buildings to house around 800 recruits and 20 sergeants with new buildings for the officers.

Within the next decade, further construction enabled 1,120 men to be housed and for the first time, there were special quarters for military families.

When interviewed in 1999, one former regular soldier recalled: "Warley was like a small town in itself with every possible shop along Warley Hill to supply our every need."

At the start of the First World War in 1914, Warley Barracks housed one thousand soldiers and many members of royalty visited Warley Barracks and first-hand memories are to be found in local history books at our local library.

One local resident at Warley remembered the visit of the then Prince of Wales - later to become King Edward VIII.

He served with the Grenadier Guards and was often spotted in the town, including Warley Road where his local newsagent Race at 12 Warley Hill supplied his morning newspaper. Consequently the shop was allowed to display a coveted "by appointment" crest. Another well-known person was the actor, Boris Karloff who often visited his brother who lived in Warley.

A visit to our local Museum at Lorne Road, Warley, is of interest to folk who wish to know more about the town. It's changing display of fascinating artefacts and photographs never cease to impress visitors.

To discover more about Brentwood's past, my latest book Brentwood in 50 Buildings, newly released by Amberley Publishing in Stroud is available from all good bookshops. ISBN 978-1-4456-9213-5.