Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract tourists to area best known for its freight terminal, bus to Lakeside shopping centre and the pub that used to hold the world darts championships

  • Purfleet in Essex officially changed its name to Purfleet-on-Thames on Saturday
  • Essex town neighbours Lakeside Shopping Centre and the Dartford Crossing
  • Follows in the footsteps of Staines, which became Staines-upon-Thames in 2012 

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An Essex town best known for previously holding the world darts championships, its close location to Lakeside Shopping Centre and its freight terminal has unveiled a new name in a bid to try and get visitors.

Purfleet in South West Essex has changed its name to Purfleet-on-Thames after two years of lobbying from local campaigners.

The town, once described as a ‘pretty abysmal place to live,’ boasts a freight terminal thanks to its position on the Thames, while its riverbanks are in the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.

Hundreds of pieces of litter had washed up on to the shore by the river at Purfleet, under the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge last year 

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

Purfleet on Thames signage was unveiled on Saturday, July 4, in a bid to bring tourism to the town

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

Purfleet Thames Terminal handles sees the import and export of around 400,000 vehicles every year

Its proximity to the M25 and the Dartford Crossing has also supported many industries – including a margarine factory dating back to 1917.

From 1994 to 2008 the town was home to the it was home to the PDC World Darts Championships, which were hosted at the Circus Tavern, until it moved to Alexandra Palace in North London in 2008. 

There are hopes the change of name, along with a GBP1billion regeneration project, will improve public opinion, after damning reviews of the town surfaced online. 

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

Fans enjoy the unique atmosphere of the Circus Tavern, Purfleet in this 2003 World Darts Championships match

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

The Circus Tavern in Purfleet was home to the darts world championship from 1994 to 2007

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

An online review of Purfleet, in South West Essex, described it as a ‘pretty abysmal place to live’

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

The natural habitat – an important feeding ground for wading birds and other marine wildlife – can barely be seen through the sea of waste

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

Lizzie Prior from the Marine Conservation Society told the Daily Express: ‘These images from Purfleet are heartbreaking’

One local wrote of the town: ‘Walking to the local shop you will be lucky if you don’t get high off the fumes from the local gangs, who happen to stand around all day smoking drinking and driving stolen motorbikes on the paths.

‘The buildings here are full of broken glass, graffiti and haven’t been painted since the time they were built.’

Last year horrifying pictures showed hundreds of bottles and other pieces of litter washed up on the riverbanks of Purfleet, under the shadow of the QE2 Bridge. 

Lizzie Prior from the Marine Conservation Society told the Daily Express at the time: ‘These images from Purfleet are heartbreaking.

‘Everyday items such as drinks containers, plastic cutlery, foil wrappers, wrappers, straws, sandwich packets, lolly sticks and stirrers discarded by the public made up nearly 30 per cent of all litter found on the UK’s beaches in 2018. 

Nearby, Purfleet Thames Terminal handles sees the import and export of around 400,000 vehicles every year.

Since 1917 the riverside town has been home to a Unilever factory producing margarine. 

It is also home to an Esso lubricants plant and the head office of CarpetRight. HGV company Scania Ltd also has a workshop and office set up in the town.

Purfleet Chalk Pits and nearby Rainham Marshes are both designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Speaking at an unveiling of the town’s new name, local councillor Victoria Holloway told the Thurrock Gazette: ‘This name change signifies the importance of this place and where it sits on the river and in Thurrock.

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has a visitor centre on Rainham Marshes

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

In 2014, flytipping rocked part of marshland near Purfleet with hundreds of items dumped 

Essex town changes its name to Purfleet-on-Thames in bid to attract to new visitors to area

The town is set for a GBP1bn regeneration, but some locals say a change of name is ‘an absolute waste of money’

‘It demonstrates that the Thames is a significant part of Purfleet’s history and also its future.’

The town is following in the footsteps of Staines-upon-Thames, which changed its name in 2012.

Purfleet-on-Thames:  Scene of Dracula’s des res and nuclear war target

  • It can trace its name back to the 13th century, when it was recorded as Purteflyete. 
  • In 1916 gunners in Purfleet were the first to shoot down an airship with anti-aircraft artillery, earning praise from then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Christopher Wakefield
  • It’s importance as a seaport and storage area meant it was listed as a potential A-Bomb target in the 1950s.
  • The town is mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the location of ‘Carfax Abbey’, a property Count Dracula bought next to an insane asylum.
  • Purfleet Thames Terminal sees handles around 250,000 trailers, containers and tanks every year. 

In 2017 Gravesend, just across the river from Purfleet-on-Thames, considered changing its name to reflect its location on the banks of the river.

It would reflect a further change in a town with a rich shipping and military history, that has changed in recent years to accommodate the nearby Lakeside Shopping Centre and growing traffic across the Dartford Crossing. 

According to the BBC, there are plans to invest GBP1bn into the town, bringing a film and TV studio, along with waterfront shops and up to 2,850 homes, along with facilities for the community. 

The change has been brought about by Purfleet Community Forum, who say its new name was first used as early as the 19th century. 

Trevor Bachelor, vice chair of the forum, told the Thurrock Gazette: ‘The new name is like an old friend returning for good this time. A ray of hope for our future with a nod to the past.

I am proud to have given the final push to make the name.’

Reception on the change of name has been mixed from some of the town’s 12,000 residents.

One local, Nicky Thompson, called the name change an ‘absolute waste of money,’ telling the BBC: ‘ I just feel like they’ve changed it to poshen up the area.’ 

Claire Asplin, 63, said: ‘I was unsure about it but then as time went by I thought actually it was a new start for the place and links the old with the new.

‘You’re not just thinking of some town name, you’re thinking of a wider sense of “oh there’s a river there, that must be pleasant and nice”.’ 

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