On the northern bank of the Thames is the town of Grays in the borough of Thurrock. Cinema fans may remember a part-animated film from the late 1980s called Who Framed Roger Rabbit starring Bob Hoskins. There is one scene in which Hoskins and the rabbit of the title, having shaken off a gang of weasels who were pursuing them, hide out in a cinema. The building used as the cinema is the now-closed Gray’s State Theatre. Back in the day, this thirties movie palace was the largest single-screen auditorium in Europe. More recently it was used as a nightclub. Another showbiz connection with the town is that it is the home town of the comedian Russell Brand.
The name Grays derives from the descendant of a norman knight, Henry de Grai, who was granted the manor of Grays Thurrock by Richard I in 1195. There is a wood in Grays ominously called Hangmans Wood which features an intriguing phenomenon, a large number of shafts in the ground named deneholes. 72 of them have been counted, and there are a variety of theories about their origin, but the most popular is that they were flint mines, the presence of a large number of flints being a bit of a giveaway. Another theory is that the name “denehole” comes from “Dane hole”, i.e. a place where people hid during viking raids in the area, though there is little proof of this.
Map of the area.
photo © 2006 Clive Power | more info (via: Wylio)