By John Matthews
When it was announced that The Dell - the house built in Grays by Alfred Russel Wallace - was being sold, a group of local residents got together to work to ensure that this important building was preserved as a heritage asset. During the course of talking to local people about our ideas, we realised that Wallace was not as well known in Thurrock as he deserves to be. As a result, we decided to apply for a Lottery grant to be used to raise his profile. The application was led by the Thurrock Local History Society and we are pleased to announce that it was successful. We have been awarded a £10,000 lottery grant to research and publicise Wallace’s life and work.
The project will involve visits by volunteers to a number of museums and archives including the Thurrock Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Essex Record Office. The volunteers will research:
- the life of Alfred Russel Wallace
- his role in the discovery of Natural Selection as the mechanism driving evolution
- his other achievements (the Wallace Line, for example)
- the building of The Dell and its surrounding landscape
- life in Thurrock around the period that Wallace lived there
The volunteers will use the results of the research to prepare portable and modular exhibition or interpretation panels which will tell the story of Wallace, of evolution, of The Dell and of Victorian Thurrock. There will also be a booklet to accompany the panels. They will be exhibited at the Thurrock Museum and at local events such as the Orsett Show. The results will also be included on a web site.
The project will last for a year, starting in April, 2015. We would like to involve as many Thurrock people as possible. If you would like to volunteer to be part of this project, please contact the Thurrock Local History Society. You can e-mail JohnMatthews@thurrock-history.org.uk