Silk River

Day 9 – 23rd Sept East Tilbury

Sat 23rd Sept – In other people’s shoes, East Tilbury.

Walk Route

Walk Description

Tomas Bata had a vision, to make shoes that everyone could buy. Having successfully begun his business in his home town of Zlin, Czechoslovakia, he set his sights on East Tilbury.

Transforming the potato fields into the modernist Bata Estate in the 1930’s, this small community had its own cinema, swimming pool and surely Thurrock’s first Expresso bar. Meet families who grew up here with connections all over the world, and witness the story of Johnny, the shoemaker with smelly feet.

There will be a special performance by the Complete Commedia Company of ‘The Cobbler’s Tale’.  This was originally commissioned for Thurrock 100 2017 and we are delighted they will return to share their comedy shenanigans again!

What’s happened to Bata now? New developments are coming to East Tilbury just as they are to Batanagar in Kolkata. How do London and Kolkata compare in their approach to riverside developments?

Technical difficulty of walk: Moderate, Distance: 4.5 miles


09.30 Registration at Shopping Centre (RM18 8YP). This is 10 minutes Walk from East Tilbury C2C Station.

10.00 – 12.00 Tour of historic Bata Factory Village, including the ‘Cobblers Tale’ performance 11:00 to 11:30

12.00 – 13.30 Walk to Thurrock Thameside Nature Park (approx 4 miles – accessible by car).

14.00 Farewell to Scrolls as they go east towards Southend.

The ten community walks (as above) are part of a series of longer ‘link’ walks that will see the flags carried from Kew to Southend using only boots or boats. These longer walks range from six miles to 23 miles. They have been planned with the London branch of the Long Distance Walkers Association, a Silk River partner, and are designed for experienced walkers only. For more information visit

Please read the Disclaimer covering the walks HERE

 Very special thanks go to the Bata Heritage Centre who are leading this walk and providing real props for the performance!

Built in 1932 the Bata shoe factory in East Tilbury is what remains of an industrial estate which produced shoes for over 70 years. The plant shut in 2005. Now the area forms part of the Thames Gateway redevelopment zone which is expected to provide 14,000 homes and 20,000 jobs.

The Bata Heritage Centre in East Tilbury promotes the substantial social and architectural legacy left by Bata in the area. They keep the memory of Bata alive through guided tours, lectures and an exhibition space within East Tilbury library. They also work closely with other heritage sites in the area including Coalhouse Fort, built to defend the Thames, and St Catherine’s Church, which marks a historically significant pilgimage route to Kent.

There is a Bata connection to Kolkata as the company also built a workers factory and settlement there in Batanagar. With Batanagar under threat, we are interested in preserving any connections with India so that this memory is not lost.

Through the Silk River project the Bata Heritage Centre hope to raise the international connections and profile of East Tilbury as a surviving and thriving modernist village built by Bata – one of many across the world.

Huge thanks are also extended to the Complete Commedia Company

The Complete Commedia Company is a collaboration of perfomers who specialise in performance of Commedia dell’Arte in the south east of England.

The Cobbler’s Tale is an original piece of outdoor theatre based on Tomas Bata’s inspirational ambitions for the East of Thurrock.  The Complete Commedia Company have a lot of fun with the characters as their story echos contemporary events in this tale told with the help of the Bata Heritage Centre. It will be performed as part of an animated stroll around the Bata estate which, thanks to its founder, is a surprising example of East European Modernist architecture.

Photos from Silk River East Tilbury Walk 23rd Sept by Mike Johnston.

Photos from Silk River East Tilbury Walk 23rd Sept by Stephen Mcgrath