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Heritage plaque marks our US connection
3:30pm Friday 27th April 2012 in News
A PLAQUE celebrating the unexpected link between one of the USA’s key founders and Purfleet has been unveiled.
Dubbed the Father of Electricity, Benjamin Franklin, the inventor, writer and only statesman to have signed all four documents that created the USA, visited Purfleet in the late 18th century.
The 11th Thurrock Heritage Plaque has been dedicated to the American icon and his link to Purfleet.
In the late 18th century, Franklin became embroiled in a debate about how best to protect buildings from lightning strikes in England and, in particular, how to protect the 5,000 tonnes of gunpowder being stored in Purfleet.
The Royal Gunpowder Magazines, on Centurion Way, supplied both the Army and Navy from the 1760s onwards.
Franklin earned worldwide fame for his work on electricity and lightning, carrying out experiments which led to him inventing the lightning rod in the 1740s.
Jonathan Catton, Thurrock Heritage and Museum Officer, said: “While living in London, Benjamin Franklin visited Purfleet. He recommended that the magazines should be equipped with pointed iron rods.
“His experiments showed that pointed lightning conductors protected buildings.
“However, the King and the Royal Society, not wanting to be usurped, favoured blunt-tipped rods.
“The King overruled Franklin’s pointed rods theory, in what was probably a political statement, and had iron rod sphere conductors fitted at the gunpowder magazines.” The plaque, funded by the Veolia Mardyke Trust, will be fixed to the wall of the last remaining Magazine number five, next to a marking where the conductor used to be.
It is hoped the plaque, along with others unveiled in Thurrock over the last few years, will carve a route of heritage through the borough and promote tourism.
Jonathan added: “With the coming up of the Olympics the plaque to Benjamin Franklin might be a small way of attracting American tourists to Thurrock.”
The plaque was unveiled by mayor Charlie Curtis and pupils from Purfleet Primary School at the Purfleet Heritage and Military Museum.