GRAYS was built in two surges – the first in the late 19th century and the second in the Thirties – and is now one of the busiest commercial centres in this part of Essex. Cheaper homes in the £130,000 range are snapped up here. The most comfortable area to live is North Grays, where the roads are filled with large Thirties’ houses. The four-bedroom detached variety would cost between £300,000 and £400,000. North Stifford is another popular part, with the remnants of the old village still intact (blink and you miss it). A one-bedroom terraced cottage could cost from £150,000 upwards, a three-bedroom detached house in a semi-rural location around £480,000. The vast Lakeside shopping centre at Thurrock, two or three miles away, offering one of the largest concentrations of shopping in Europe and a nine-screen cinema, has had a huge impact. It has also spawned the new Bannatynes Leisure Centre. Grays itself is a good shopping centre with small outlets of the big chains. Nearby is Chafford Hundred, where an entire new town of 5,500 houses has been built on the old chalk pits beside the M25 and the Dartford Tunnel. It has a rich mix of one-bedroom flats for £135,000, two bedrooms at £160,000, up to four-bedroom houses selling from £250,000 to £350,000, with maisonettes, semis and terraced housing between. It also has its own main line railway station (on a link between Grays and Upminster), and schools are in place.