Posted: June 20, 2012 by BTP Liam in Website Update

Click to visit our new website!

Then and Now Cover

Beyond the Point is an award winning organisation based on Canvey Island, dedicated to BTP Joe and Liam exploring and researching historical remains mainly in South Essex, but spanning as far as London and Kent. Ranging from everything from Medieval castles to nuclear bunkers, we follow our goal to enlighten you on the usually skimmed-over parts of local history.  In strong co-operation with local archives and museums, Beyond the Point compliments the work from archivists within the area, receiving views from all over the world. We bring the past into the 21st Century via YouTube documentaries found in our articles.

This website is no longer updated following the move to our brand new and and cutting-edge website.

If Joe and I were alive a century ago we would find ourselves with a 1/3 chance of being dead by this time today; and if not likely within the last six weeks of our lives. One-hundred years ago marked the 1st of July 1916; the First Day of the Battle of The Somme. You can read about the tragic events that lead to the deaths of well over a million young men in plenty of places, but in short boys occasionally as young as 12, who might never have ventured outside of their own village, found themselves far from home in a place that looked, sounded, and smelt like hell itself. Trench warfare was a war of attrition – no fancy tactics, no clever firefights; just two sides squaring up across the fields of France firing upon one another until one side was entirely wiped out. I always feel that history allows us to gain a sense of distance from the atrocities of the past, but an event that saw people living lifestyles similar to our own being shipped off into the meat-grinder cannot be dressed up. This is why I chose to say 36,500 days rather than 100 years; to shorten the distance.

As harsh and inelegant as the First World War was it is an area of history which has always fascinated me. The diabolical experimentation of the weaponry, completely misguided way of combat, and resultant transformation of the landscape into something very dark and alien fascinates me as I think about what it must have been like to have first arrived at the battlefields of the Somme. The romantic lull of Edwardian Britain had been bombarded, and Europe found itself thrown into a passionless conflict caused by a two-sided complex of alliances splitting Europe. Like a board game of Risk gone wrong, millions of people on both sides had to pay the price. To make matters worse, this was a time when previously only single-shot firearms, coupled with bayonets, had been used to fight battles. Harking back to the age-old pitched battles of the Middle Ages and beyond, the two sides lined themselves up to shoot at one another. It was this war which taught us how to firefight using careful manoeuvres – rather than sheer destructive force, in order to gain ground. This of course came at the cost of a generation.

I have been fortunate enough to visit the battlefields of the Somme and Belgium twice. The first was a school trip in 2011, and the second was organised by the Bay Museum, Canvey Island. Whilst the landscape has now returned close to the idyllic French countryside we all imagine, the scars of the destruction are unmistakable. It is hard to realise how the green rolling fields were transformed into acres of mud, blood, and burnt tree stumps by the fighting, but this shows the scale of the destruction. Not a patch was left unharmed. Great gouges from shelling and trenches alike still litter the enormous lawns; such as the massive Lochnagar Crater which clocked in as one of the largest ever non-nuclear man-made explosions. I remember walking the trenches – looking over the top and picturing how the battles took place from the eyes of an individual. We also visited the numerous memorials – each adorned with an unimaginable number of names. The very quantity of memorials is a tribute to just how many we lost. I have included photographs I took of the battlefields in 2011. Of course these aren’t quite as sharp as the images we take nowadays but at least it gives you an insight into the sites of the First World War today.

To put trench warfare in a first-person perspective I recommend the incredible book Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. One of the few novels that I have ever found moving enough to finish, I have read this on two occasions and each time it put me in the very shoes of a soldier and his emotions in the trenches and how it changed their lives. For something a little more interactive I would praise the shooter game Verdun which allows you experience what it was like to fight as one man against the battles of the First World War, taking historical accuracy into account heavily – something rarely seen in the genre.

This Saturday head down to Hadleigh Old Fire Station at 7:30pm to watch the film of the Somme created in 1916 to document what it was like. Admission is free, courtesy of Hadleigh & Thundersley Community Archive in cooperation with the IWM Centenary Partnership. If you can’t make it, head down to the Bay Museum on Canvey any Sunday and handle some Great War artifacts for yourself!


The BTP boys will be showcasing our exciting pillbox-themed display stall at the Paddocks, Canvey Island, this Saturday (25th) for Armed Forces Day 2016. Come down and see us from roughly 11am to 2pm, alongside many of the other interesting community groups in the area which all have something to share, such as the Bay Museum which specialises in hands-on militaria, or the local community archives which focus on cataloging history online much like ourselves.

There we will be unveiling the first look at our upcoming brand new website which we have been wracking our brains on for the most part of the year so far. It will allow you to explore historic sites for yourself using its centrepiece interactive map, as well as search the multitude of places we have covered by historic era, current and past use. It also has sections dedicated to exciting topics in general history, guides to our equipment and adventuring the outdoors, and a neat way to view all of our videos in one place. Stay tuned, or come and see it this Saturday!

As well as a new website, we have some news regarding the BTP boys themselves and what they will be doing over the future months years. Joe has been offered a year’s staff contract at ITN, working on ITV News London, carrying on as the skilled camera man he has trained to be over the course of his apprenticeship there. Our recent and upcoming videos reflect this quality. As for myself (Liam) I will be commencing an exciting new chapter heading off to the University of Exeter in September. Unsurprisingly, I will be studying history, and I hope that as well as having a very good time in the process I will be able to develop my interest in the past on a professional level looking at a wide variety of topics. Over the past gap year I have been able to put a lot of work into Beyond the Point and the local area; starting last Summer with filling out the current website with lots of unused content, through to adding all the incredible places we have been to our upcoming upgraded site. In the process I have strengthened links with the local community, such as painting murals which you may have seen around Canvey Island, and in the wider archiving community doing work for the Family History Show and the history of my secondary school. There’s my words of advice to take a gap year if you ever need them, but now I am looking forward to starting afresh somewhere new. In someways it will be nice to leave Essex knowing you all have a great new website to explore whilst I focus my time on something different, but it will be shame to temporarily leave behind the beloved River Thames! Hence why I shall still be continuing to write for Beyond the Point whilst away, and you’ll be able to catch me when I return in-person over the Winter, Easter, and Summer as I cling onto the community spirit I am lucky to have grown up with. Of course BTP Joe will still be living in Essex, travelling to London for work, so he will be representing Beyond the Point at the Thames Eastury Festival 2016 where we have been asked to speak, and at other exhibitions and talks including at the Transport Museum later this year and at the Canvey Island Dining Club in 2017. Watch out for updates on these!

 Thundersley Glen is great example of how even the most seemingly natural spaces have a history all of their own; and how this changed the landscape. A section of woodland in Benfleet adjoining with Mount Road Wood and Shipwright’s Wood in Benfleet. It was once part of the greater Jarvis Wood belonging to Jarvis Hall – a manor house which dates back to the 1400s and still exists, in a modified state, just west of where Thunderlsey Park Road becomes Hill Road. By the Victorian era the wood became arable farmland and orchards except for a small patch in the South-West corner surviving today. Then in the early 20th Century the farmland was sold as plot-land eventually becoming abandoned and welcoming the Hawthorn, Birch, and Oak trees which form the woodland today. The area would also have once been used for charcoal burning of local woods; hence the name ‘Kiln Road’ which runs immediately north of the glen. Clay quarried from the woods here was worked at the Kiln Road brick works; the clay beneath the topsoil is clearly visible, dug up as badger sets and bike ramps.

   Amongst Thundersley Glen lies a pond with two ‘islands’ extending out into it, now dominated by prehistoric Horsetail plants and other wildlife. This was infact once made to serve another historic household called Thundersley House which lay along Kiln Road; alledgedly by damming a the stream that runs through the glen to this day. A hydraulic ram would’ve pumped water from the pond to the house, and this can be seen marked on many an old map. It could also be the case that the pond was used for leisure activities such as swimming and boating. During the 1950s and 60s the pond was a popular spot with local children, and it was often referred to as Jasper’s Pond. When this froze over in the winter children would skate across it, or would collect frogspawn which was rife in warmer weather. It is presumed that because of a child falling in on one occasion, parents complained the pond was a health and safety concern and it was partly drained. At the bottom of the pond probably lies all manner of treasures and rubbish alike, including two .22 air-rifles which you can read the story of here: The pond is said to have once been less overgrown and larger; back in the 1930s it could be seen from Kiln Road. South of the pond, to the west of the stream and ditch, lies a patch of Hawthorn woodland now intermingled with houses which was farmland until 1925 when plot houses overgrew the surrounding area.

Benfleet woodland

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the Glen also lies a large meadow atop a ridge/hill in the forest that runs north to south. This would appear to be an area of the old farmland that escaped the foliage’s conquest; following the borders of a field shown on an 1868 map. The maps show the transition of the area from farmland to wood from the mid 19th-mid 20th Century as well as the south-western patch of ancient woodland, and the appearance of the pond, dam, and hydraulic ram.

Sources for information include Benfleet Community Archive, Hadleigh & Thundersley Community Archive, and Castle Point Borough Council’s trail guide to the glen’s flora and fauna (Downloadable Here: All information above is sourced from articles and memoirs.

Below are two views from the path that links Thundersley Glen to Shipwrights Wood, west. This looks out over Hilltop farm. Pictured in early 20thC and 2013.

‘Canvey 2000’ was an attempt to rejuvenate Canvey Island’s seafront in 1997, hoping to restore it to reflect some of the glory as a tourist resort, centered around Thorney bay holiday camp and beach, which it had seen from the 1900s up until the 1980s. It saw some success and definitley revitalised the seafront into the more developed place it is today, although it did encoutner difficulties prior to the folding of the charity in 2010 meaning some of the developments have been left to ruin. However, the spirit of Canvey 2000 has picked up again with the excellent Friends of Concord Beach who have focused on making the sea-side of the wall, and the beach, something to be proud of once again.

Vincent Heatherson was a driving force behind the project, amongst many other individuals, and became chairman during the lifespan of the charity, and being a local gardener he was responsible for the manual labour required in installing the gardens in the field behind the Labworth Cafe, and the brick-paving along the seawall. He passed away at a young age in 2012 and his nephew BTP Liam arranged the installation of a plaque in the gardens to commemorate his efforts, with the help of the Town Council. The photographs of the Canvey 2000 project seen below were found in Vince’s collection. Many of the photographs were actually taken by Alison Love but Vince may have taken some himself as well. James Heatherson designed the Canvey 2000 logo used on the t-shirts at the time, still seen on many plaques in the garden.

For two years the iconic Art Deco village inn on Canvey Island has ceased serving pints. Beyond the Point was fortunate enough to be allowed to photograph the interior shortly after closing, and the cellar last year. The building has been unable to reopen as a pub or as an indoor market as planned after it was sold in 2014 due to licencing issues, and difficulties with listing the construction as a historic building has presented itself in-light of plans to build on the site. It is still in use as a makeshift shop only to secure the status of the building whilst its future is formulated. However a new plan has recently been passed – to use the building as a museum to commemorate the North Sea Floods that hit Canvey in 1953. Fittingly enough, the building was used as an Army base when they came to the Island to repair the damaged seawalls and save civilian lives.

The conversion work will commence on April the 1st next year – exactly a year from now, whilst plans and propositions are drawn up. The historic structure is to be incorporated into the refurbished facilities. Below are some of the initial plans to be suggested. We can see a variety of space allocated for 1950s vehicles in the plans; could these be some that survived the flood?

Only time will tell when emerges from these plans but it would be great to see the building not only saved from gradual decay, but truly recognized for its historic importance.

NOTE: This was our April Fool’s Joke 2016 and Beyond the Point is not aware of any such plans.

We all know Easter as a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ. However it is believed its customs originate in ancient paganism that the Saxons worshipped, with eggs symbolizing new life at the dawn of spring. The word Easter derives from the pagan goddess of spring; ‘Eastre’. Of course they also came to originate Jesus re-emerging from his tomb. People have decorated eggs probably since the 13th century, presumably because they were forbidden by the church in the week leading up to Easter, so any eggs laid were saved and decorated often given as gifts to children, or eat them on Easter as a mark of celebration.

By the Victorian era people were making eggs from cardboard, filling them with gifts or sweets, and wrapping them in fabric. Around this time the first chocolate eggs emerged in France and Germany, but they were hard and bitter. In Britain Fry’s chocolate were making solid Easter eggs in 1873. In the 1930s, jelly beans too became associated with Easter for their egg-like shape.

Unlike eggs, the significance of the Easter bunny is shrouded in mystery. Religiously symbolising everything from rebirth and fertility, to innocence and purity due to its white colour in Christian art, it has no clear Christian meaning. Instead the Easter bunny may emerge yet again from Anglo-Saxon paganism. Their spring goddess Eastre signifies fertility and personifies a rising sun. Due to fertility and its relationship with new life, Eastre could change her pet bird into the form of a rabbit to please children, which would bring them brightly coloured eggs as gifts.

So believe it or not, the customs surrounding Easter probably have more in common with paganism – considered almost derogatory in a time when Christianity was so pivotal to society.