Contemporary Photographs

Aerial photographs from the late 1970s – you can zoom in for closeups of the structures

In the early 1970s Canvey was a target for the consturcion of a Thames-based oil refinery under American company Occidental Petroleum. Why the construction took place from 1974-78 (roughly) after the 1973 Oil Crisis’ financial burden remains a mystery, because it was the legacy of this crisis which caused them to abandon the half-built site in 1978. Acres of ancient farmland was built over to make way for the imported sand, ditches, pipelines, oil drums, jetties, and chimneys which were erected on the site. The legacy of the site is quite ironic, however, as the imported sand made the abandoned refinery a haven for wildlife and it now stands an incredibly prestigious RSPB brownfield (formerly-industrial) nature reserve. In the 1990s there were plans for local billionaire Peter de Savary to turn the ruined site, which makes up 1/5th of Canvey’s land mass, into a holiday park with water sports e.t.c. However the fact it was a hotspot for nature began to be brought to attention and hence it didn’t go ahead. the oil drums, chimney, and other significant structures were removed in the 1990s when Sainsburies bought the site (now Morrisons to the south of the site). Fred Dibnah was called in to take down the chimney. The site still holds vast road networks and three jetties, reminiscant of Chernoybl, and is incredibly eerie and quite ecclectic for its mix of nature and industry. Lamposts existed alongside all the roads right up until the 2010s wehn they were cut down and their bases still remain. At least one of them still stands albeit more tucked away. The site continues to fascinate me as to how so much industry was incorporated into what essentially was a grass-based refinery and remains today to be dominantly a natural environment rather than a concrete or tarmac resurfaced urban wreck as one might expect.

Photographs from the 1980s

Photograph from 1997 of the oil drums just before their removal. From Oneblackline author on Wikipedia

Photograph from 1997 of the oil drums just before their removal. From Oneblackline author on Wikipedia

Photographs below from local author Robert Hallmann:

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