Posts Tagged ‘Castle Point’

Newsitepreview2

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!

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 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: http://www.benfleethistory.org.uk/page/crime_and_punishment. 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

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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: https://www.castlepoint.gov.uk/thundersley-glen). 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.

Seven Victorian tunnel-like magazines were built on the Benfleet waterfront near Jotmans in the late part of the 19th Century. They would have been used for the storage of explosives by barges possibly on the way to London or nearby explosives factories (where is now Wat Tyler Country Park and Coryton Refinery).

The Benfleet Community Archive first introduced Beyond the Point to ‘the mags’ at a community event on Canvey. We were told it was rumoured they were used as storage from barges carrying explosives down the Thames. There was definitely a heavy explosives industry in South Essex around the turn of the 20th Century, so this was not an unreasonable idea. I looked this up when I got home, and listened to an audio account on this website which mentions them and their location. We visited the area numerous times between 2012 and 2015, finding a wartime pillbox and ruins from the old sewage works, yet were unable to locate the ‘mags’.

Magazines

In September 2015 we decided to investigate the rumours, following a 1895 map from http://www.benfleethistory.org.uk showing the location of the magazines layed over modern satellite imagery. The entire area south west of the sewage works was overgrown and it became very difficult to work out exactly which parts of the area the magazines were in. We covered what we believed to be the entire area and only found rectangular mounds/earthworks, perhaps covering something? A brick walled section, broken concrete, and a very old huge iron manhole cover (probably from the sewage works) was also found.

 After explaining about the mounds and brick wall that we found to the http://www.BenfleetHistory.org.uk archive site, we were put in touch with Dave Cowan in early 2016 who has lived in the Jotmans area since he was a child. He gave the initial audio account on the Benfleet Archive of playing near the mags as a child that prompted our investigation.

   We met up with him and he took us to where he saw one of the mags around 2012/13 guided by a picture of the area on his phone, using a tree as a landmark. After some looking in the bushes we finally uncovered the ruins of one of the entrances  (mag 1,2, or 3).  He was unaware of the other mags west of the current sewage works as this area was inaccessible in his childhood days, but when we showed him the earth mounds I found in September 2015 he found it all made sense; we had finally found where the mags are/would have been in relation to the 1895 map!

Magazines 1-3

Above you can see the remaining entrance area of either magazine 1, 2, or 3 and an artistic reconstruction. The other two of the three are somewhere along this stretch although they could either be overgrown or gone without trace. Dave explained how the sides and entrance facing were made of brick, yet the interior was buried in earth and was concrete from what he could remember. We found the two walls that would’ve formed the entrance although the actual doorway was covered in soil; presumably it had collapsed at one point. Dave recalls seeing the magazine turn off left and right inside, going down about 10-12 feet either way. He remembers several along that stretch which corresponds to the old map, although the other two were probably hidden in the undergrowth hence why further investigation could be done. Below are the brick remains of the one we found closer:

Magazines 4 & 5

Below are photographs of reinforced concrete broken roughly on the site of either of mags 4 and 5. This must be part of them as Dave remembers reinforced concrete being used to form the inside of magazines 1-3, presumably of the same design. A section of brick wall was also found near here in good condition, although seemingly isolated from any kind of greater structure. Still it was probably part of the entrance to magazine 4 or 5.

Magazines 6 & 7

These magazines are both further north-west along the bike track in the wood area west of the current sewage works. They remain only as earth mounds at first glance, although it could be likely that the magazines remain underneath and were simply covered over at one point, or demolished and churned. The photos below only feature mag 6, but 7 is a similar mound of smaller size further north along the bike track/footpath.

Many thanks to Dave Cowan for his help and for joining us, but also to Frank Gamble from http://www.BenfleetHistory.org.uk for aiding us on this quest and putting us in touch with Dave. See the coverage of this on there here, which has been lucky enough to be featured for the time being: http://www.benfleethistory.org.uk/page/uncovering_the_lost_explosives_magazines

The oldest house in Benfleet as it has been known was formerly a ‘poorhouse’, which we would interpret as a government-funded structure that would support those in poverty and provide them with housing. Whilst ‘poorhouses’ include the trecherous workhouses of the Victorian era, the three houses including the Moorings would appear to be only a place to live for the poor with perhaps work in and on the land around the house to pay for their residence.

Photographs above are from HadleighHistory.org.uk in an article written by local author and Historian Robert Hallman

Dave Blackwell with the building when it was supposedly 'saved' from demolition, months before it was torn down

Dave Blackwell with the building when it was supposedly ‘saved’ from demolition, months before it was torn down

Whilst the building is thought to have been extant since 1621, it is believed only a small part of the house is still contemporary because of the amount of changes it has seen in the years since. A report from the Castle Point Echo in September 2014 explains ‘the oldest house in Benfleet has been saved from demolition… for now… councillors admit it is only a matter of time before someone puts forward another application’. It appears that application has come forward because as of Summer 2015 a building fence has sprung up around the building and it now exists torn in half and semi-demolished. We managed to get some photographs before it went completely.