Posts Tagged ‘Essex’

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!

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

Less than two months into 2016, it’s already looking like a big and busy year for Beyond the Point! We have many exciting things to show off in the coming months, ranging from our Secrets of Severalls documentary, to a completely new fresh look for Beyond the Point as we revamp our website.

So the first news update is that Beyond the Point getting a complete revamp. We’re a non-profit history organisation although we don’t want to be stuck in the past and as we approach 5 years since Beyond the Point was founded we’ve decided that this is an ideal time to modernise the site. We’re in the process of designing a brand new website, one that is much more user-friendly and easier to navigate. A large amount of the content is being tweaked, including some of older content which isn’t quite up to our current standards and many more locations will also be added to our website. This is a really exciting time for BTP and our biggest change to date. Our new and improved website will be going live later on in the year.

Secrets of Sevs UpdateAlso to be released later this year is our Secrets of Severalls documentary and news of its production is certainly getting out there, not just from a few likes on Facebook but from a television broadcast advertising the making of our documentary to a 6-page spread in the Digital FilmMaker Magazine (no pressure then!) Ever since we had the green light from the NHS in September last year, we knew that this was going to be quite a big project for us, one that would be quite a step up from our normal calibre. Since announcing that production has started, we’ve had tens of thousands of views online, hundreds of messages and a massive interest from a many people.

Earlier this week we headed back up to the Severalls site to be interviewed by ITV News Anglia for a report that they were doing on the future of the site. This was transmitted on Monday evening and got the word out that we were the last people to film there. If you have any memories of photos of Severalls Hospital then please contact us. You can see the ITV News report below.

All rights to the VT are owned by ITV News.

The Digital FilmMaker Magazine also snapped up this story. The Digital FilmMaker is a national magazine exploring the behind the scenes and the making of short films and features various articles on the latest filming equipment and projects. We are delighted to have a 6 page spread, offering an in-depth look at the planning and organising of this documentary so far. You can see a sneak preview below and can purchase a copy of the magazine in shops such as WHSmith.

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For those who haven’t visited Beyond the Point before, we are an award winning organisation dedicated to revealing the unseen history of Essex and beyond. 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. Read more about us…

Howdy BTP readers! As Christmas day quickly approaches, so does the new year which means another year of exploring a vast variety of site along with a hefty collection of photographs and video clips. Our latest documentary for BTP is something quite different…

Beyond the Point has been given exclusive access to film a documentary on the derelict Severalls Hospital site in Colchester. This documentary is particularly special as the NHS has declined every single filming request (except ours) for those wanting to film on the site, even to major broadcasters such as the Discovery Channel. Therefore, Beyond the Point will be the only organisaation to have filmed legally on the site, both to date and probably in the entire time that the hospital is standing. The site was opened in 1913 as ‘Severalls Asylum’, a psychiatric hospital, and provided psychiatric care for North Essex until it closed in 1997. The massive 300 acre site was built to house up to 2,000 patients and the site was built based on the ‘Echelon plan’ where staff and patients could move around the site without going outside. If you have memories of Severalls Hospital, why not post them in our new Facebook Group, dedicated entirely to the hospital?

When asylums were first built in the late 1800’s, they were placed away from towns although they were a community in their own right as asylums were built with farms, laundry facilities, staff housing, shops and everything needed to live on the site. Mental health had quite a stigma attached to it at the time and little was known about curing it. Women could be admitted for struggling with a large family or for even being raped. This led to some scientists and doctors to experiment with treatments including electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and the use of frontal lobotomy.

Paul Lindup flying his drone

Our documentary will explore the history from when Severalls opened up until it closed and will show what the site is currently like. We’ve pulled out all the stops for this documentary and have teamed up with Airbourne Imagery who are providing us with some amazing drone shots of the site. We also have helicopter footage from ITV News. In the new year we’ll be speaking with former staff members about their time at the site and will publishing our documentary around mid 2016.

To find out more about this project and to see early production photos visit our production website, JoeMander.com. You can also get regular updates about the documentary by liking Globlue on Facebook. We’ll be posting an article focussing on the history of the site, alongside our current photos, in the new year. If you have any photos or memories of the site, then please don’t hesitate to Contact Us. You can watch a teaser below:

 

Press Features:

Daily Gazette Feature | East Anglian Daily Times | Maldon Standard | Chelmsford Weekley News

This article was written in January this year as an overview of Beyond the Point’s coverage of the First World War for the Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Partnership which we are proud to be a part of. In light of remembrance 2015, its now here on Beyond the Point.

I shall begin by introducing our organisation. BeyondthePoint.co.uk is Essex-based and was established by myself (Liam Heatherson) and my friend Joe Mander, in 2011 when we were fourteen years old. Like this site, we created it using WordPress (originally as a blog). We were awarded Best National Community Archive, Website, and Heritage Group of 2012. We use our site to share and document our fascination with local history, offering an innovative approach to the subject by focusing on what is usually glossed over by historians; primarily what remains of our heritage today. The ‘hands-on’ nature of exploring local heritage in our opinion is a good way to fascinate a younger audience. Also, we use professional-quality video equipment to produce documentaries on the places we visit found on the site.

We were encouraged to join the Centenary Partnership by the Bay Museum who is also a partner, whom we know very well. Like ourselves, they believe seeing and investigating remains of the Great War is the most effective way to really capture people, like history did to myself many years ago.

Beyond the Point has been running a series of articles on relating to the First World War, and we have many planned for the future. We began our investigation by having a look at the remembrance of the sacrifice paid. Joe and I took a trip to London and visited the poppies at the Tower of London, and also the Tower Hill Memorial for those who lost their lives in both world wars in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets. You can read about our visit and our partnership with the IWM here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1if Next we paid a visit to the Imperial War Museum London itself as it was only fitting. We visited the First World War exhibition there. Read more here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1mb

Having paid respects to the more obvious commemoration of the Great War, we then set out to provide our own contributions. As we usually explore and document historic remains, we took a trip to Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve which held the ruins of the Ministry of Defence site that was there as far back as the 1700s up until recent. It served most notably as a firing range during the First World War. Joe and I took two friends with us and they were definitely fascinated like ourselves. We tracked down the ruins of an anti-submarine blockhouse, which shot down a zeppelin in March 1916, explored the impressive remains of the 1915 firing range, and ventured inside a gloomy anti-aircraft ammunition magasine; one of the original eight. We provided a downloadable trail guide on our website to enable viewers to discover the remains for themselves. You can read the whole detailed investigation, see all our photographs, and get the trail guide here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1s6

This is only the one of our investigations into remains of the First World War on the home front and we plan several more for the future. BTP created a 5-minute short documentary on Southend in The First World War based on the book ‘Southend at War’ by Dee Gordon. It visits sites that were bombed, or used in the war effort. Read the article here: http://wp.me/p1HP6Z-1md

We will be visiting the site of a First World War Kynoch munitions factory that is currently thought to be gone without trace by historians, to conduct an archaeological search, after we found signs of ruins corresponding to the original plans via Google Earth. We visited a similar site, now a nature reserve, in Pitsea, several years ago (Wat Tyler Country Park) which made much of the .303 ammunition for the standard-issue Short Magasine Lee-Enfield rifles used by troops in the Great War. This is somewhat antiquated content on our site which is not representative of the quality of our articles at present, although you can read about this here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-Xl We also visited a munitions factory from the same era in 2013 at Cliffe, whose ruins span miles of Thames-side marshland in Kent to this day: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1af Finally, again in 2013, we visited Stow Maries Aerodrome which was abandoned up until recent years in which a restoration project has taken place. They fly contemporary aircraft from the site, and hold a collection of restored and left-natural buildings from the time of the First World War. Read here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-Sx

Thanks very much for reading and thanks very much to the Imperial War Museum for the First World War Centenary Project which we are grateful to be part of.

Our 2015 Halloween documentary brings the horror of everyday life in the 17th Century up to present when the boys travel down to Leigh, Essex to take a look at the site of ‘the Doom Pond’. Supposedly used to drown innocent individuals accused of witchcraft, there is no need to make-believe this Halloween when history holds the keys to true terror.

The concept of accusing individuals of being witches working for the Devil began in Europe during the 15th century but hadn’t reached England. By the late 1500s the practice was used by James 6th of Scotland who became paranoid witches were trying to assassinate him. When he became King James 1st of England he brought the practice with him and developed the idea that innocent women could be tortured and killed for practicing in ‘so-called witchcraft’. These victims were often accused for revenge or financial agendas rather than genuine belief.

Through to the mid 1600s possibly thousands of women were murdered in Essex alone under this regime. Colchester and Chelmsford were home to numerous trials in 1645 in the year that the notorious Matthew Hopkins became known as ‘Witch finder General’, responsible for the deaths of around 230 individuals. Three witch trials have been recorded in Leigh-On-Sea; Joan Allen in 1574, Alice Soles in 1622, and Joan Rowle in 1645.

What is known as Old Leigh today was in fact the primary fishing and boat-building town and highstreet of Leigh-On-Sea. Up on the hill where Leigh Cliff Road meets the Broadway used to lie a pond supposedly where accused ‘witches’ were dunked to test if they were truly witches or innocent – ironically drowning them regardless.
If the accused floated, they were deemed guilty as the purity of water itself was said to repel anyone associated with the Devil. If they sunk, they were innocent, but either outcome was a result of death!

The pond stems from an underground spring possibly remaining under a set of mid 2000’s apartments, although the pond itself was filled in as part of their construction. It was known locally as the ‘Doom Pond’ and was used by a nearby pottery business until the early 1900s.

Because of the pond’s grisly history, it has gathered a great deal of superstition over the years. Rumour says the pond was once bottomless, cursed, and home to a number of ghostly apparitions. The curse is said to be responsible for failed attempts to build over the pond, such as a small supermarket built in the 1970s which had to be demolished as a result of the poor foundations. The name ‘Doom Pond’ was said to emerge from the ‘Dome’ kiln of the pottery works that it was used to aid.