Posts Tagged ‘Maps’

Coalhouse Point where the Thames suddenly narrows was home to several defences since 1402, and a D-shaped artillery battery fort stood here from 1539. The fort was replaced in 1799 with Coalhouse Fort which was rebuilt in 1847 and 1860. The large moat you can see to prevent invaders reaching the fort is a techonological remnant from Medieval defences around traditional castles – Coalhouse/East Tilbury Battery built down the road around 25 years later used a spiked metal fence instead in a ditch which is a step away from the use of moats. We visited the fort in January 2013 but did not get to look inside. The fort was designed to be used to create a ‘triangle of fire’ with Shornemead Fort and Cliffe Fort in Kent, of similar design, against a French attack which seemed more dangerous with their development of the ‘ironclad’ warship in 1859 which was much stronger against explosive and incediary rounds which would cause wooden ships to set alight.

In the park around the fort there was several defences built in the Second World War – from a spigot mortar mount that the Home Guard would’ve fired a mortar shell from, to an XDO Minefield Control Tower than would be used to watch over and detonate a minefield places out in the Thames incase of German craft trying to invade. Liam and I squeezed into this via one of the firing slits (loopholes) and struggled to get out again. I was boosted by Liam to get out with help of our guests, Sam and Jack, pulling from the other side, but there was now no-one to boost BTP Liam out! He had to stack up wooden pallets lying around in the tower under the loophole and still had to be pulled out so hard I thought I might be stretched in-half!

Just south of the fort lies a quick-fire battery built in the early 20th Century presumably standing ready for use through WW1, equipped with 12pdr guns. The guns would’ve been mounted on a metal rail to allow them to be turned and fired/loaded in quick succession hence its name; the rapid fire battery.

On the river Thames foreshore just south of the fort lies an early radar tower built in the Second World War. because radar was a very secret British technology initally the tower was named ‘water tower’ on maps to avoid attention. Through the Second World War the fort was fitted with a Degaussing Station to ensure friendly ships leaving Tilbury Docks were sufficiently proofed (‘degaussed’) from magnetic mines put out in the river to catch the enemy – the only other example of one of these dates from the Cold War on Canvey Island and is now an excellent military history museum.

The first defences in this area were built druing the late Middle-Ages in 1402 to defend the village from a French attack, consisting of towers and earthworks. A blockhouse and jetty once stood near the site of the radar tower. The blockhouse was built under Henry VIII in 1540 as part of the coastal defence scheme, and would’ve held 15 cannons. This was upgraded to house 27 guns 7 years later, with a range of 1-mile. More recently a jetty was built on this site in the Victorian Era to serve the fort as barges would bring in supplies and armaments and the sleepers from this railway link still stand.

Map of defences/military remains along the Thames from Kent County Council

Map of defences/military remains along the Thames from Kent County Council

To see what other remains we’ve covered in the local area, check out our Interactive Map where you explore the sites we’ve covered.

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The Rainham/Purfleet area has been in use by man since the days of the so –called ‘Cavemen’. You can see some of the petrified tree trunks still remaining today from a 6,000 year-old Neolithic forest, opposite the very northern end of Wennington Marsh, in the Thames foreshore. However, much of Rainham came to use in the last few centuries by the Ministry of Defence on Aveley Marsh; this is what we investigated with guests Luke Baker and Michael Clark, paying a visit to the now RSPB-owned nature reserve.

The article following has been designed in manner which both documents our visit, informs readers on the location, and offers advice enabling you to make a visit yourself as part of our ‘iBTP’ scheme. If you do wish to visit, follow the numbers on the satellite map below which correspond to the places mentioned in the following article. We recommend you download and print our ‘printer-friendly’ trail-guide version of the article found below the map. Please note trail shown on map is not to be followed religiously. May contain errors or be subject to change over time. Please note the historic structures shown in the article are not accessible and are on potentially dangerous land. However, they can be clearly viewed at leisure from the footpaths.

Purfleet Train Station (not to be confused with Rainham Station further down the river) is part of the C2C train line. It will take you towards London or Southend-on-Sea. Trains only run roughly once an hour so make sure you plan a train. Alternatively you can drive and park in the Rainham Nature Reserve car-park next to the visitor’s centre. The reserve has been designed with nature in mind, although with respect to the sites heritage, so the marshes are well worth a visit if bird-watching or any other kind of wildlife enthusiasm is of interest to you.

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Download Printer-Friendly Trail Guide Here

  1. Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre is a museum set up inside 1759 Magasine No.5 from the Royal Magasine of Gunpowder Check opening times here: http://www.purfleet-heritage.com/pages/contact.html We took some video footage and photographs during our visit, and were fortunate enough to speak to founder Alan Gosling. We will release a short video and more in-depth article on the building in the near future which will be linked here.
  2. Rainham Marshes Visitors Centre was built around 2006 after the MOD land was bought and cleared by the RSPB in 2000. It has a café and toilet facilities, and houses views of the marshes as well as its own impressive architecture. We visited and the food/facilities were respectable and ideally located.
  3. The Anti-Submarine Blockhouse can be found at the end of one of the longest sections of the walk (around 10 minutes) which takes you to the western side of the central reserve. However, you can appreciate views of the Thames from here, also ideal for bird watching. This is a pillbox-type outpost made of brick and concrete, although much larger than conventional pillboxes, and is the first sign of the areas use during the First World War. It is said that in March 1916, decoy beacons were lit on Wennington Marsh, and the structure shot down a German zeppelin via the machine gun that would’ve been mounted on its roof. It remains in fair condition, but is water-logged and inaccessible.
  4. The Firing Ranges span across the green line marked on the map, and divide the two marshes. The war department created this rifle range in 1906, and the structures you see today were built in 1915. The firing range sheds (‘mantlets’) remain, which were where the target-mechanism operators would stand, as does one of the three ‘butts’ (the area in which the targets are set up).  The target area (butt/backwall), made up of a brick ‘Aztec-looking’ plinth with wooden numbers on, is visible from path. Its size means it can be seen across most of the reserve. It is on private land and inaccessible to the public. The surface of the remaining butt is littered with quite sizable bullet-holes in the brickwork, probably inflicted by the standard issue service rifle of the time – the Lee-Enfield and its .303 calibre bullets. The firing sheds (mantlets) were on private land and are inaccessible. They were made of metal and still held original wooden seats and other decor, as well as a corrugated iron shed. The mantlet roof was covered with earth from the bank to protect the target-mechanism operators from fire coming at the back-wall overhead. They span the entire western side of the central reserve in two sections. The green line on our map above marks their location. They were highly impressive.

  5. The Cordite Store was a large magazine building that once stood on the square area extant today. You can see the blast mound around the outside of this which would’ve contained an accidental explosion. We can imagine this must have been an immense building when it stood, more like some form of hangar or hall than a store-room.
  6. Only one of the eight Anti-Aircraft Ammunition Magasines remains today; ruined and overgrown just north of the visitors centre. The rest were demolished shortly after the RSPB gained the land in 2000. It lies off of the main footpath and is not accessible to the public. It was surprisingly large and had a small walkway between the blastwall and the exterior of the main structure. Window-frames inside were still present although no other features survived. You can see all eight magasines in the 1940 image at the bottom of the post.
The marsh in 1940

The marsh in 1940

That concludes the trail. If you decided to follow it you can now return to the Visitors Centre or go straight back to the C2C train station. Beyond the Point certainly enjoyed our visit and found it highly fascinating. First-time heritage-explorer Michael Clark said the trip was “thrilling; history meets adventure, and it really captivated me”, in the same way that BTP Joe and Liam were by their numerous adventures into remaining glimpses of the past.

Merry Christmas!

Posted: December 25, 2014 by BTP Liam in Various
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   Happy Christmas!

BTP would like to wish you, and your friends and family, a very merry Christmas, and all the best health and happiness. Check below for our Christmas Message giving a glimpse of what’s in-store for the new year…

BTPXMAS

What’s next for BTP 2015?

As for exploration, we have a visit to Rainham Marshes’ Ministry of Defence ruins on its way imminently. This will be continuing our partnership with the Imperial War Museum & the First World War Centenary. We will be visiting further sites relating the Great War such as an archaeological expedition to the site of Coryton’s thought lost munitions factory. We have recently visited Dover Castle and the abandoned former Castle View School; both exclusive permission visits, and are currently processing our content from these trips for release in Q1 of 2015.

Finally we would like to unveil a new innovation – ‘iBTP’.  iBTP will be a way in which you can experience Beyond the Point first hand. Soon as Beyond the Point cannot house its archaeological exhibits in a museum (they might be a little too large!), we are going to be making it easier for you to visit the places we cover. Our Interactive Map has recently seen a major update, and now has a large portion of the places we have visited on, allowing you to find what treasures are nearest to you. Secondly, we will be publishing iBTP Guides with many of our articles; essentially printer-friendly versions of our articles, complete with a map and route plan. Due to the nature of some of the sites we visit, not all places will receive this special treatment, but those found within public, safe grounds will do. Whenever you see the iBTP banner next to our content, you know you can plan to follow in our footsteps with ease.

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This map, from the unbeatable, comprehensive Dowd’s Canvey Cyclopedia (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canvey/index_files/canveycyclopediafacts.htm) labels the various farms across Canvey in 1850, the days when Canvey was still but farmland and a small village, much like the Wild West, as I like to allude to! Only few of these actually remain today, with Brickhouse Farm being one of the only still in operation. So, where did all the rest go? Well, a majority became left abandoned, and most were built on as land was taken up by development. Only few survived on the land which today is west Canvey; a large area of wilderness which has escaped money-maker’s development. It remains much like it has been for hundreds of years, especially Bowers Marsh. Waterside Farmhouse still stands as the recycling centre today. We made it our mission to uncover the sites of two particular farms which lay on land not covered at by human expansion – Pantile Farm, and Tree (Southwick) Farm. I will say now that the farms in question no longer structurally exist. However, the sites of these two farm houses caught my eye as being on untouched ground – I decided that the remains from their demolition, from as much as a few decades ago, must still be there.

Farm Map

Myself, BTP Joe Mander, and guest explorer Sam Hill, took the trek out into Canvey’s countryside to investigate the sites of these farms – probably the first with the specific intention for many years. We parked in the recently established RSPB Nature Reserve West Canvey car park. We then set west for the current seawall, which had been there for around 200 years, made only of as grassy bank. Our findings of the first farm site are below:

Pantile Farm

Despite the buildings being recorded as standing as long ago as 1777, on Chapman and Andre’s map, the farmhouse has probably stood up until several decades ago. The date of the construction of the main farmhouse at Pantile is unclear. We were walking along the site of the farmhouse, characterized by raised ground and greener ground foliage, when we felt something hard underfoot. We pulled up some of the grass, and instantly came across the foundations of brick walls which made up the farmhouse. They were classic Victorian red terracotta bricks, characteristic of late Victorian architecture. However, the farmhouse can be seen derelict in this 1935 photograph, meaning the farmhouse could have been constructed earlier. Bricks for the farmhouse would probably have been of local origin, perhaps from the brick factories of Benfleet or Hadleigh. This means that it is hard to class the bricks as part of that Victorian movement of red brick, so the house could have been the same one from its initial construction, sometime probably in the 1700s. Pulling it away further from the red brick being of the Victorian era, the farmhouse appears to be of earlier style, not Victorian, in which brick would have been used extensively. Instead, brick appears to make up only the base of the building, and the rest being either made entirely of wooden timbers, or the brick walls lined with wooden timbers. The architectural style would suit that of the 1700s (although farmhouses were private constructions and m,ay not follow any contemporary style), and bricks found in the bushes, which had been weathered and overgrown, appeared to be of earlier than Victorian origin. Therefore this was probably was the initial farmhouse, which had never been replaced since the 170os. However, little mention of the farmhouse appears in anywhere before the mid 1800s. The bricks were layed short-ways next to each other, which is quite unconventional – probably to make a wall only one brick wide as cheap as possible, without it being too thin. Either that, or it could have been the step to the front entrance – the bricks from the first layer protrude. In fact, neither layer of the the bricks showed signs that there would have been more layers on top, meaning that it could well have been a step. Bricks elsewhere were layed usually, length-ways. Therefore the bit we found was probably steps/not the main walls of the farmhouse.

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   Joe also found a piece of wooden timber in the grass, probably that of what lined the farmhouse in the photograph. The wood had a very dark rotten aesthetic, and it looked several hundreds of years old. It was about 1 meter long, and found lying out of place just under the grass foliage. It is lucky to have survived as long as it has, and looked older than the Victorian era. Whether the farmhouse which remains archaeologically today was built in the Victorian era, or several hundreds of years before, will remain a mystery. The farm was known as ‘Pantile Farm’ from 1774, and before was called ‘Longwick farm’. The house in fact follows Dutch style. Graham Stevens from the Canvey Community Archive stated that: “The name has always fascinated me because I could see no direct Canvey connection(marsh,wick etc). This has prompted me to do a little research on ‘pantiles’ as roofing material and find that they first appeared in Eastern England in the 17th cent and they were imported from, guess where? Holland! So it would appear our farm was named after it’s roof-tiles which could have arrived on Canvey as imports or more likely as ballast on Dutch eel-boats plying between Holehaven and Holland. P.S. The floor of Furtherwick Farm was reputed to be made of Dutch bricks originally used as ballast.” Some bricks in the bushes were found to be coated in a thick tar-like substance, which was again quite old in appearance. A section of reddish tiel was also found, possibly a piece of the infamous Dutch ‘pantile’. It is worth noting that archaeological digs took place on the site in 1995-6. One thing however is almost certain – the farmhouse would not have been built in the late Victorian era, because it was shown in the photo above to be long abandoned by 1935 – it probably was built and used long before then.

It is described in 1867 as:

“Pantile” belongs to E. Woodard, of Billericay, and likewise “Kersey,” situate in South Bemfleet.He purchased these farms of King’s College, Cam­bridge ; they were formerly parcel of Kersey Priory, at Hadleigh in Suffolk.

Tree Farm

The next farm was Southwick Farm, the most commonly known ‘Tree Farm’ on Canvey (there were several). It lied behind the seawall north of Northwick Road’s very end. The fact that both farmhouses were built near the wall indicates that a house with a view was clearly what farmers would usually go for! Up until recently, the site of the farmhouse would have been sheltered by small trees, although upon arrival we saw these had been cleared. The ground either side of the path through the middle was very flat, as if it had once been flattened for foundations of a building. The same ground plant which grew on the Pantile site also grew here too.

The below photograph, from possibly the 1990s, shows the site when it was last investigated. The main difference is that the tress are still standing.

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In ‘The History of the Rochford Hundred’ book, 1867, by Philip Benton, the farm is described as this:

“Southwick Marsh” otherwise “Tree Farm,” in the parish of North Bemfleet, was formerly the property of Col. Wm. Brewse Kersteman; it was purchased by Jonathan Wood, and being sold by the trustees under his will, was bought by H. N. Wood (testator’s son).

We also know that the farm was used as a household beyond 1954, and was demolished some decades ago. It is described by SEAX Archeology as

Single-storied house with attics, timber-framed and weatherboarded, with thatched roofs. Built in the 17th century, the house is of central-chimney type with `modern additions’ to the rear and an original central chimneystack. <1> On OScard (1955) as `site of’ and deleted from OS field document. <2> <3> Nothing shown on OS 1:25000 map. <4> House shown on C and A map, 1777. <5> Demarcated on all sides by a ditch. Trackway leads in from south drains either side. Some tipping within area and farm track runs N/S through centre of site. Footings of building and ancillary structures probably survive beneath surface. Main damage to site caused by track cutting into sub soil <6>

Whether it used concrete or not in some part of its structure, we did find a small sudden mound on the site, which had chunks of concrete lying next to it, which looked old and rough, with small stones in it. We also found some old wood which was certainly rotten, and appeared to have once been a set of shaped timbers, which we know the structure was built from originally. We also finally found some brickwork pieces, which looked like red terracotta brick again. It had a glaze or tile cemented onto one side of it – perhaps from the floor? What the house was made from again remains a mystery, but there is the evidence.

As a final note, I can say this minor expedition was very successful, and remains were established of both farms. It would appear that if you were to remove the top soil from the site for Pantile, the building’s actual wall outlines e.t.c. would be clearly visible. A further investigation will be carried out at a later date now we have further knowledge, and we will come more equipped. This is the first time the remains of Pantile and Tree Farm have been recorded since demolition (or in the case of Pantile, since the aforementioned archaeological dig in the 90s). We are certainly the first to provide pictorial evidence. A video of our discovery will also be featured, and will appear shortly on this page. I will leave you with these two captivating images made using  Adobe Photoshop by Sam Hill, who joined us on the trip. He has merged images of the Tree Farm site and the old photo of the ruined Pantile Farmhouse, to create a representation of what it might look like to stumble across one of Canvey’s many old farmhouses, if one stood derelict today. Note this is not specifically meant to depict either of the two farms featured.

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At the outbreak of World War II, the Port of London was the busiest port in the world. As such, a large proportion of supplies to the UK entered by ships navigating the Thames. The German Navy quickly sought to put a stranglehold on this route, and to this end, utilised a new secret weapon – the magnetic influence mine. Whilst there were different variants of this mine, in simplistic terms, the mine was detonated by the presence of a large magnetic object – such as a steel hulled ship – passing in close proximity, without having to make physical contact. So successful was this that in the first few months of the war, over one hundred ships were sunk in the Thames Estuary alone. It was clear that urgent action was needed to stem these losses, and as most mines were laid by aircraft, ships were requisitioned and used as mobile anti aircraft units. However, this was not altogether successful, and a more satisfactory solution was needed.In the early years of the war, Guy Maunsell, a civil engineer, had produced plans for offshore defences.

At the time his ideas were considered somewhat eccentric, but he was asked to submit plans for an offshore fort as an effective means of dealing with the laying of the mines. Plans were drawn up, and after some modification, approval was given for the manufacture and installation of four offshore forts. These were of mainly reinforced concrete construction, built on land on a lozenge shaped reinforced base, and towed out to sea where they were sunk onto the seabed.

The source for this blog post

Each fort accommodated approximately 120 men, housed mainly within seven floors of the 24’ diameter twin reinforced concrete legs and were under the control of the Navy. They were all placed in position between six and twelve miles offshore between February and June, 1942 and became operational immediately. Each fort accommodated up to 265 men.

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After the war the forts were placed on ‘care and maintenance’. However as the need for their continued use diminished, they were abandoned, and the guns removed from the Army forts, in 1956.The Nore fort was dismantled in 1959 being considered a hazard to shipping (two towers were lost following a collision in 1953 whilst another in 1963). In 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting from a ship moored outside UK Territorial Waters.

Four of the forts survive, abandoned since they were decommissioned in the 1950s. Each played host to pirate radio stations in the 1960s. Since this time, Roughs has been occupied by the founder of Radio Essex, Roy Bates, who in 1967 declared the fort an independent state: The Principality of Sealand. Its independence is not recognised and as with all the Maunsell forts, it is still considered UK territory (though this is often disputed). In 2007, there was talk of The Pirate Bay relocating to Roughs, in a bid to take advantage of its disputed territory claim and get around toughened copyright law in Sweden. This fell through. The plans can be seen below. (Right click image then select open in new tab to enlarge the picture)

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Today, Redsand Fort as the only complete structure as built in wartime is the focus of attention by Project Redsand, a group of enthusiasts with the aim of reinstating the Fort to its original built condition. Having had an underwater survey carried out by the Port of London Authority at a cost of around £5,000, work has progressed to installing a new access system to the G1 tower thanks to the generosity of Mowlem Marine (now Carillion) of Northfleet. Built at a cost of approximately £40,000, the access system enables project members to board the tower to commence restoration. The BTP Boys hope to venture out one day!

Useful Websites:

Project Redsand – http://www.project-redsand.com/index.htm

Maunsell Forts – http://log.doggerland.net/2011/02/23/maunsell-forts/

1943 Pictures – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.355003671221371.102739.100281160026958&type=3

BTP Liam and I are currently filming as I mentioned in my last post. On Thursday we interviewed Graham Stevens about the Canvey Island floods of  ’53 and when we met up with him, he gave us a folder of documents. The folder had several fantastic documents in it of the Occidental site and jetty showing that the jetty, isn’t complete currently and that there were plans to make the jetty longer at the end. Some of the other maps and plans show the piping for the various containers, Gas Liquid Chromatography maps (it’s makes it sound better than GLC maps!!), diagrams of the various administration offices and the height comparison to a worker. You can see the images below, that BTP Liam and myself spent combining from several photocopied segments of the documents. (You can click on the images to make them bigger)

I doubt that you can read it but it says 'Foster Wheeler', which after researching, I found out that they are a 'global engineering and construction contractor' and 'a power equipment supplier'.

Inside the front cover

The divisions in the folder labeled 'RHS - #'

The first map of the site with the locations of the drums

Map 2 which shows you the plan for the Occidental Jetty; showing that it was planned to be longer. You can also see other small jetties that are coming off of the sea wall.

In this map, map 5, you can see the whole area with the proposed piping route going away from the site, north.

Map 7 shows you the the proposed administration buildings and workshops. You can see the scale difference between the people and the buildings. It's a shame it's not here!

You can view the rest of the images at our Forum Topic. The images above belong to Graham Stevens but were scanned and cropped together by Beyond the Point. With great thanks to Graham!!