Posts Tagged ‘Non- Military Early 20th C’

 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.

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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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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.

The Corringham Light Railway was a line built in 1899, opened in 1901, as part of access to the Kynochs munitions factory on the site of what is now Coryton. It went from the London Fenchurch/Tilbury/Southend line at Thames Haven down to Corringham and Kynochtown to allow for transport to and from the munitions site but was used as late as 1971 for oil refining activities.

The line has been at first glance removed without trace, but plenty of remnants begin to appear when you follow the line closely which we did in 2013 with the Corringham Light Railway Preservation Society with great thanks to Lisa Sargent. We found remains of the CLR and Kynochs munitions works all the way from the housing area near the Pegasus Club in Stanford-le-Hope out into the remote farmers fields where we stopped. We found ponds near the Pegasus Club that would’ve been used for brick works serving the railway, as well as sewage works left by Kynochs serving the works colony, and also Brickfield Bridge now in the water-logged fields that the CLR would’ve run over. Trackbed remains such as sleepers, and surrounding fences, still survive too. The station platform at the start of the CLR also surves in a garden in a residential area. Inside Coryton refinery, which is of course heavily guarded due to terrorist threats, the 1919 Coryton Station platform survives.

Read, watch, and explore the historic building then and now here: http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/historic-locations/canvey-island/the-red-cowking-canute-pub-1800s-present/

Recently BTP Joe and I were allowed an exclusive glimpse at the hidden cellars of the King Canute pub on Canvey Island. The current owner was keen to let us photograph and explore the building, respecting the history of the building himself. He told us a new sign is in the making which suggests the dormant pub; currently a temporary ‘market’, might see rejuvenation in the future. However the cellar itself was water-logged and very damp – will the mould and structural deterioration bring the unused historic structure down before it sees a new life?

Inside the cellar we could see that much of the walls were painted original brick, probably from when the building was constructed in 1937. A more recent breeze block section had been added at a later date inside what would’ve been a large basement which extends to the span of the building. Various traces of the cellar’s former use were visible, from beer pumps under the bar to fizzy drink labels. It would have been used pretty regularly right up until the pub closed in early 2014, judging by the recent signs and other furnishings scattered around.

Known today as Rio Bingo, the building was in fact opened as a cinema in 1937. Just two years before the start of Second World War, it was officially opened by the owner at the time, Francis Bertram.

The cinema was open every day of the week except Wednesday’s and even showed films for children on Saturdays. The building survived the Second World War and even the 1953 floods which ravished Canvey and the south-east. Beyond the Point was able to get a tour of the building, which included taking a look at where many people would have sat to watch films and also the old projector room, which is now used for storage. Looking through the original hole in our photo below, you can see the newer and current ceiling at the bottom which is hiding the old cinema drape curtains at the far end and retro ceiling from the eyes of the bingo players. (Click on the images to view them larger.)

Posting her account on the Canvey Community Archive, Joyce Humphrey posted her memories of working at the cinema, aged 13.

As an usherette, one of my duties was to sell ice-cream in the intervals. During the Saturday afternoon children’s shows it was mayhem! This was due to the shortage of Ice Cream and Sweets during the war. Those dear children used to pull on the straps that hung from my ice cream tray; I was almost strangled at times!  So I resorted to carrying a ruler on my tray and to bring in down on those persistent knuckles! (not very ‘PC’ these days!) When I progressed to a projectionist at the cinema I often had to climb onto the flat roof, to put out incendiary bombs then hurry back in time to change the reel of the film so the show could continue (each reel took 20 minutes to run.) When the air raid warning sounded, I had to put a slide up onto the screen, telling the patrons “An air raid is in progress” and to tell them that if they wished to leave, to do so calmly and quietly, but the film would continue as usual. Not many people decided to leave (no doubt not wishing to face the shrapnel and bombs falling outside!)

Terry Buchanan also posted his memories on the archive and remembers being in there when it was announced that the war was over..

Just along from the Haystack was the cinema, and it was here that most of war news was exchanged. It was in this cinema that I first heard that the war had finished. The Chinese whisper became a shout: ‘It’s over, it’s over’. A jubilant audience flooded out onto the high street to join ecstatic promenade, whilst the celluloid Hollywood lovers were still locked in their black and white embrace, completely detached by the flickering light of the projector bulb from momentous point in history.

In 1976 the last film was shown before the building was converted into a social club, known as the ‘Canvey leisure Centre’. The first game of bingo was played at this time and when the building was sold in 1998 the current owners, Magestic Bingo Clubs, bought the site.