Posts Tagged ‘Thorney Bay Army Camp’

Lt. Col. Horace Percy Fielder could be considered the man to whom established Canvey as a residential area. A few decades before, at the turn of the century, Frederick Hester established Canvey as a tourist plotland area (read more here). However, Fielder could be considered the first to put Canvey on the map as a day to day residential ground – before, it’s population consisted mainly of retired individuals, tourists, or farmers. Now, it would become a place where the everyman could live.

Fielder’s Bunglows

The Canvey pioneer began his work by arranging the construction of similarly designed bungalows all over the Island, during the 1930s.  Although cheap in construction, they were considered of modern design at the time. Many remain to this day, either in original state – abandoned or still lived in, or heavily refurbished to the point where they are difficult to recognize. A giveaway feature is the slanted roofs which sometimes subtly change angle at the front, sometimes with original square roof tiles. The reason for the front side of the roof’s angle becoming more obtuse about half way down is because they were originally built with the roof slanting over a porch, with an air of American ranch house. Many of these porches were converted not long after into extensions of the house, being small as they are, but some remain intact. About half of the bungalows had such porches, the rest had straight sloping roofs which were longer on their right side as the building extended a extra room. Both examples can be seen in the 1933 photo below. Please note there were other variants, and were not an ‘exact science’.

Rainbow Avenue, a small road off Rainbow Road on Canvey, is a complete 1930s Fielder street. Many of the bungalows have been heavily modernised, others barely. It consists of ten Fielder bungalows.

Fielder's Canvey from a 1933 Guide

Fielder’s Canvey from a 1933 Guide

 Thorney Bay Holiday Camp

During the early Second World War, Fielder was posted at Canvey Fort – the sea defence battery and army camp at Thorney Bay. In May 1940, he lead Canvey troops to engage the Germans in Norway. At the time, he was Colonel of Canvey’s Territorial Army. After returning he furthered his pioneering prestige by established Thorney Bay Beach Camp amongst the wartime buildings remaining from the war, in the early 1950s. For example, the barrack huts were reused as accommodation, or halls. It drew many East End holiday-makers to Canvey up until the 1990s, many of which settled here. It still stands as the dubiously named ‘Thorney Bay Holiday Camp caravan site, whilst nearly all of the military buildings are long-since gone.

Whilst he also planned a promenade pier, to rival Southend as a seaside resort, these never came to fruition.

Fielder did however decide to crate a dam across part of Thorney Bay itself, allowing thirty acres of inland water to remain when the tide was out. This was successfully created, but has since been filled in as land, now home to a children’s park.

Born John Wilkinson, he changed his name to distinguish himself from the two other Johns in Dr. Feelgood. Recently, Joe and  I were privileged enough to be able to speak to Wilko Johnson; legendary guitarist and song-write. Starting of playing for Dr. Feelgood in its early, and most successful, days, he left in 1978 and soon joined Ian Dury and the Blockheads. In time, he also set up his own band, ‘The Wilko Johnson Band’. To this day, he performs with Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe from the Blockheads. He has certainly made up a huge part of Canvey Island and South-East Essex’s history and culture. Sadly, at the turn of 2013, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Despite having roughly until August or September until he feels any ill effects, Wilko has shown complete well-being and uncompromising energy, even at present. He recently played at the Village Green festival in Southend as a surprise appearance.

Thanks to Chris Fenwick and Robert Hoy, we were able to meet Wilko and discuss several aspects of his life which had not previously been enlightened during by his recent publicity. We asked him about his upbringing on Canvey Island, and he told us how the remains of the wartime gun battery at Thorney Bay Holiday Camp served as a child’s playground. He recalled one occasion in which he and some friends made a pipe bomb and set it in an old observation tower. He remembers scrambling down its rickety steps as the explosion went off, which was incredibly loud. When an approaching pair of adults arrived at the scene, he told them ‘What explosion?’ with the scene of a smoking, smoldering, tower clearly visible behind him.

The Dr. Feelgood logo, drawn by Wilko.

The Dr. Feelgood logo, drawn by Wilko.

Wilko attended Westcliff High School for Boys in 1958, and despite describing his time at school as ‘drab’ and becoming a void in his memory, he does remember seeing an electric guitar there for the first time in the flesh. He told us of how its intricacy was enough to inspire him to take an interest in getting one for himself. He also greatly enjoyed art during the Sixth Form, which inspired him to take up painting as a hobby through his life. One of the many things he did was designing the iconic Dr. Feelgood logo, depicting a dodgy doctor with an eagerness to over-prescribe drugs.

Wilko displays the painting of his former secondary school he was presented with.

Wilko displays the painting of his former secondary school he was presented with.

   We were also fortunate to receive an insight into the more advanced aspects of his guitar playing. The essence of his technique comes from Mick Green of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates. Whilst chopping up and down repetitively, with his right hand, he is able to mute the strings by gently touching them. He then inserts quick ‘stabs’ to a rhythm by quickly squeezing the guitar with a grip-like hold. This forms the rhythm guitar section of his songs. He then plays the lead guitar section at the same time by playing rapid riffs with his individual fingers, between the stabs, still chopping up and down with his right hand. This gives him his signature choppy sound, as if playing two guitar parts at once. He usually demonstrates this to those taking an interest in his guitar style. However, we asked him to show us how then played the more complex parts of songs, displaying some of the other cords he uses, and the riffs for his less-commonly demonstrated songs, such as ‘I Don’t Mind’ and ‘All Through the City’.

Another feature which characterizes his playing style is striking the string with his bare hand rather than a plectrum or ‘pick’. When asked about this, he told us how one his son (who plays for band ‘8 Rounds Rapid’) had played two gigs consecutively, and was terrified by the fact he’d reduced his fingertips to ‘mincemeat’ with the second concert still to be played.

Wilko thankfully allowed us to film the interview and guitar demonstration, which you can watch at the top of this article. Many thanks go to him for giving up his time for us.

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since our last post because we’ve been busy with the stall in which we made a satisfying profit on the day. We met loads of wonderful people and many people bought our Canvey Island Documentary DVD, including our local MP, Rebecca Harris. You can buy yours now, here!

After an hour or so of scanning an old Canvey guide book, the page by page images can be seen in the gallery below! Canvey was seen and promoted as a holiday spot quite thoroughly over the past century but particularly in the early 1900’s when a popular man, Frederick Hester, was on the scene. (Read more here) Hester spent hundreds trying to re-vamp England and extensively promote it to Londoner’s; a place where they could go to breath sea air. Hester started to build a pier (which was planned to be 3 stories and bigger than Southend pier) and of course the Winter Gardens Tram line. Hester Unfortuantly became bust though and later died in 1934. Below are the images of the booklet. Image 1 is page 1, Image 2 is page 2 e.t.c (Hover over the image to view what number!! Sorry they’re not in order, WordPress is being stupid!!)

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As well as these images I also have a few more delights with thanks to Shirley Gartshore! 😉 Below are images of the B17 Flying Fortress propeller which belonged to the plane which crashed at Canvey Point. You can read a very detailed account by Janet Penn here.

And now one last picture but this time a slightly different one. This photo below shows a crashed lorry but in the background on the right, we can see the Thorney Bay War defences from Tuesday 14th June 1977. If you zoom in and look just behind the lorry, you can see a long building which is the army huts in the Thorney Bay Camp. That’s all from me for now and expect a post by BTP Liam soon! I would like to ask please, for you support, in supporting myself in a competition that I recently entered. All you need to do is click the link here and watch the vid!

Tuesday 14th June 1977

Wow, a lot of tags!! “Canvey, our little Thames town” is probably going to be the most iconic BTP words that you’ll ever hear! On June 3rd 2012 Liam and I will be down the sea front as part of the Town Council Diamond Jubilee event. The event is  a giant picnic event, where everyone can bring a bite to eat, or visit the local food shops and sit down and listen to the band music play! With confirmation from the various choirs, it’s guaranteed to be a great day out for all the family! The event times are 1pm until 6pm and it’s being organised by the town council; Geraldine Vallis in particular. But wait…..it gets even better!! Beyond the Point will be there! We could say it in posh terms “Visit our exclusive one off, road show!!” We will be in the heritage marquee promoting the website and the work that we do with our own stall which will feature a selection of our top finds (including the Stephens Inks thermometer), our best pictures, and an exclusive DVD which can only be purchased there and then! For all of our budding BTP readers, you can keep an eye on our countdown to the left <<<

Canvey Island Documentary DVD by BeyondthePoint.co.uk

The DVD

With 20+ copies available, make sure you get one! Titled “Canvey Island – A comprehensive documentary” this documentary DVD will feature information, interviews and images from Canvey Island throughout the ages! This 1 hour (approx) DVD will be on sale for £4.99 and it has been filmed in full High Definition! We haven’t done any BTP visits over the past couple of months as we’ve been out every weekend filming this and this weekend will be the last, with Liam just needing to do a final interview! We’ve been all over the island and after hours of filming and editing it will finally be ready! You can view the trailer below! You can also keep up with us via Twitter and Facebook!

That’s all from us, make sure you visit us on the day!

Get your DVD!!

Hello all. Last weekend Joe and I visited Thorney Bay Army Camp again, and were pleased with our finds. You can see the previously covered surviving remains here http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/2011/12/13/thorney-bay-army-camp-remnants/ . This time we ventured into the camp and found another magazine (ammunition store_ like the one from last time. This one had metal grates over the holes in the walls, and one wall was painted white – it was in use as an electrics building or something similar.

Magazine

And we also found the hexagonal indentations in the sea wall. Pillboxes originally used to be here – when the wall was built/upgraded to the one we know it today in the 70s and 80s, these pillboxes were so tough their concrete couldn’t be easily destroyed. Instead the foundations of the wall were built around the buried pillbox (most remain embedded under the seawall today).

Courtesy of Canvey Archive (canveyisland.org)

Next up are some pictures I found over at the formidable resource ‘SEAX’ at http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk. This site featuresa map with literally the exact location of every Roman coin, old boat, or WW2 pillbox throughout Essex, along with pictures for a few of them. I found these incredible pictures (http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk/uep/custom_pages/monument_detail.asp?content_page_id=89&monument_id=23615&content_parents=48,61,79) which I don’t think have really passed anyone’s attention before, and were taken in the 1990s by Fred Nash, an owner of the site. They show colour pictures of the remains of the camp in the final days – here are a select few:

Troop Housing

A sad sight - a probable pillbox

PLEASE LOOK AWAY NOW
A pillbox gets its head smashed - half a loop-hole can be seen

A probable underground air-raid shelter for the camp - my dad remembers this in the 70s

Excellent, although painful to watch, pictures. For all the pictures from our trip go here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.370837339605136.85073.238743826147822&type=3

And for our mini-documentary on it, visit here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzU0R67J9hM

 

In the 1940s US and Canadian troops would train and live in England before the D-Day invasions of France, to shorten the journey time/make the assault more effective. This was the main purpose of ‘army camps’ in the Second World War throughout England, and not to house British troops as many may think. Many army camps, however, were built to house those stationed at sea or air defence gun aites nearby. Thorney Bay army camp would have been used to house the British soldiers who would fire/work at the Scars Elbow Sea Defenses (see http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/2011/10/27/scars-elbow-sea-defences-rare-picture/).

I and BTP Joe have passed the area twice, and do promise to return for a thorough investigation. On each of the two quick visits, we have found a total of three remains. The first below is the ‘magazine’ (ammunition storage building). It still had the iron doors attached and several slits to presumably let in light, not to fire out of, as this was not a defensive building. Inside it looked like nothing but a homeless person had taken shelter, due to the several mattresses e.t.c.

The next find is simply a concrete base which was left when the earth was built up around the sea wall in the 1970s/80s. This would be where the ‘tower’ was from the camp. We now know that this the remains of an entrance to an underground area for pipes area built in the 60s as the sluice connected to Anglian Water (search the site for more info). My father remembers seeing this entrance amongst undergrowth as a child.

The final find was from our second trip, and used to have this building next to it (photo courtesy of Dave Bullock)

Long lost to 2009

Here it is, the very nice rusty looking telephone cable pole. This was attached to the communications building seen above, but was demolished in 2009 before we were into this hobby. It is an excellent landmark and reminder of the area’s proud past.

Finally, I would love to wish you all a Merry BtP Christmas, and announce that a Christmas Eve treat is to be released on Beyond the Point, being an interactive entirely new feature…