Canvey in Art

Do you know the artist?

Does anyone recognise the name C.L. Shayes?

In an effort to trace local artists from the past, especially those who illustrated local scenes, I had been told about Harry (Jack) Russell, one of a ‘bohemian’ group of settlers who apparently lived on a houseboat in Benfleet Creek. A mark of recognition, I was told, was that his work always featured the Chapman Lighthouse in the background. I managed to speak to one of his sons, Simon Russell, and there may be more information forthcoming.

Then Graham Stevens produced two paintings from his attic, one of which shows the Chapman Light. They’re obviously a pair, day and night near Canvey Point. Alas, the curly signature is difficult to decipher, but may well read C.L. Shayes. I may be wrong. Both are signed, but the moonscape is also signed on the back.

The moonscape includes the Chapman Lighthouse and possibly a bawley? The pencil inscription on the back of the wooden stretcher reads: ‘Original Oil Painting Chapman Light Canvey’.

The sun scene has been damaged and repaired with a sticky plaster on the back. It depicts a Thames barge in the foreground and carries the message ‘Original Oil Painting Leigh Beck Canvey Point by Shayes’ in faint pencil on the back. Can anyone elaborate on that information?

(Thanks to Graham for the loan of the paintings.)


I have recently been in touch with Cyril Shayes, grandson of C.L. Shayes, who now lives in Norfolk. His father and grandfather (the artist) moved to Canvey from Leytonstone in the early 1900s. They lived in a house by Canvey Point, ‘round about where the buses turn, past the Jellico and near the Junior School’. The name of the house was ‘Roquest’, it was circular and made of corrugated iron.

He has a picture by his grandfather hanging on his wall. When the low evening sun shines through the west window it simply glows, he told me. The Royal Flying Club shot down a Zeppelin in 1916. C.L. Shayes later painted it from memory. Martin Shayes, great-grandson of the artist is presently at sea. On his return we may get an image of the painting.

William Mecham, under the artistic pseudonym Tom Merry, illustrated ‘The History of Canvey Island and Surrounding Neighbourhood’, an advertising venue for Frederick Hester and his son in 1902. Author was Augustus A. Daly. Tom Merry’s drawings show an enhanced view of the area and its amenities, but they are nonetheless a valuable visual archive of the time. We have, for instance, a record of the steamer SS ‘Benmohr’, partially submerged, which ran aground on Canvey on 6th February 1902, the source of all those cement barrels that occasionally can still be found on the island and its shore. Tom Merry was not able to finish the assignment. He died suddenly at Benfleet Railway Station on 21st August that same year. He was 49 years of age. The last five cartoons in the booklet are by J. James Proctor.

We already know about Paul Smyth, there is a connection to his work with his story on his site. We have also become familiar with the 1895 photographs by W. Mawer, thanks to the generosity of Richard and Barbara Kovelant of Annapolis, Maryland, USA.

But does anyone have information on May Bettany, who came to South Benfleet in 1938 and produced her iconographic black-and-white pen drawings and sketches up to the time of her death at 83?

Iris Sugg, neé Knightley, who was born in Benfleet in her parents’ newsagents between the Anchor and the churchyard, has produced colourful paintings of Benfleet as it used to be.

While on early postcards the Well at the centre of ‘the village’ was a favoured view, artists seem to have been attracted by the Chapman Lighthouse. Dave Bullock has just added this evocative image, which belongs to friends from Suffolk, the Windells. Are they bawleys that ride before the wind, towards that strange cloud and its ghostly tentacles? The artist is George Berry. Is there a story attached to it, Dave? Do we know the artist? How did the picture get to Suffolk?

P.S.: On the subject of Harry (Jack) Russell and his Chapman Lighthouse paintings it has just come to my notice that one of his works can actually be found at Canvey Library – in a back room.
If you know of any others, please let us know.

Comments about this page

  • Does anyone remember an artist named Mr S.H.Hancock. I have just come across a picture which was printed in a local paper of my old family home a bungalow on the corner of Northfalls Road and Springfield Road, Leigh Beck. The property was called “Glenroy”. it was owned originally by my Grandfather Edward Bones about 1945 and then my Mum and Dad Stella and Sidney Bones in the early 50’s. In the article which incidentally I don’t have the date, it said the painting was found in the “Point of View Cafe” Leigh Beck. Does this bring back any memories for anyone?

    By Barbara Roycroft (02/10/2008)
  • My mother who you mention in your article knew May Bettany well. Mum can remember May setting up her board & easel in the roads around Benfleet where she would either paint in watercolours or sketch in black and white. May’s son Angus still lives in Leigh on Sea. Margeret Stoneham lives next door to Mum in St Mary’s Road and is a good friend of Anthony’s.

    By Iris Sugg (16/08/2009)
  • I am another of the sons of Harry Russell, an artist who was born on Canvey Island, lived in Benfleet, part of the time in a houseboat.
    In honour of my father, and as a kind of memorial, shortly after his death in 1992, I completed a CD hyperdocument (a tiny website on a CD, which can be viewed by any browser) containing his pictures, paintings, sketches and essays, many of which are about Canvey and the Thames.
    He was a member of the River Thames Society, so they will have more about him I am sure. He also belonged for many years to the Hadleigh Art Club.

    If the editors of this site would like to have a copy of the CD and use any of the items on it, I would be pleased to mail it. It´s about 330Mbytes, so would be a bit hefty to email as an attachment.
    The editors would be free to use any item they wish, or not !. The copyright is probably mine, but I have no problems in granting freedom to copy.

    If anyone can lay hands on any of his other works not on the CD, then if they can organise a digital version of that picture or work, I would be happy to contemplate an update .

    If anyone else would like other photos of the great man, I have a few and would be happy to provide them.

    To my knowledge he was never known as “Jack”, in spite of the surname, except perhaps by a few shady characters at the Anchor pub in Benfleet !

    David P Russell

    By David Russell (17/09/2009)
  • Hi, David P. Russell,
    First of all many thanks for putting your father’s work on the site. One can see where the comment came from that he always had the Canvey lighthouse in his pictures. He really was a ‘local’ artist. And you may well be right about the shady characters from the Anchor.
    When I first got in touch with your brother he mentioned he had a brother who had done something already. It is a great addition to the site and shows many interesting sides to your father. He may well have been of the ‘primitive’ persuasion, but his work and his writings underline a great love and affinity for the area.
    Which brings me to another request. Following in the footsteps of this most successful community website others are planned, South Benfleet and Hadleigh/Thundesley among them. As your father lived on the creek and had connections to both Benfleet and Hadleigh, it would be great to add him to those new archival sites as well, when they materialise next year. We have seen pictures of the former, but has he painted Hadleigh as well?
    Thanks again.
    Robert Hallmann

    By Robert Hallmann (29/11/2009)
  • I have a painting by S H Hancock which was given to my father and has since passed to me. It’s a dawn (or sunset) study and looks quite accomplished. As my father was in the Post Office all his life, I can believe what he told me which was that S H Hancock was known as “The Painting Postman”. That’s all I know and was pleased to see a reference when google turned up this site.

    By Paul Cloutman (04/02/2010)
  • Hi, Paul Cloutman, If S.H. Hancock was ‘The Painting Postman’, there ought to be some reference somewhere. Thanks for your message. Did your father have a connection to the island? Perhaps you could add a picture of your inheritance? That would be interesting. Perhaps, if the suggested Canvey Art Trail or Festival ever becomes reality, it could be displayed together with other Canvey artists’ work? Robert Hallmann

    By Robert Hallmann (08/02/2010)
  • Charles L. Shayes was my late husband’s grandfather. He lived and worked in Leytonstone as a picture frame maker and artist. I believe he moved to the island in about 1920 and lived in a hexagonal? shaped house called ‘Estoe’ in Leigh Beck. I have 2 pictures which are similar in subject matter to the ones you show. They were lent to the Dutch Cottage Museum for an exhibition in the late 60s – early seventies. I remember my husband saying that there were others displayed, at one time, in some of the little seafront arches in Southend – but we were never able to trace any of them. His son, also Charles, moved to the island in 1923 and, for a while, ran a shop in, or near Thelma Ave. They sold water from a stand pipe amongst other things. He and his wife brought up a large family of 2 boys and 6 girls and for a while lived in Creek House not far from what is now the entrance to King’s Residential Park.

    By Janice Shayes (19/06/2010)
  • Hi Janice, I’m really pleased that you’ve discovered this page on the Archive site and thanks for your information about Charles.L.Shayes, as soon as Robert pointed out the signature to me I had a strong feeling there was a connection to your late husband’s family.

    Although the paintings spent some time in my loft they were survivors from my Dad’s collection of Canvey memorobilia and were ornately framed, unfortunately the frames had seen better days and were full of woodworm. However, thanks to Robert’s efforts the paintings present a much brighter image when scanned than the originals.

    Just this week, thanks to the kindness of George Chambers, I’ve obtained copies of two more paintings by Charlie Shayes of Island Farm and when added to the already published picture of Furtherwick Farm by the same artist they will hopefully be in the Art section of the archive as a group.


    By Graham Stevens (02/07/2010)
  • I have a painting of a Thames barge in very light airs. It is a watercolo and to my eye appears extremely well done. It is signed S H Wood. Has anyone any ideas about this artist as I cannot track him down

    By ken tyrrell (23/06/2012)

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