The Rochford Hundred
By Philip Benton 1867
Note:Before you read the transcription about Canvey Island from the Rochford Hundred you should be aware that Canvey Island at the time this was written (1867) was not a parish in its own right it was divided between North and South Benfleet, Bowers Gifford, Laindon, Pitsea, Vange, Prittlewell, Southchurch, and Hadleigh and run by those parishes. Therefore any mention of parishes within this text is relating to land on Canvey Island not to the parishes on the mainland.
Norden’s map—drainage by dutchmen, and the origin of the third-acre lands—former unhealthiness— notices of estates, their owners, and nature of the soil—law suits—the chapel—and memoirs of the dutch presbyterians.
CANVEY ISLAND contains about 4000 acres of land, chiefly arable. It lies opposite South Bemfleet and Hadleigh, and is separated from the main land by Hadleigh Ray, and East Haven and Bemfleet creeks. It is about five miles in length and two in breadth. Of itself it is no parish, but pays tithes to the following nine parishes—North and South Bemfleet, Bowers Gifford, Laindon, Pitsea, Vange, and to three parishes in Rochford Hundred— Prittlewell, Southchurch, and Hadleigh. Camden supposes this Island to be the Convennos mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geography, wherein is a map showing two Islands stretching more to the eastward, than the land at present. In Norden’s map executed by him in 1594, Canvey is laid down as some half dozen Islands, called ” Canuey Ilandes,” which are represented as extending beyond “Southchurche ” church; and in a map published by Sudbury and Humble in 1608, the six Islands remain, but they extend no farther than Crow Stone.
Some have supposed that this Island was undrained until many years after the Romans had evacuated Britain. Be this as it may, at the east point, quantities of pottery of that nation have been found, possibly thrown up by the tide. There are several interior walls now visible, marking different inclosures, stretching from the waterside farm to the eastern point, but it appears to have been very insufficiently drained until Sir Henry Appleton (the future cavalier) and others, then owners of the lands, agreed by deed, dated 9th April, 1622, to give one third of the lands, in fee simple, to Joas Croppenburgh, a Dutchman, in consideration of his sufficiently “inning” and recovering the Island, then usually overflowed at every spring tide, at his own costs and charges. This agreement was by consent, made a decree of the court of Chancery in 1622-3, and these lands at the present day are subject to the repair of the sea walls.
It appears to have suffered occasionally at different periods from the tide breaking through, notwithstanding the labors of the Dutch. According to a memorandum in the register book (about 1715) it suffered very much; and again, in 1735—6, when about half the cattle were drowned, and Morant relates the preservation of a cow and five hogs, then happening to stand on a dunghill, which were carried with it nearly a mile, over a deep creek, and were prevented from drowning, by their support being stopped by a high bank. The highest ground is near the chapel, where stock used to be driven when in danger.
The Island was much improved through the exertions and example of the late Mr. Hilton, of Danbury, which were the means of recovering 10 acres in every hundred from the waste; the gutters and sluices being laid from four to six feet lower than they were seventy years ago. The salubrity of the Island is much improved owing to this, and the Artesian Wells, of which there are about seven, which average about 250 feet in depth, the water from all occasionally flowing over the surface. The water at Charles Asplin’s farm, called Brick House, is conveyed in iron pipes to several of the grazing marshes, the flow of water being regulated by stop cocks; in one instance it is conveyed 80 rods, and the system well merits an inspection. Canvey formerly was shunned for its unhealthiness; an old writer tells us of old bailiffs, who being seasoned and acclimatized, had married in some instances from four to six wives. The custom was to select young fresh blooming lasses from the uplands, who soon sickened, and succumbed to the influences of the malaria. Norden speaks of low places about the creeks in the Hundred, which gave him a “moste cruell quarterne feuer,” but he adds “The manie and sweete comodeties counteruayle the daunger.” He tells us this Island is “onlie conuerted to the feeding of ews, which men milke, and thereof make cheese (suche as it is), and of the curdes of the whey they make butter once in the yeare, Wch serueth the clothier.” Camden was also witness of the milking, and cheesemaking, and notices the “little dairy houses, called wickes.”
The most ancient possessor of lands here upon record, was Edward Baker, Esq., who in 1543, held under Nicolas Wentworth several marshes. In 1557 Sir Roger Appleton, knight, held lands, and likewise his great grandson, Henry Appleton, Esq., in 1604. In fact, nearly the whole Island, called “Candy” alias Canvey, belonged to the Appletons, together with the feedings, fishing, and water courses surrounding it, ( cum omnibus juribus). Shorman or Sporman marsh belonging to the last named, was formerly the property of one Latham, gentleman. Sir Henry, the encloser, has already been mentioned. The daughters of William Lukyn possessed two salt marshes, held of the honor of Rayleigh, called Langdowne Wyck and Lynward, and paid yearly a quit rent of 2s. and 2d. This was in the reign of Elizabeth.
“Antletts” otherwise “Antleach” (called Brick House) and Sauldry marshes lying in Pitsea and South Bemfleet were owned by John Fell in 1749. One of this family sold the property to Major General Sir James Charles Dalbiac, K.C.B., who resold it to Jonathan Wood. Upon the latter gentleman’s death in 1860, it was sold by the trustees under the will, and bought by Charles Asplin, of Tilbury Place. Upon this farm is a marsh call gay marsh, from the prevalence of the Lathyrus Tuberosus a plant which it seems impossible to eradicate. It has a flower like the everlasting pea, with a bulb at the root, which is edible, and is said to have been introduced by the Dutch.
“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).
“Little Brick House,” in North Bemfleet and Prittlewell, purchased likewise by Mr. Wood, of the Colonel, was sold by his trustees, and bought by William Kynaston of Gresham Street, London. CoL William Brewse Kersteman, said to have been of Somersetshire, but who resided at one time in Devonshire, and married at Colchester, was a collateral relation of Colonel Kersteraan, of Loftmans. His mother was a Miss Brewse.
“Fartherwicke” and “Chaffletts” were formerly the property of James Holbrook, of Tottenham, and afterwards of his sister, Mrs. Wakelin, of Tottenham. They were long in the Wood family as lessees; the latter for about a century. They belong now to Alfred and Charles Layard. The house and buildings upon Chaffletts were consumed by fire about 80 years ago, during its occupation by the Wood family.
“Russells,” and other marsh lands adjoining were purchased by Henry Wood (father of the above-named Jonathan Wood), of Colonel W. Brewse Kersteman.
The “Waterside” farm, part in Hadleigh, and the rest, together with the house, in South Bemfleet, belongs to the Dean and Chapter of St. Pauls : William Hilton, of Danbury, was formerly lessee, and it is now in the tenure of his son, George Hilton of Flemings, in Runwell. Henry Wood occupied it about 60 years ago, and during his tenancy a fire consumed everything but the house. Being uninsured his neighbours subscribed most liberally to mitigate his loss; and, to his honor be it said, he afterwards insisted upon restoration, when fortune again smiled upon him.
“Knights Wick,” situated in North Bemfleet and Hadleigh, formerly the property of William Hilton, of Danbury, is now owned by his descendants.
“Monks Wick,” is owned by the Dean and Chapter of St. Pauls : George Hilton is lessee. It is situated in South Bemfleet.
“Small Gains,” in Hadleigh and Prittlewell, comprises what is called in old deeds “Low Marsh,” with the addition of land bought of Richard Harrison. It is owned by Daniel Nash.
“Sluice” farm, partly in South Bemfleet, belongs to J. A. Nash, of Berkshire.
“Hill Hall” farm in the parish of Laindon, is situated near the chapel. It formerly was Thirlwall’s, successor to Powley, rector of Bower’s Gifford.
“Dutch Church” farm, all grass, in Laindon and North Bemfleet, belongs to Henry Mew.
“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.
“Kibcaps,” “Lovens,” “Scar House,” and “North Wick,” belong to the Hilton family.
“The Sixty Acres Farm” belongs to Major Spitty.
“Leigh Beck “ was formerly the property of Henry Comyns Berkeley, of Lincolns-Inn-Fields, of whom it was purchased by Henry Wood of Hadleigh Park, in whose family it continues.
“Chimnies,” in Bowers parish, belongs to the family of Hilton.
“Rack Hall” alias “Wreck Hall “ alias ” Southchurch Marsh,” in the parish of Southchurch, situate at the south-east side of the Island (formerly consisting of 40 acres), is all third-acre land. It was originally purchased by Ralph Robinson, of Horndon (circa 1770), for 100 guineas. This was resold in 1815 at the Bell Inn, Horndon-on-the-Hill, by William Jeffries, to the grandfather of the present proprietor, Daniel Nash, for £1300. The family had made up their minds to let it go for £800, but the company being stimulated by a copious circulation of sherry, and a competition springing up between Nash and Wilson of Rochford Hall, the result was as above stated.
When the purchase money was paid at the Lion Inn, Rayleigh, (then kept by Whitham), to Jeffries and Charles Robinson (now of Horndon), it was deposited in the boots of the recipients, for fear of footpads. The farm took the name of “Wreck Hall” from the circumstance of Ralph Robinson purchasing of the underwriters, the wreck of the Ajax (which was driven on shore opposite “Burgess House” at South Shoebury), and applying the timbers to the construction of the premises. The Robinson family at that time inhabited Burgess House, whither the present Charles (now in extreme old age) was removed when six weeks old, from Southend in a chest of drawers.
At the south-west corner of the Island is a farm, lying in the parish of Prittlewell, all third-acre land, which was sold by George Robins to Shorter, of Spitalfields for £250. This afterwards became the property of George Bullas, and was sold in 1863 for £2500. There are 96 acres inside the walls, and about 50 acres of saltings. This now belongs to Pitchford.
The road to Canvey Island through South Bemfleet, was originally over the downs, above the school through Suttons, but it was diverted to its present route upon application to the court of quarter session about the year 1830.
The soil of the Island is heavy, but good corn land, and the arable portion is all laid up in beds, from three to four rods in width. The roads, which are excellent, are kept in repair by the different parishes in which they are situated. The office of marsh bailiff has been in the Wellard family for seventy-two years. He acts under the direction of the commissioners.
Some years ago, before the settlement of the tithe question, various law-suits took place in consequence of brown mustard being grown with cereals, such as beans and wheat, the grower claiming the right of rubbing the mustard out of the tithe trave, which was established in his favour, after three trials. Whilst this question was in progress of settlement, the stacks entirely rotted.
A timber chapel was built here for the use of the Dutch inhabitants employed in draining the isle. The site of this and its successors is in laindon parish. ” Burn’s History of the Foreign Protestant Refugee Churches,” gives a brief account of this chapel and congregation. They were Dutch Presbyterians, who came over with Croppenburgh in 1622. No trace of them can be found from this date to 1641, when they were represented on the 3rd of September in that year, at the Synod held in London by their minister, Mr. Cornelius Jacobsen, and their elder, Mr. Peter Priem. At the Synod in 1644 they were represented by their minister, Mr. Abraham Busk; and in 1647 by their minister, Mr. Daniel Katelar. In 1655 the following persons held the offices of elders, deacons, &c.:—Anthonius Dierickson, Peter Priem, Gilles Van Belle, Stephen de Kien; and a paper dated 2nd September, 1655, is signed by
Jau Van Ghent Brnygghe
Adrian Vander Biest
Andrew de Clerok
Jan de Vos
Jan de Schildeze
&c., &c., &o.
The chapel referred to having fallen into decay, another was built for service according to the rites of the Church of England, at the charge of Mr. Edgar, an officer in the victualling office, and consecrated the 11th June, 1712, as appears from an entry in the South Bemflete registers, and dedicated to S. Katherine. Salmon says this ceremony was performed by the Bishop of London. This edifice fell down, and another was erected (circa 1745) partly by a contribution of the inhabitants, but chiefly from a benefaction of Daniel Scratton, of Prittlewell, who gave part of the tithes to trustees, to pay ten pounds a year to the vicar of Prittlewell, the better to enable him to perform divine service here, and ten pounds a year more to the minister, duly appointed, to preach twenty sermons. These services were chiefly performed in the summer months, or when weather permitted. At that period about £17 a year was received by the minister from the incumbents of the nine parishes who received tithes out of the place. The income of the curate until a recent period, from all sources, amounted to about £75 per annum; but this has been augmented by the statute 29th and 30th Vict., cap. Ill, with the additional sum of, £80 per annum. There are six acres three roods and one pole of land in Hawkwell parish belonging to the incumbent: this was purchased for the sum of £600, granted by Queen Anne’s bounty. The right of way to this property is through Mr. Holt-White’s land, of whose ancestor it was purchased. The price paid for it seems to have been far beyond its value, and the money most injudiciously expended.
The chapel was again nearly re-built in 1849 by contributions, during the incumbency of the Reverend W. C. R. Ray, who relinquished it upon being appointed vicar of Eastwood. The perpetual curacy, which is in the patronage of the Bishop of Rochester, was then accepted by the late lamented John Aubone Cook; and is now held by the Reverend T. J. Henderson, the vicar of South Bemfleet. The chapel has the peculiarity of having windows secured by outside shutters. Service is now regularly performed every Sunday. The seats are open and unappropriated, except one, which is set apart for the officer and men under him of the preventive service; there being a station on the Island for nine men, an officer, and a chief boatman. Formerly there were no separate register books for Canvey Island, but entries were made in those of South Bemfleet and neighbouring parishes. Marriages took place in this chapel in 1749, when Thomas Hanson and Jane Greenaway were united, and other parties in 1754.
The Island, 70 years ago, was a noted place for smuggling.