The object of the fund, the Dutch Cottage at the top of Haven Road, is an octagonal-shaped, thatched-roof, double-storied building. It was given to the old Canvey Island Urban District Council by the Cockle family.
Originally there were three such buildings. One, now a museum and made available for public use, staffed by Benfleet and District Historical Society, is further down Canvey Road. The second, along Northwick Road, was burned down many years ago. The third is at the Village.
It has always been presumed they were built for the Dutch workers who erected the sea wall in the seventeenth century. However, the reason for their peculiar eight-sided shape is still the subject of guesswork.
They are unknown in Holland. When I was there I spoke to many people who assured me they had never heard of them before. They are not unknown, though, in other parts of Essex.
Two ideas for their origin have been put forward. One is that because Canvey was so flat and undeveloped they were built like that to avoid the ravages of high winds. All I can say is that similar buildings in other parts of the county would not, even in days gone by, have been subject to such conditions.
The other supposition is that they were built in this fashion to prevent evil spirits getting in. This could be so; one just doesn’t know.
What is true is that they have seen a tremendous amount of Canvey’s history go by their front door, particularly the Haven Road one.
I am indebted to Mr. John Peters, who has turned up some very interesting details from the 1840 Tithe Map. It concerns the Haven Road area.
Canvey, at that time, came under mainland parishes, and that particular part was under Pitsea. The cottage and garden were owned by William Cross and occupier was James Palmer.
The only building opposite came under apportionment number 219 and was a house and garden. Owner was William Hilton and it was occupied by Samuel Smith.
On the north (King Canute) side of Canvey Road was apportionment No. 218, a homestead owned by Henry Wood and occupied by James Wellard. The land at the back (apportionment 215-217) was arable and came under the same ownership and occupation as the homestead.
So until very recent days the building was lived in. Its beautiful thatched roof was maintained with wire netting to prevent birds from making nests there.
That the architectural style is a popular one is proved by the fact that in the thirties replicas were erected, notably in Beechcroft Road and off Leigh Road.
Whatever the reason for the initial design, it has survived over the centuries and we must rrake sure the original template does likewise.