How Old Is Old?

The Dutch Cottage Appeal 1974

The Dutch Cottage in its heyday

At the turn of the century Canvey Village was literally the centrepiece of the Island.

In the middle of Haven Road stood the old thatched village pump. It provided the only large quantities of drinking water for the Island in those times.

Horse-drawn water carts drew their contents there and my late mother (Mrs. H. V. McCave) was one of those who went to get supplies — and she lived at Leigh Beck at that time.

Opposite was the Red Cow (rebuilt in the thirties — it became the King Canute after the 1953 flood). At each arm of Haven Road were shops — the trading life of a small agricultural community.

And with them was one of Canvey’s two remaining Dutch cottages.

Further along Haven Road, on the left-hand side, was the Vicarage with the vicar’s glebe land. Down the chalk-white centuries-old road was the sea, with the Lobster Smack crouched — as it will remain unless the Anglian Water Authority’s new sea wall scheme shifts it — hump-backed into the very sea barrier itself.

Back at the top of the road, and leading towards Benfleet, was the heart of the Island’s religious life. Proud St. Katherine’s Church stood, as it does still, with its graveyard — long lines of ordered grass, carefully tended, the dead sleeping hard-by the community life they had loved so well.

Opposite was the Church of England School (unfortunately a fire victim in later years).

Until recent years much of this heritage remained. It was a crying shame that when Haven Road was rebuilt the Village Pump (then in honourable retirement) should be demolished and lost for ever — except in old postcards and reminders of it in miniature form at Canvey’s seafront model village.

To repeat the heading of this article: How old is old ? I reprint from my guide book, “Captivating Canvey” (dated 1953), a mere twenty-one years ago — a period so infinitesimal in the vast expanse of time itself that it is impossible to visualise. Read it slowly and see how much of it remains true today.

The Vicarage has been transferred elsewhere, the village school is no more; the Lobster Smack may well be moved, the old coastguard hut is in virtual ruin. The visitor may well, at some difficulty, walk to Benfleet, but he would form a different impression now of those former butterfly-haunted, bird-thronged fields.

Another view of the Dutch Cottage at Canvey Village late 1920s

Of the Dutch cottages one is well preserved — the fight for the other still goes on.

The Point still remains, thank goodness, although that, too, may be threatened by the new wall works. The Chapman Lighthouse ? — A mariner’s memory.

Winter Gardens is in the midst of development. The Mission Hall and the Ratepayers’ Association are the only remaining parts of it referred to in the article.

Take yourself on another two decades — and see if you want to say: “I remember twenty-one years ago there used to be a Dutch Cottage in Haven Road — I wonder what on earth happened to it?”

Exploring Canvey

To those who enjoy a pleasant ramble, Canvey offers unrivalled opportunities. The old and new, the past and present await the traveller.

Originally the only shopping centre on the Island, Canvey Village is well worth a visit. It can be reached by bus from any part of Canvey. Rushes have been found in the wall of one of the shops, and in the centre, now marked by a brass plate, was the Village Pump. The Vicarage is in Haven Road and the Parish Church within easy reach. Opposite the latter is the old church school, now the village hall.

A bus to Canvey Village and then a walk down Hole Haven Road will bring the traveller to the sea wall and the Lobster Smack Inn, one of the Island’s most historic buildings. Situated on the side of the wall is the old coastguard hut from which a good view of Thames Haven can be had.

The two Dutch cottages are survivals of the Dutch occupation of the Island (a third at Northwick was burnt down many years ago), one at the Village, dated 1G21, the second (south-east of Hill Hall) reached by travelling to Northwick Corner. This is dated 1618 and, like the one at the Village, is also thatched.

The Point can be reached from Leigh Beck and in summer is a blaze of marsh lavender. Many examples of wild life can be seen.

The Chapman Lighthouse in the Thames Estuary lies 800 yards from the shore due south-west and can be viewed from the wall or approached from the shore at low tide. It was opened in 1851.

Canvey as it used to be can be seen in all its beauty in Winter Gardens. Here may be heard and occasionally seen many varieties of bird life, and the back creek can be advantageously explored. A separate community almost, the area has its own mission hall, club, general stores and ratepayers’ association. Residents are keen horticulturists. Access can be obtained down New Road or from either end of the concrete path which runs from Lakeside Corner to Waterside Farm.

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