Gleanings from old Essex Countryside magazines.

Courtesy of Essex Countryside February 1969.

The Lobstersmack Inn and the Coastguards hut 1895
Richard & Barbara Kovelant

The Lobster Smack

The historic Lobster Smack inn, sheltering against the seawall on Canvey Island and featured by Glyn H. Morgan in his Thameside tavern article in your November issue, played its part in a River Thames mystery.

Dutch eel boats arriving in the Thames invariably dropped anchor off the Canvey island coast to permit crews to row ashore and spend convivial hours at the Lobster Smack, talking and singing in their own language.

Then they would proceed to an anchorage off the eastern end of Billingsgate which, dating from before 1585, two Dutch eel boats had a right to occupy, the crews living on board at their moorings, and were periodically replaced by two newly arrived boats from Holland. This custom prevailed until, it is thought, some years previous to World War II.

Why this strange mooring right was originally granted remains a mystery, there being at least four theories, one claiming that the Dutch were granted the right always to enjoy a free and permanent mooring in the Thames as a result of a peace treaty signed in the seventeenth century following the war between the Netherlands and this country. It was during this war that a party of Dutch sailors landed on Canvey Island and caused serious damage, the intruders later being punished.

However, the above theory is seemingly proved wrong, the Dutch fishermen enjoying free anchorage a century earlier according to City of London records. Another theory is that when Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) was imprisoned in the Tower of London, Dutchmen arriving in the eel boats near Billingsgate sent the princess dishes of eels to make prison life more bearable.

Visits of the Dutch eel-boat crews to the Lobster Smack inn are clearly recalled by some islanders.

Wilfred Davis                      Canvey Island

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