Pioneer Plot Owners
Early Settlers' Experiences.
“You might well imagine yourself in South Africa, or on the prairie land of America,” was the remark of an experienced builder, who had been brought to the Island in reference to the erection of one of the first bungalows.
The speaker had had considerable experience in “roughing it,” having seen service in the Crimean War. “How wild it all seems, and yet this very wildness is its charm.” Now, stumbling against a mole hill hidden in the tall grass, anon brushing the hand against a clump of thistles, as the sun was setting in an autumn calm and the evening mists were gathering, ” It seems as if you were very far from London, yet in reality you are so near.”
It was in the autumn of 1901 that a settler upon Canvey, wishing to utilise his plots and bungalow, essayed to remove the furniture necessary to his comfortable residence. Not having taken into account the state of the tide, upon their arrival they found their further progress barred at the creek at Benfleet; it was nearly midnight and the nights were strikingly cold. There was no help but to make the best of it and wait, so these travellers lit a fire by the ferry and with the van drawn alongside warmed themselves or pacing impatiently to and fro, waited for the falling tide to allow them to proceed.
Chain Horse Disappears.
Bad as it may seem to travellers to cross the Island to-day, in those days when once off the Loudon road it was no mean task to take a load to any particular plot over a field. On one occasion a chain horse had been secured and attached to a van for assistance. “All shoulders to the wheel,” and a whip-up to the horses to get out of a rut, and a snap is heard, and the leader’s traces break, and the horse disappears in the fog that has gathered thickly, he, however, was found later on quite uninjured, although he had wandered into a dyke.
Lost On An Islet.
One of the most pathetic incidents to record was the hunt for home on a dark moonless night. A settler and his wife had paid a visit to some friends in another bungalow and left somewhat late. It was easy enough to follow the course of the London Road, but having passed through the gateway waist-deep in the grass, with dense darkness around, any direction taken is the merest guesswork—failing now to find the place of residence, with the known possibility of stepping any moment into the dyke which surrounded the estate, our readers can well imagine the plight of husband and wife hand-in-hand (not unlike the babes in the wood) lost on Canvey Island. The husband, stick in hand, warily prodding every foot of the way, the lady alarmed anon at the t-r-r-a-r of a frightened partridge rising from the ground, they eventually come upon something looming in the darkness resembling the much sought residence, when, alas, alas! closer inspection reveals instead a haystack. Notwithstanding this disappointment and knowing the angle the bungalow stands at in relation to the stack, they set out again bold and brave, and succeed.
Lady’s Fight With Cattle.
Paled into comparative insignificance is the foregoing incident in the light of a lady’s experience when cattle still grazed upon the un-fenced plots. An owner and wife occupied their bungalow as soon as finished but before the fencing had been erected around it. Great, however, was the lady’s surprise when sweeping out one morning she saw a young bull only a few yards from the steps of the front door, pawing the ground and staring at her the while. To the lady now left alone to defend hearth and home it seemed a case for immediate action, so suiting the action to the thought a pail of water was thrown forthwith in the direction of the un flinching animal; this was followed immediately by the empty pail—both it may be said fell short of the intended object. Finally, as a last resource, the broom was picked up and hurled at the big bold creature with all the force at the lady’s command, who thereupon with hastening flight ascended the steps entered the bungalow, slammed the door and awaited results with bated breath. The bull, after waiting awhile and wondering at the meaning of this strange conduct, went on grazing unconcernedly again and gradually wandered away.
To the reader whose knowledge of Canvey is of recent date, it will be apparent by the foregoing experiences that in the space of three years only marked progress has been made in the direction of greater comfort and convenience.