Don't Feed The Chimpanzee

Leigh Beck

It’s hard to imagine that at one time a Chimpanzee was in residence on the Island, but there is at least one lady who maintains that there was.

Julia Mumford remembers coming to Canvey as a girl with her parents in 1925 and borrowing a shack type building at Leigh Beck, opposite Brown’s Stores. The six bed bungalow had only the basics by way of facilities, primus stove for cooking, candles and oil lamps for lighting and outside sanitation The Bungalow was named ‘Casebury’, should anyone else remember it and it was not at all unusual to be graced with a regular visit from a local brown cow.

Brown’s Store, itself a converted bungalow, must have provided many residents with their necessary commodities as it sold everything from cotton thread to paraffin, though no actual alcohol was said to be for sale on the premises. It has been mentioned however, that a small off licence was nearby at the end of Seaview Road.

Behind the store, in the vicinity of Zider Pass was Leigh Beck Farm and it was there that Julia recalls seeing the hairy creature, caged with a terrible temper. How long he remained we are unable to say though he carried a warning sign whilst in residence.

It read: Please do not let children put their fingers through the cage, because he bites and has a bad temper. Also, do not feed with bananas.

Jacko it seems had a penchant for aiming either the banana or its skin right back at the giver. Ungrateful? Well perhaps! Though children being the lovable little souls that they are would congregate around his cage and tease him into a performance. Not many of us I fear would stand it either.

Those who doubt the authenticity ol the Chimpanzee’s existence and were in fact on Canvey around the same time, can be explained away as probably never having roamed far from where they actually resided. The smaller communities, largely because of unmade roads, tended to stick pretty much to their own areas. Therefore it was doubtful even on this size Island that one part of it would know what was going on in another part.

Similarly, another siting of the fury animal was recalled by a previous owner of Brown’s Stores, who took up residence there in 1950 with his family. Brown’s remained a general store for a further ten years, when it reverted back to a bungalow. We understand that it has since been re-developed.

Comments about this page

  • I moved to Canvey in about 1946 at the age of 7 my sister was 5 at the time with our parents we lived at number 1 Benham Road later to be renamed Beck Road. Browns stores fronted onto Zider Pass which runs alongside Beck Road, my parents often visited Canvey through the late 30s and my sister and I were told about Browns Monkey and as a kid you don’t take a lot of notice. Having lost my parents a few years ago I was going through their old photos I found a photo of Browns monkey, hope this helps clear up the riddle.

    By arthur shave (30/11/2015)
  • Can you add the photo to the website Arthur or send us a copy.

    By Janet Penn (30/11/2015)
  • I also would like the photo of the monkey if possible!

    By Iain Kevin Waite (23/07/2023)
  • In the Canvey News Newspaper on 20th April 1929, there is a mention of the “monkey” and report that it was then 5 years old.

    By Martin Lepley (11/02/2024)

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