Memories of Canvey Island

in the 1920s and early 1930s

Graham Lodge was a self-build bungalow, erected in the early 1920s by Harold Waterson, with the help of other family members, including his brother, sister, and brother-in-law.  Harold’s youngest son, Tony, born in 1933, explains:

“After their marriage in 1920, Harold and Dorothy lived with Dorothy’s parents, Charles and Florence Meggs, in their home ‘Montrose’ on Canvey, the decision having been taken that the best way of getting their own starter home was to build it themselves DIY style on a nearby plot in the Winter Gardens…with the work proceeding only at weekends from start to finish.  Harold was nothing if not a building perfectionist, no bodging for him!  By the time the project was completed Phyllis and John had been born at their Grandma’s house, so it will be seen that the project took two years or more to complete.  However, finish it they did and the new chalet was christened ‘Graham Lodge’.  The name paid tribute to the construction team, since Graham Road, Hackney, was where Harold and his brother, Leslie, and sister, Gladys, had been brought up.”

Graham Lodge, Winter Gardens, Canvey Island, about 1931. The children are, from left to right: Dorian Waterson; Alan Meggs; Marjorie Waterson; Phyllis Waterson; and John Waterson.

Graham Lodge was built on a plot in the Winter Gardens, in or near Church Parade.  The area was very different from today.  John Waterson, Harold’s eldest son, born in 1924, recalls:  “Graham Lodge was in what could be described as a road, but it was in grass.  There was no made-up road in our time.  We had no gas or electricity.  Our cooking, heating and lighting were all powered by paraffin utensils.  Water for washing and house cleaning was from a large rainwater tank.  Water for cooking and drinking was collected in an enamel jug from a penny in the slot pump a quarter of a mile away.  The toilet was at the bottom of the garden, the contents being buried once a week.  Happy days!  Dad ran from home to Benfleet station and back each working day along a cinder track which linked Winter Gardens to the ferry!”

Dorothy Waterson, née Meggs, with children John, Dorian, and Phyllis, and dog Billy, Canvey Island, about 1926

Tony Waterson recalls that his mother, Dorothy Waterson, née Meggs, born in 1901, always remembered Canvey with affection:  “She loved the place as a young child and again a good few years later in the early years of her marriage to Harold.  She loved the boating scene in the tidal waters of the Creek between Canvey and Benfleet, the Sea Wall, the Winter Gardens, the lovely air, and simple pleasures like picking flowers, and picnics in the wild open fields with Billy the Jack Russell and the children.  To her it was a paradise that she oft recalled throughout her life with a big sigh.”

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