The Hartfield Family on Canvey
1920's Canvey Pioneer Morris Hartfield
Memories by Montague “Monty” Hartfield
I emigrated to the United States after serving in the British Army, and am now retired and living in Florida. Going through my memorabilia I found an old newspaper clipping covering my grandfather’s death in 1932. There are some details of his life in Canvey that might be of interest in a newspaper clipping of the time [See bottom of page].
I lived with my parents in Canvey from the mid twenties to the early thirties. We lived in a small bungalow, one of several that my grandfather had built. I remember that there were no utilities, no gas, no electricity, no sewage and no water. It was close to my Grandfather’s residence “Kilcreggan” which is mentioned in the article [in Oxford Road behind Hartfield Parade] I think it had once been a farm. He had a well on the grounds from which his tenants obtained their water. I remember he had an orchard and kept chickens. He also had a large goose that he called his watch dog. It was noisy and afraid of nothing!
To the left is one small photograph of my grandfather Morris Hartfield. This photo was given to me by my uncles widow; unfortunately it is the only one I have from those days. I hope it is of interest. This is taken with one of my cousins Leslie Nathanson who was several years older than me, so I figure this photo was taken around the late twenties. I have no other information at all. The original is 2 X 3 inches.
My grandfather walked with a cane (he had a collection of them) and smoked Will’s Woodbine cigarettes. I remember the house was raised a couple of feet off the ground, because my cousin and I when we were about seven years old used to love to crawl around under it.
I went to a local council school (Long Road?) until I was ten years old. I then took a test for high school which I passed. My teacher; Mrs Skinner, awarded me with a shiny new shilling, which was a small fortune, the largest amount of money I had ever had. Apparently at that time, 1935, there was no high school on Canvey so I had to travel by bus to Benfleet, take the train to Southend and then a trolley bus to Southend High School.
I met up with another boy who had also passed the test and we travelled together and became firm friends. His name was Bill McCave. We were the only two boys who went from Canvey to Southend High School that year.
We wore school blazers and gray shorts and were in the same “house”. At that time we were not allowed to wear long trousers until we were fourteen. There were four houses, ours was Troy; there was also Athens, Rome and the other I don’t remember [Athens, Sparta, Troy and Tuscany…Dave].
Our headmaster was Mr Hitchcock, and his nickname was “Scratch” All the masters had nicknames.
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If you would like to hear more of the exploits of two young pre-teenagers, the things we did and saw in those old days on Canvey Island, there follows one or two things I remember from my life as a ten-year-old living in Canvey (1935).
Ditches ran alongside many of the roads at that time and my pals and I used to catch newts, and minnows (redthroats and sticklebacks) with penny bamboo cane nets in them. The ditches were called “dykes” and the water in them was clean and clear. I guess there were no pollution problems then.
I remember also there was a black-face show near the beach called Uncle Sam’s Minstrels. The wooden building was open-sided so if we could not afford a seat inside we could watch the show from outside by standing on tip-toe looking over the wooden wall.
My friend and schoolmate, Bill McCave, used to collect matchbox tops, hundreds of which we found washed up on the beaches. They came from many countries, thrown overboard by sailors on the merchant ships. Our favourite spot was “Dead Man’s Bay“, we found all kinds off things washed up on the beach there. Did they change the name of Dead Man’s Bay?, I could not find it on the map of Canvey when I surfed the web. [Thorney Bay is by Dead Man’s Point…Dave]
Don’t ask me what happened to my enormous collection of match-box tops from all over the world. To my mother, cleanliness was next to Godliness. To her, this fantastic unique collection searched for over many months, with much diligence, was just a pile of dirty junk. She threw the whole lot out during one of her frequent house-cleaning routines. I wanted to run away from home, but fortunately I wasn’t sure how to go about it.
My uncle Monty, after whom I was named, had an old airplane near the beach that he turned into a snack-bar. Bill and I would often visit and buy Wall’s “Sno-Frutes”. These were frozen fruit juices in triangular packages and cost a penny. If we were lucky we didn’t have to pay. The photo of the plane is above, I don’t know if you can see it but it says Monty’s Mono Bar and Teas on the side.
My uncle was quite an entrepreneur; he also ran The Canvey Hall. I have no idea where it was located but I think it was owned by my Grandfather. [Canvey Hall was the original name of the club in Hartfield Parade … Dave]. My father had a small band and provided the music for the occasional dances that were held there. I have a copy of the Music and Dancing Licence granted by the County of Essex and dated May 31st 1933. On the reverse are the Terms, Conditions and Restrictions; fourteen in total. The paper it is printed on is yellowed with age. The seal by each of the signatories is of a crown surrounded by the words “COUNTY OF ESSEX” and “DIVISION OF ROCHFORD”. To see a scan of the actual Licence look at the bottom of this page.
Bill once told me his full name was William Augustus Brutus McCave. He was the same age as me so was probably born around 1925. We were always getting into trouble when we were together, I guess each of us was a bad influence on the other. I am sure the Fred McCave must be related, I have never come across the name McCave, but many McCabes [I understand Bill was local reporter Fred’s brother. Bill’s daughter Leslie now lives in America and via CanveyIsland.org.uk met up with Monty this year in London! …Dave].
I also found a forum [Geoff Barsby’s…Dave] which contained the “Early Memories of Tom Linge” a diary kept of life in the late 20’s which I found fascinating as it brought back lots of memories many of which I had forgotten. It is broken down into parts, part 4 mentions the parade of shops called The Hartfields Parade at the end of Oxford Road where his family lived (and also where my Grandfather lived). He also tells how his brother Albert found a 10 shilling note on Hartfield’s Parade, and his mother made him take it back. He did so and gave the note to Mr Hartfield. He tells how Mr Hartfield brought it back to his house a few days later and said he could have it since no one had claimed it. He said his family always told him “Honesty is the best policy”. My family was brought up the same way. I would like to meet Tom Linge’s son.
I was going through old photographs and found one of my mother, dating back to the mid-thirties. She is standing close to a sign that says “CANVEY CASINO“, THE BEST & LARGEST RESTAURANT ON CANVEY ISLAND, FULLY LICENSED. First floor through Casino with a pointing hand (See close up image). I now remember that my father, Harry, ran several side-shows in the Casino, one of them was “Bunty Pulls the Strings“. My mother is dressed as a gypsy in the photo, she used to have a stand, I believe it was outside the Casino, with a large scale and sign saying “I guess your weight within four pounds, a prize if I fail”. Most of the prizes were cheap items made in Japan. Just like China of today. My father was quite the entrepreneur, besides the Casino he had a regular job as a wholesale cigarette salesman for a firm in Southend, he also played most stringed instruments and played the banjo in his own band and freelanced at weddings, dance halls and also played at tea dances in Garons of Southend.
One of his band members was a fellow named Gerry Bright who later became quite famous leading his own dance band under the name “Geraldo“. My father had many colourful friends when we lived in Canvey, one was a boxer named Dave Crowley and another was a man called Mike Kirby who ran a riding stable; he told me he was a cowboy! And I believed him! I remember that one year my father opened a toy shop just for the Christmas period, and I remember another time he gathered a load of seaweed and stunk up our bungalow manufacturing his own brand of “Seaweed Bath Salts‘, which he later packaged and sold.
We left Canvey in 1937 and Dad opened a restaurant in Ilford. He was quite successful and ended up with restaurants in Blackpool and Sidcup, Kent. But that’s another story. Getting back to Canvey, I also uncovered a photo of myself sitting on a concrete barrel when I was about two years old. I think this was taken on Canvey on a visit to my Grand-dad. I think I am about two years old in this photo; I found it whilst going through my memorabilia. I never thought much about it, i.e. when or where it was taken. Could this possibly be one of the cement barrels from the SS Benmohr that ran aground in 1902? [Yes! …Dave] If I was two years old the date it was taken would be 1927. I would have been living with my parents in Southend at the time but it could very well have been taken during one of our visits to my grandfather. If you look closely you will see what looks like another barrel in the background (by my right elbow) and perhaps you could identify the structure on the opposite side of the photo [Possibly the Seaview Road Jetty – Many of the Concrete Barrels were here, reputably bought by Hester as foundations to his Pier …Dave].
Apart from the Tom Linge memories I could find very little mention of the mid-twenties to mid-thirties, my age period. I guess there are very few Canvey Islanders of my age still around. For one thing Canvey’s population was relatively small, and the number of kids even smaller; and the number of them alive today smaller still. It’s tough being old, there are fewer people of you own age to talk to about the good old days. Today, to many people, the fifties and sixties are ancient history! I think I remember my father telling me that Morris Hartfield named several of the of the streets on the land he developed. Some were named after members of the family including his children. One of his daughters was named Rose, and on a new map I looked at there is a Rose Road. There is also an Odessa Road, and Odessa happened to be my grandfather’s birthplace [Update – Possibly where he sailed from as he was probably Hungarian …Dave]. I am not sure if my memory serves me correctly and I would be interested to see a map of Canvey in the early thirties showing street names, if such a thing exists. [What about Maurice Road which according to my old AM Clark map was originally Morris Road – See bottom of page …Dave]
Going through my memorabilia I found a letter written to my uncle Montague in June 1974 by a gentleman whose signature I cannot read. The heading of the letter is:- ‘Ells-bells, 192 Furtherwick Road Canvey Island, Essex :- The letter has a clipping attached from the Southend Standard, Wed June 5th 1974 which reads as follows:-
HAPPY DAYS IN SOUTHEND
“Your letters and photos of the old Boots cafe interest me. I have memories of the opposition which was opposite in GaronsCafe upstairs adjoining the Garons cinema with its four hour program and organ interlude played by a member of the celebrated Baga family. I well remember every afternoon one orchestra played for tea. One player of the banjo was a gentleman named Harry Hartfield (Monty’s father) who came from Canvey and was a member of a well known family who owned the Canvey Hall. His father Morris Hartfield and his son Monty (Monty’s Uncle) were great characters. Harry played in his father’s dance hall and at Cox’s Cafe at night. Garons was one place for afternoon tea-plentiful, with potted palms and flowers around the band platform and there were lady players in the orchestra. Happy days when Southend was a joy to visit.“
Cyril R. Prentice Haresland Close, Thundersley
Click the apropriate image at the bottom of this page to read the actual letter & newspaper clipping.
I understand that the house I was born in, 12 Whitegate Rd Southend-on-Sea no longer exists; the local government had the audacity to tear down the house in order to build a dual carriageway over it! The house my brother Mike was born in (15 Herbert Grove) is now part of a B&B, the Seaview Guesthouse (see Photo).
by Monty Hartfield
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Thanks to Monty Hartfield who initially contacted me via the CanveyIsland.org.uk website and visited Southend & Canvey Island during March 2008 where we met up. We visited local Canvey historian Margaret Payne and Canvey Clr Joan Liddiard. We also visited local landmarks, many associated with their Grandfather Morris Hartfield as shown in some of the Photos.