The Parks Family and Canvey Island

Marjorie Parks' memories of Canvey

The Parks relationship with Canvey Island began in 1928 when the family came here for their holidays. In those days there were very few main roads and the roads were unmade.  There was lots of open space to run around and explore and this coupled with the estuary air (recommended for respiratory complaints) would have done the children the world of good.

The Dolls House, first holiday home on Canvey. Built at the back of ‘Medcot’

Marjorie Parks nee Holt, now ninety, would have been ten or eleven years old.  She stayed with her parents and siblings in what they referred to as ‘The Dolls House’. It was a small wooden house in the back garden of a bungalow called ‘Medcot’ that was situated near to St Anne’s Church.  The Dolls House looked very much as its name suggests.  It had two stories, there being a tiny bedroom at the top which the children reached by a wooden stepladder.  They would have slept on the floor.  There was an oil lamp for lighting in the small kitchen area but any cooking involved a visit to a bakers shop near Leigh Beck.  For a fee the baker would cook their leg of lamb for them or anything else they needed cooking.   The Dolls House had no sanitation and there was a hole in the roof, but the family loved staying there.

2nd Home called ‘Tarry a while’ Dovercliffe Road. Joe and Clara Holt

Marjorie’s mother, Clara Holt, especially fell in love with Canvey during that first holiday and although Marjorie’s father Joe, a French Polisher by trade, had been looking to purchase a house in Southall, the family eventually bought a bungalow in Dovercliff Road called ‘Tarry A While’ with Joe and Clara Holt eventually retiring there.  This remained the family’s property on the island until 1960 when Joe decided to move on.  He received about £850 from the sale of the property.

Marjorie taken in the garden of ‘Tarry a while’. c1951/2

They kept a wind up gramophone in the front parlour and they grew asparagus in the front garden.  In the back garden were several trees such as Green Gage and Victoria Plum.  There was a problem with black caterpillars back then – caterpillars with a rather nasty bite.  It could almost have been called an infestation on the island.  Thankfully the floods killed them off.

There was no bridge over to the mainland so people would cross using a series of barges.  On one occasion Marjorie’s mother was struggling across with what was probably a very heavy case of dirty washing and four of her children in tow, when disaster – the case broke open and all its contents spilled out.  I imagine it must have taken sometime retrieving it all.

The family would often go and play by the Chapman’s Lighthouse.  They walked through the mud with their clothes tied around their necks to keep them dry.  The lighthouse keeper would keep an eye on them, letting them know when they should be heading home so as not to be caught by the tide. There was an area of harder ground to one side of the light house where they would play rounders with their friends.  They also used to take a rowing boat out stopping just beyond the lighthouse where the estuary suddenly drops off into much deeper water.  One of their friends Stan Lance was a very good swimmer and fearless.  He would dive from the boat straight into this deeper water.

Chapman Lighthouse. Marjorie,sister Lily, Stan Lance and Nell. Pre war

Marjorie’s best friend was Enid.  They attended Southend Girls College together at the age of thirteen.  Enid’s mother was a pianist and her father was a talented violinist.  He played at the Smallgains Club and could often be heard practising his music at home. Marjorie and Enid kept in touch as adults meeting up when they could usually at Tilbury Docks.  Marjorie worked in London and Enid had a job at a hotel in Tilbury.  Enid used to say it was lucky to touch a sailor’s collar and she would often do just that, disappearing immediately after leaving Marjorie to deal with the bemused sailor. Marjorie later moved to Ipswich having married, but she missed Canvey terribly.  Her sons would often visit Canvey.

Marjorie aged 90 and her son Bob on their visit to Canvey 2008

Marjorie and her son Bob, an artist, both feel a deep attachment to the island though they now live in Hampshire.  They describe the island as being a place like ‘nowhere else’, a place with freedom of spirit and expression and the friendliest of people.  It is clear that Canvey Island will be a source of fond memories and inspiration to the Parks family for many years to come.

Many thanks to Marjorie for making the long trip to Canvey and sharing her memories and pictures with us. It was nice meeting you.

Comments about this page

  • Probably Concrete Barrels from the Ben Mohr that went aground at the turn of the last century spilling its load of barrelled cement

    By David Bullock (25/08/2008)
  • Great work Leslie & Janet in scanning these wonderful photos and interviewing Bob’s Mum Marjorie. Wasn’t somebody else asking Margaret Payne about a House called the Wendy Hut?

    By David Bullock (25/08/2008)
  • Yes David, it was us, Brian and Pat Ferdinando! According to his birth certificate from September 1925, not only was Brian’s father born in the Wendy Hut, it was also his Father’s residence. We cannot see any reference to it in the super article about the Parks Family. Has anyone come forward with any information?

    By pat ferdinando (25/10/2008)
  • The Property Medcot was on a plot of land that ran between Hellendoorn Road and Margraten Ave. There is currently a property called Brecknock down Hellendoorn Road that is on the original plot

    By Martin Lepley (16/01/2020)
  • For the benefit of Brian and Pat Ferdinando,

    Wendy Hut was in Morris Road. The previous year, Alfred Ferdinando was in a property called “The Link” Leigh Beck which was in Seaview road.

    By Martin Lepley (16/01/2020)
  • Just seen Martin Lepley’s reply to our original enquiry. Many thanks for this, how on earth did you know the Wendy Hut’s whereabouts? We could find nothing! Thank you for helping place another piece of the family tree jigsaw. We would love to hear any stories about Alfred Ferdinando who was a barber.

    By Brian and Pat Ferdinando (01/02/2021)
  • Brian and Pat Ferdinando,

    The Electoral Roll for Canvey is where I found the location.

    I have spent many an hour in the Essex Record Office and accumulated quite a few records.

    By martin lepley (01/02/2021)

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