Rev Joseph Overs & the Canvey Island Monster!

Joe Overs 'The Canvey Photographer'

I have seen the question on the Archive Forum ‘Who was the Rev. Joseph Overs?’ particularly in connection with the mythical ‘Canvey Monster’.

In the 50’s-60’s I would imagine everybody on Canvey knew Joe.  He was ‘The Canvey Photographer’.  I first remember him in the summers of the early fifties doing beach photography and bustling in and out of Jackson’s Photo Kiosk at Andrews Arcade (at the end of May Avenue).

Jacksons Kiosk

Many will remember him precariously balanced on a step-ladder or a couple of chairs with his big old camera and flashlight the size of a modern satellite dish, attempting to get the best angle on pictures of various local events: Weddings, Church Parades, Dances, Canvey Carnival, you name it, Joe was there!  And Joe was a perfectionist!  It didn’t matter how long it took, but he would always get his picture.

The only known Photo of the legendary Canvey Island Monster

On several occasions I recall him standing on the railings opposite the Baptist Church only to be thwarted in his photographic efforts by the passing bus.  Quite naturally, at Joe’s photo-shoots there was often a great deal of jeering and shouting of “Come on Joe, hurry up!”  Most of the banter he took in good part but was at times, rather petulant.

I don’t know if Joe was actually employed by Jackson’s Photo Service but throughout the 50’s-60’s they had a very close working relationship.  In fact you could bet most photos published in Fred McCave’s Canvey News and Canvey Chronicle attributed to Jacksons were taken by Joe and if you’ve got a photo with a Jackson stamp on the back, that’s probably Joe’s work too.

13th August 1954 – The Canvey Monster

By the mid 70’s Joe seemed to have tired of photography and I got to know him quite well when he did a few odd jobs at the bakery (Stevens).  Sometimes he’d just pop in to tell me one of his ‘more than risqué’ jokes or anecdotes accompanied by a great deal of guffawing and giggling like an overgrown schoolboy.  He was a good-hearted soul and at this point in his life he seemed to spend a lot of his time running errands for the elderly.

As for the so-called ‘Canvey Monster’ Joe certainly brought it to the attention of the press.  But I think his pseudo-religious title was added to the story by others at a later date.  Actually Joe was quite coy about his clerical status and certainly did not preach any particular doctrine.  From what I could gather his ordination came by mail-order from a rather obscure church in the USA which was even more obscure in the UK as I believe Joe was its solitary member of clergy and congregation.  He did tell me he had all the appropriate vestments for his priesthood.

Sometime in the late 70’s early 80’s the Rev. Joseph Overs disappeared from Canvey.  Rumour has it that he went to Littlehampton on the South Coast and got a job as a cook on a fishing boat and he died whilst in that occupation.  He is remembered by many Islanders as a quintessential ‘Canvey Character’ and his true legacy must be the thousands of pieces of Canvey’s pictorial history which he captured on film. (including iconic flood pictures?)

The irony is I’ve never seen a photo of Joe Overs, ‘The Canvey Photographer’. Has anyone got one? See Gallery below we have a photo of Joe!

NB. Oops my mystake! The newspaper cutting proves Joe put his title on at the time, probably to ‘rev up’ the story.

Thanks to Dave for the photo and newspaper cuttings.

Comments about this page

  • Hi, Graham, Many thanks for solving this ‘Mystery’ of the angler fish that has been picked up, mulled over and embroidered in books and on websites. The story (or should one say exposure?) of the Rev. Joseph Overs who ‘walked Canvey’s beaches’ and made the discovery is frankly delightful. Canvey in one of its ‘characters’ has the last laugh, though it may not be the last we have heard of the fish that may have been able to walk, for once such a story is out there, the theories begin. Recently there have been stories in the Echo of strange ‘triffids’ in peoples’ gardens… Robert

    By Robert Hallmann (04/07/2008)
  • I worked one summer at the Jacksons (1954 I think) shop in the picture, trimming negatives. Joe was there, of course. One morning he was late, and needed for a “photo shoot” of some sort and I had to go down to the place near the Seaview Hotel where he then lived. I banged and banged on his door and eventually his landlady, who was very deaf indeed came to the door. I explained my errand and she went to fetch Joe. He was very cross at being disturbed, saying he was “saying his office”; that is conducting a service. Which, of course would have been just for him.
    I seem to recall that Joe’s church was “The Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain”, which according to the internet actually exists.

    By Miall James (16/12/2008)
  • Which newspaper are the clippings from?

    By Cameron (17/11/2010)
  • I think you would have to ask Geoff Barsby that Cameron

    By Janet Penn (17/11/2010)
  • This topic (newly discovered by me) is very exciting, as I was THERE. I was a young lad of nine at the time. I noticed a group of peers in a crowd on the beach. Kids were prodding it with their spades. I ACTUALLY TOUCHED IT ! I thought it was a person at first as I could only see part of it through the crowd. Its flesh was NOT fish-like….Scales. It was a pinkish colour and looked like wobbly human flesh with cellulite (orange peel texture). I remember shouting to the other kids…”It’s a mermaid” over and over. I have to say that even at 66, my long term memory is excellent, especially about the day I saw my first mermaid.

    By Colin Day (28/08/2011)
  • For Halloween, I and my friend who run the website ‘’ made a festive spoof which made out that the Canvey island Monster returned this year and was captured on camera, and attacked residents! Enjoy! Click here

    By Liam Heatherson (31/10/2011)
  • Joe Overs also developed some of his own photos you could tell by his stained fingers I have been to many dances at the Jellicoe where Joes been there.

    By cyril mawditt (22/02/2013)
  • My cousin, Eileen, was Canvey Carnival Queen in 1953 and Joe was perched on top of the Rio Cinema waiting to take a photo of the float as it came by in the Carnival. Unfortunately he took so long setting the shot up that by the time he was ready she’d passed by!

    By Maureen Buckmaster (23/02/2013)
  • I feel I owe Joe a posthumous apology. Having just read the wonderful memoirs of the Rev Fleetwood ( thanks Jan) it would appear that Joe not only had episcopal status but also a scattered flock to administer. Much more than I gave him credit for in the above page. R.I.P The Reverend Joseph Overs.

    By Graham Stevens (15/06/2013)
  • Thanks to the Swansons for finding this photo of Joe and letting us use it. Also thanks Jan for posting it in the gallery. I feel the story is now complete. Graham.

    By Graham Stevens (22/06/2013)
  • The Rev. Joe Overs was a very good friend to my father Vic Barnes (Shop in High Road Benfleet) He often came round in the evenings to chat to my mum Yvonne and my dad too. Mum always made a soupy supper in the Winter times and he loved these difference soups my mum made… I used to call him Uncle Joe ! He always laughed at me and my sister Jackie, but, in a lovely manner too!… He took lots of photos of us all on different occasions and I will never forget his humorous laugh too !!…… Bobbie Barnes-Jones

    By Roberta Barnes-Jones (21/07/2020)
  • Hi Yes has anyone got any photos that Joe Overs took of judo —-he was a judo coach at the Olympic judo club –War Memorial Hall —regards to all Adrian Vidler

    By adrian vidler (17/07/2021)
  • Hi Adrian , you might know me ,I was a member of the Olympic Judo club back in the day, if you search for the Olympic judo club, you will see loads of photos that Joe took over the years.

    By Michael Lay (13/10/2022)

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