Preparing to work on Canvey Island

The Year 1949

My father had managed to get me enrolled into an apprenticeship with the Gas Light and Coke company, who had an office, and Service Dept.on Furtherwick Rd. Before being transferred to the Canvey office to start my practical training there was an 18 month stretch of workshop and classroom training which was held at the Stratford Gas Works in East London!!!!

I often wonder, how many of todays 15 year olds could handle the following schedule.

  • Get up at about 5.15 a.m., have breakfast  get washed and dressed and leave home at 118 The Parkway. Walk about a mile to catch the “double decker” at Furtherwick and Long Road. Travel to Benfleet, get off the bus and walk up the hill to the railway station in time to catch the 6.30 a.m. steam train (L.M.S.) to London. I would get off at Barking and switch over to the “Underground”. which made stops at  Upminster, Dagenham etc. until it reached West Ham. Here I would climb some stairs to reach a roadway that ran along an above ground Sewer Pipe. It was about a 2 mile walk to the Stratford Gas Works, along the way I walked past rows and rows of bombed out Houses. Remember, it was 4 years since the war had ended and these homes looked as if they were bombed the night before, bath tubs hanging out of front walls etc!!  I would reach the Gas works just in time to start workshop and classroom training at 8.30 a.m.
  • At 4.30.p.m., the apprentices who lived outside of London were allowed to leave early and the the routine described above was repeated for the journey home . It was often very foggy and the trip would take longer!!

Imagine doing this every weekday for 18 months!!!

Once my training was completed I started working with the great people at the Canvey office of the North Thames Gas Board.

Back row, from left:Hedley Clare, Reg Smith,? R Easton,?? Mr. Stead, Cyril Neumayer, ?Front row, from left:?, Dennis Butters, Wilkie Wilkinson, Vic Hills,?

The happy and enjoyable time there more than made up for those first 18 months.

Comments about this page

  • Just been looking at the site and came across this post and it brought back lots of memories from my childhood as my dad Sidney Bones also worked for North Thames Gas Board on Canvey depot just in Lionel Road. He joined in 1956 and did his training at Watson House, Fulham. He stayed for about 4 years and went off to work for Ford Motor Company Dagenham, but his heart was back at Canvey and he returned to the Gas Board where he stayed until his retirement in 1985. My sister and I remember the Christmas Parties held at the Admiral Jellico Pub with great affection. We sat on long tables the length of the hall for supper and afterwards we awaited the arrival of Father Christmas when each child was given a present. Afterwards it the grownups turn as the dancing begun with the Ocky Cocky etc., On so many occasions I remember walking home through the snow to our bungalow at Leigh Beck, present in hand.Whenever I smell bath cubes it takes me right back to those days as the girls usually got gift sets with these in. So many names so many memories. I remember, there were Mr and Mrs Denny Butters, Vic Hills and his family, Bill and Doreen. I still live on Canvey and several years ago had reason to go into the hall at the Jellico, it had shrunk, what happened, well I got bigger, the same thing happens when you go back to your Infant School, everything seems so small. Hopefully someone out there might remember my parents, Sid and Stella Bones , members of the Island Yacht Club owning various boats over many years??

    By Barbara Roycroft (16/01/2013)
  • Barbara, I enjoyed reading your comment, especially the “North Thames Gas Board” connection. Unfortunately, I left Canvey in 1953 and therefore didn’t get to meet your Dad. I took some of my training at Watson House in Fulham but mostly in Stratford. When I started my time at Canvey Branch I often worked with Dennis Butters,one of the first class Gas Fitters. The other apprentice at the time was Vic Hills and I had some good times with him when we would go to Night School in Southend. The foreman in those days was Hedley Clare and some of the other Fitters were, Fred Starr, Reg Smith, Cyril Neumayer and “Wilkie,” Mr. Wilkinson was also the Union Steward. Perhaps you also knew some of these great employees.?? I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Gas co.on Canvey as I’m sure your Dad did too.

    By Gerald Hudson (17/01/2013)
  • My dad Bill Short worked for NTGB as a gas fitter and mum, Bobby, cleaned the gas showroom which had many gas cookers and fires displayed, all of which had to be cleaned and dusted every day.The showroom was at the corner of Furtherwick and Lionel road. The stores were at the back of the showroom where the fitters had to collect the days jobs and any fittings that were needed. Dad had a trade bike and had to carry all his tools and fittings in the carrier on the front of his bike. The men not only worked on the Island, the jobs also took them to Benfleet, Hadleigh and even as far as Rayleigh! Imagine having to cycle all that way and with such a heavy load too. Dad used to tell us how, when at the bottom of Essex Way, he would hold on to the back of the Regent oil tankers and get a “lift” to the top of the hill!!  I do remember the names mentioned, along with Janet and Glynis in the showrooms, and Glynn Edwards in the office.

    There were the apprentices too, each fitter had a young lad working with them. I remember Barry Adams, Brian Lee, John Bishop, Jeff Osborne, Ken Adams.There were the service layers too, Bill Pierce, Dinky Dallas, George Easton, Dave Adams, and others whose names I’ve forgotten. These men were On Call, all hoping there would be a gas leak somewhere and a chance to get some ‘overtime.’ I remember the Jellicoe parties too, along with my sister Pauline and brother Peter and the children of the other employees, all dressed in our best clothes and having a great time. The walk home, to Metz Ave, was quite a trek, poor dad giving turns of a piggy back to us girls.

    Hope this brings back a few memories of the families and workers of the old Canvey Gas Board.

    By Wendy Chaney (30/10/2015)
  • I really enjoyed reading all the memories above.

    Gerald, we must have lived opposite each other on the Parkway, as we lived at 111 the Parkway when i was born (nurse Morgan the midwife!) although i was only born in 1947.

    “Wilkie” Wilkinson the union shop steward you mention is of course the father of one of Canveys most famous names, the legendary Wilko Johnson, who has become even more famous in the last few years than at anytime in his illustrious career, due to his miraculous beating of pancreatic cancer. Wilco is the same age as me and we must have been at junior school together, and i’ve got a photo of us together, but i can’t remember him from school.

    I’ll be back on the Island for the 4th time in the last 5 years for the Dr Feelgood weekend in a couple of weeks time.

    Barbara, am i right in thinking your sister is Pat nee Bones? I remember her being big friends with Joan Bishop at school.

    I’ve lived near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk since leaving the Island in 1962.

    By George Smith (30/10/2015)
  • Hi George:Yes, we must have lived almost opposite each other on the Parkway, I was living at 118 all through WW2 until we moved to 1 Marine Approach in 1951.  I can still re- call some of the names along your section of the Parkway, they were Moxley, Weston, Sermon, Clark and one of the Hodder families, do you remember any of them?? I didn’t know about Wilky Wilkinson’s son, probably because we moved to Canada in 1953, following the flood! This great archive site has brought back lots of good and bad memories for me and it is good to connect with folks like yourself who lived on Canvey in those days.

    By Gerald Hudson (31/10/2015)
  • No Gerald, i don’t know any of those names. I was born on the Parkway, but we moved to the bungalow that my dad built on Ormesby Road when i was just 2 years old.

    I’ve heard Wilko talking about his dad and how they never got on well together.

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your recollections of your time on the island, you have a much better memory than mine.

    By George Smith (01/11/2015)
  • Thanks George, now I understand why you didn’t get to know the neighbours on that section of The Parkway. Terry Moxley’s Dad was involved in management at the Monico. I remember the terrible day when Ron and Jean Weston learned that their Dad had been killed in Asia during the war. Bill Clark was a good friend, who was also an apprentice but with the LNER railroad. He worked in the machine shops in London. Lots of kids from the Parkway, the Driveway and the Avenue would hang out together especially during the war, many of my childhood experiences included those kids!!!  When I first laid eyes on the Parkway an invasion was a possibility. There was barbed wire and tank traps lining most streets!!! Traumatic days for my mother I’m sure.

    By Gerald Hudson (01/11/2015)
  • Thanks Gerald for writing this, its bought back some memories for me too. Although I was only born in 1949, I did start work as a North Thames Gas Board Apprentice in 1965 and was trained at Stratford training center as you were. I was living at Southend at the time, but moved to Stanley Road, Canvey Island, near Newlands Holiday Camp in 1968 when I got married. I was still doing my 5 Year apprenticeship at the time and couldnt get a transfer to Canvey. I had to cycle all the way to York Road Gas Board Depot in Southend on Sea, to clock in to work at 8.00 am. Sometimes I would go up Essex Way, and then down the London Road. Other times I would cycle all the way to Benfleet Bridge and then along the old Sea Wall to Leigh on Sea and along the seafront and upto York Road. I only went the Sea Wall route if I had left my tools in Southend the night before. because going that route I had to lift my push bike over all the stiles on the way and it was bumpy earth as well, and not so much fun if it was raining either lol.

    In 1969 went into hospital for two weeks to have operations on both my knees as I had tendon trouble and was six weeks in plasters from ankle to tops of thighs on both legs for six weeks. When I had the plasters off I couldnt bed my legs to ride a bike untill I’d had Physio therapy for another 4 months. When I could eventually bend my legs enough to ride a bike I went back to work in Basildon so had to cycle there for six weeks untill I was finally transferred to Canvey Island to work as a Gas Fitter. I’ve got fond memories of cycling all over Canvey doing jobs in customers houses. Calling in the Cafes with the other fitters and apprentices in the morning for a breakfast after collecting our days work from the office in Lionel Road. I do remember some of the names mentioned by you and others above, but names dont stick in my head I’m more of a one from remembering faces if I see them or old photos. I did leave the Gas Board in 1973 to work for various Central Heating companies and Gas Appliance manufacturers. Is there a place here where we can upload old photos regarding those days, as it would be interesting to see others. I’ve got one group photo with 8 apprentices including me at Stratford Training Center.

    Thanks again to everyone who has contributed here as its bought back a lot of memories for me. Cheers Tony

    By Tony Chadwick (23/11/2017)
  • You can add photos to our site Tony just follow the instructions or if you do not feel confident enough just email them to me and I will upload them for you.


    By Janet Penn (23/11/2017)
  • To Tony Chadwick:

    you mentioned Southend on Sea, my Grandfather, Harold F Hudson was General Manager there during 1930s and 1940s, I was the 3rd generation to work for ( The Gas Light and Coke Company ) North Thames Gas Board as my Dad also worked for them and was “ prepaid meter trouble shooter etc.” And even got to drive around in a company van!! I too, have photos of most of the employees on Canvey in 1953 just before I was to leave for Canada.

    By Gerald Hudson (04/12/2017)
  • For anyone who is interested I have just add a photo to this page for Gerald.

    By Janet Penn (05/12/2017)
  • Would like any info on Tony Chadwick I was with him at Stratford training centre

    By Steven Brims (07/09/2023)

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