Canvey Island 1950

My Holidays on Canvey

It was interesting to read about Canvey Island history, I have recently started to remember and jot down my times as a young girl so that my children and grandchildren will have an idea of what my life has been like.  I wish that I had asked my mother to do the same so that I would have had something to pass on to my children of their Nanna’s times.

Photo of my Mum, Dad, Aunt Rene and myself

I was born in Chingford Hospital in 1937 and then lived in Walthamstow until I was 13 when we migrated to Australia in 1951, my memories of Canvey Island are very dear to me.  During the second World War my Dad was a Sergeant in the Army and stationed on Canvey, he used to train the new recruits before being sent overseas and also on the big guns that boomed away during air raids.  I was only a small child when my mother took me to visit Dad but I remember being shown around and Dad teaching me some of the Army songs that were sung.  Canvey had plenty of paddocks around the Army base where we went for walks during our visit.

After the war I well remember my first holiday on Canvey, we drove to Canvey by motor bike and sidecar and stopped in a paddock behind the sea wall where quite a few people were pitching tents, we did not have any camping gear except a few tarpaulins which dad used to cover his motor bike.  We decided that we would try this camping idea out and Mum and I went into the adjacent field to gather hay to put under a plastic on the floor to make a mattress, we found two sticks and had string to place a tarp over the top to form a tent, both ends were open to the elements.  We enjoyed ourselves so much overnight that Mum went by train back to Walthamstow to get a few stores and clothes to enable us to stay a few days. That was the first of our many camping holidays on Canvey.

Mum, Dad and I would walk along the sea wall to the main area where there was an inside funfair and I would also go to the outside Punch & Judy show on the other side of the road from the funfair, this was the highlight of my holiday.  Eventually we had friends who owned a single room bungalow with a shed on a piece of land which was quite near the sea wall, they even had a lookout made of wood which had steps leading up to the top deck and you could see over the sea wall.   We enjoyed walking along the sea wall at dusk and you could see shining blue lights in the water which Dad said was reflections from the fish swimming close to the edge.  My holidays on Canvey would not be the youth of today’s ideal past time but to me they are treasured memories, I still have a photo taken at 13 with Mum and Dad and my Aunt walking along the sea wall.

I visited Canvey six years ago, my first visit to UK since leaving at 13.  I only had 4 weeks and plenty of relatives to visit.  My Uncle drove me to visit cousins who lived there, I remembered Canvey as mainly open fields and sea wall and not many shops, now I saw plenty of houses, shops and many people.  I didn’t have the time to take a walk along the sea wall to see where we had camped or where I first learnt to swim I guess I will leave that in my memories.   Maureen Holland (nee Gilbert)

Comments about this page

  • Are you the little girl on the right? What wonderful memories. Do you remember at all which Army Camp your Dad was stationed? There was one near where you probably camped (Thorney Bay), one behind the Dutch Cottage at Northwick and another in the Centre of the Island at Little Gypps.

    By David Bullock (19/06/2008)
  • What lovely memories, I lived on Canvey till I was 24 and it was a happy childhood we all had living in such a carefree enviroment. I used to love being on the beach and make friends with the folk we simply called “The Londoners”. They would say to me “Where are you from” and I would proudly tell them that I lived on Canvey. They would be jealous and tell me I was a lucky devil. I would love that (well I was only a kid ha ha), but yes I would spend hours in the funfair watching the people land in a heap at the bottom of the Helter Skelter, or trying to run across the open balcony of the fun house which had blowers which would blow your clothes up if you wasn’t careful. As teenagers we would hang around the bumpercars as the boys that worked on them were always handsome and jumped around between the cars spinning us round if were were having a go on them. I can still taste the candy floss and toffee apples. I can’t remember having either since leaving Canvey. I think I will have to pay a visit to Mum soon, I’m getting homesick now. I do go back regularly though as I have a lot of family there. I’ve lived in Scotland since 1968 but will alwayd be a Canveyike.

    By valerie phillips (nee Sparkes ) (16/07/2008)
  • Holidays on Canvey Island? No one believes me now! I was born in Walthamstow, then in Essex, in 1949 and my Grandparents who lived in Lowhall Lane had a neighbour Mrs Tomlin (Julie) who owned a cottage ie Western Cowboy shack somewhere in Down Town Canvey!

    Apparently local farmers sold plots off in the 1930s depression and East Londoners bought them £5 each! Mrs Tomlin had built a shack not unlike the one shown in Green Lane elsewhere in the website. I was taken there maybe in 1955? It was black pitch timber and russet corrugated iron roof. No insulation. Lights hung from the rafters on flex. One communal sitting room/kitchen and gas cooker. Small cabins as bedrooms.

    There was a side entrance or porch not used and a back door was the main entrance. At the end was a latrine and now I know why Mother always took me to the public loos Downtown if possible. Water was collected in a butt but I think there was mains water? No bathroom as such I think? Garden seemed big to me.

    Road was unmade but led to the public road with a small row of shops etc some selling windmills, buckets and spades and then the road went on to the seawall at one end of which was a funfair with a wall right round it?

    Pubs etc were out of the question tho Grandad vanished occasionally! Apart from plastic model tanker I floated on the beach – and got smothered in oil – there was not much to do.

    I remember the hulls of old Thames Barges and houseboats in the swamps behind the seawall. I recall that the funfair was at one end and the oil refinery in the distance on the other. There was not much to do but it was all really a place for East Londonders to get away. There was no road across the creek then just a causeway and more old barge wrecks sinking into the mud!

    The cottage does look like that one in Green Lane but many were the same. Did I dream that a farmer came round daily with a tractor and some sort of tank?

    By Barrie Stevens Chelmsford Essex (25/08/2008)

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