My holidays on Canvey Island

I remember

The Lobstersmack Inn

From July 1945 when I visited Canvey Island for the first time, I spent many happy school holidays staying with my Aunt Ann and Uncle Harry (Curzon) at their bungalow in Baardwyck Avenue. I well remember spending my pennies on the slot machines in the Casino on the sea front and going on the ‘Ghost Train’ there. I also recall winning my Mum a set of saucepans and a plaster Alsatian dog on the ‘Horse Race’ machine. I also remember walking back to my Aunt and Uncle’s place along unlit roads, hoping I wouldn’t fall in the ditches that lined the darkened roadway. I used to go for long walks along the seawall with my cousin when we would muck about on the abandoned wartime motor torpedo boats moored alongside the wall near the Lobster Smack pub.

All of this wonderful childhood fun came to an end when the Great Flood of 1953 inundated the island and my Aunt and Uncle, along with countless other residents, were forced out of their home by the rising waters. Fortunately, they, and their cat, Billy, were rescued by boat before the water level rose too high and ferried to safety. However their bungalow was badly damaged by the floodwaters and although they did return to it some time later, they only lived there for a few more years before selling up and moving into a caravan on a site near the sea front where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Boat trips to the Chapman Lighthouse

I vividly remember returning to the island in 1954 and seeing dead trees everywhere (caused by the salt from the sea water that had invaded the streets). For a while, it was a very forlorn place but then it slowly began to recover and was soon back to normal. Another thing that sticks in my mind was my Aunt (who took snuff) sending me along to TREMAYNES – a newsagent and tobacconist shop – to fetch her six pennyworth of Wilsons (snuff powder) which was dispensed in a cone-shaped paper twist. I also collected fresh, warm bread from a local baker shop each morning. As a treat for running these ‘messages’ as she called them, I was taken on a boat around the Chapman Lighthouse that used to operate from the beach. I remember being terrified by the trip out there and seeing this iron structure looming up out of the sea, yet I did it again and again during the summer months.

I remember fossicking for cockles in the mud when the tide went out. In fact, I think Canvey was once referred to as ‘cockle bashing island’ by those who flocked there during the summer from town. Happy memories that stay in my mind still, some 50-plus years later.

Comments about this page

  • Thank you for your memories Colin, I also remember wonderful holidays on Canvey. Did you used to buy a bag of chips on your way home from the Casino? Do you remember the gas mantels in the bungalows which had to be lit, also outside tin toilets, which had to be emptied ugh!!!!!!!

    By Brenda Easton (26/11/2009)
  • I was born on Canvey Island in 1949, I spent lots of great years in and around the sea and creak, I remember cockaling with my Mum and Dad, up to our ankles in mud, but a great catch we had, my Nan would put a big pan on the aga and boil our catch of the day. We used to have a canoe which we would go up and down the creak in. I also meet my first boyfriend on Canvey. Lovely days.

    By Sylvia King (20/01/2010)
  • Hi Colin. Can you remember where your aunt and uncle lived in Baardwyck? I used to walk from the main road to the bottom of Baardwyck several times a day as. I cut across the field at the bottom to get to my home. I seem to remember their name. Maureen

    By Maureen Buckmaster (27/02/2016)
  • Long time since I last subscribed to this site.
    Maureen – I only recall the bungalow my aunt and uncle owned was on the corner of Baardwyck Avenue and some other road the name of which escapes me. They lived there until the famous floods of 1953 then moved to a caravan site near the sea front. If you ever met my Aunt Ann you would never have forgotten her as she swore like a trooper and always wore her dresses shorter than was fashionable back in those days as she hated what she called ‘Polly long frocks’. Quite a colourful character.

    Brenda – yes I did buy hot chips on my way back from the ‘Casino’ and ate copious dishes of cockles with vinegar from a stall outside the ‘Haystack’ pub.

    By Colin Cumner (10/03/2022)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.