2 - Furtherwick Farm

Written by George Chambers

My memories of Furtherwick Farm.

Picture of Furtherwick Farmhouse painted by Charlie Shayes in the mid 1920s.

My Grandfather, G.H.J.Chambers, purchased Furtherwick Farm in 1916 at Auction at Rochford, together with Little Gypps Farm of which I had a copy brochure, but has been lost. He was at the time living there with his family.

Strangely there is a copy auction notice dated I think 1922/23 at which time my Father H.E.Chambers having returned safely from WW1 and his Wife Doris Chambers were living and farming there and renting it from my Grandmother. (In those days it was common practice to put property in ones wife’s name in case of going Bankrupt. I can only guess that there was a family fall out which was resolved). I know that there are still many title deeds with Alice Chambers on them. (Copy of these documents can be seen here)

I was apparently conceived there, but born in Ilford, no bridge, no services, mains water arrived at the farm after I was born, my father told me that the doctor at the time, 1923, of my arrival, was one that he would not have trusted with his live stock, so as my Maternal grandmother was a midwife living in Ilford, that was where I was born.

The farm itself!

When I was young I was told that it was 300 years old and from its construction I can believe it, but in spite of countless hours of research, nothing of use, pre say, mid 1800’s, but it was probably built around the date of the Lobster Smack.

It was large for Canvey with 13 Rooms, 4 large (very) and the farm could be split in two, the smaller part having 2 of the large rooms and one small, plus a kitchen when split, or harness come general it use including a cast iron boiler when one house. The other part 4 extra, one made when a staircase was removed to make a bathroom. The extra three rooms were at the eastern side, and were two dairies, cool rooms, with a long room above the two, reached via another staircase, this could be divided into two if needed for bachelor farm hands, one opening from the kitchen and the other two a couple of steps down from the dining room, (later altered). There was a staircase from each main room to a landing, with the two smaller bedrooms and bathroom, with two short stairs from there, leading to a smaller landing to the two main bedrooms. The communal front door opened into a passage 10/12ft long, the width of the central square brick core of the building. Downstairs it originally held two back to back inglenooks. The two kitchen fireplaces and external chimneys were old but not original, one with a cast iron range.

Furtherwick Farmhouse, late 60s, early 70s.

The house stood on corbelled brick foundations on one of the high points of the island (the flood did not reach it). It had brick on earth floors, some cemented over in the 20/30s, probably when dad purchased it from G.dad. The frame was of oak, I still have a length 6’x 6′ but unfortunately with too few rings to date.

The foundations had settled on the south side both sides of the front door, not noticeable on the ground floor as it had probably been levelled with cement.

But upstairs

The two large Bedroom floors dropped in matching corners, to such an extent that a 4ft 6inch bed in the centre of the eastern wall had one foot on the floor another on a house brick another on two, the last on a stack of something or other very firm, or the bed would have run away. One night my wife and I came home, having imbibed well if not wisely and were a little concerned to find ourselves standing together in a corner giggling like idiots. In that room if one dropped a marble from the windowsill it would land 4/6 inches out from the foundation.

In the 30’s the other bedroom was fitted with a full size table tennis table. Very basic wireless then, for entertainment. There would be a couple of dozen table tennis balls on the floor, you did not bother to pick them up when you missed – they all trundled at a high speed down into the corner.

The first time that I tried to wall paper the bedroom we had to take it off quickly, as my father said, forget plumb lines and levels and go by eye.

Until the 30’s, from that room one could see the ships and barges going up down the Thames. There was only Masonwick, then a bungalow and the barn at Lubbins between the farm and the sea wall.

Not long before it was demolished we really needed more light in the kitchen and in the process, when I removed some lathe and plaster I discovered that the 4×2 uprights were painted/distempered blue, to within l/2 inch or so to the outside edge nearest the weather boarding. I discussed this with an architectural historian at Chelmsford who said that it was probably Wattle and Daub originally. This still seems unlikely to me, but the weather board/ shiplap call it whichever you prefer was from a later date as it covered some unused windows and doors. One still with the window and frame including glass still there. The chimney stack for the harness room was some 3 inches away from the exterior wood and would have completely obscured the Window.

Geoge (right) in Furtherwick farmyard with Hoy cousins

The really odd thing to me is that the house was timber, but the barns were old and dilapidated but built of brick enclosing a square farmyard.

The house stood on the site of what is now the job centre, the barns and farmyard are now the Rio Cinema and the two shops. There was an orchard from the farm to the south end of the row of almost detached houses facing the road.

To many reading this it may sound weird, but I loved it and had I been rich enough I would have had it rebuilt in a field, but by 1970 its time had come, trapped as it was between the commercial and domestic buildings.

Comments about this page

  • This is a photo of my dad, before he lived in NZ

    By Noelene Smith (nee Hoy) (24/05/2013)
  • We have been told that George Chambers has died. He has been a great source of stories of old Canvey. RIP George.

    By Janet Penn (23/07/2017)
  • I remember this old building from my explorations of the Island when we moved our caravan to Newlands from North Kent . It’s lucky that photos were taken before being demolished .

    I studied construction became a QS and went on to architecture and the study of the vernacular of construction up to the Victorian period . I was a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) for a number of years. In my lifetime I have discovered many buildings like this that had been upgraded through numerous periods in the fashion to discover within a much older building in existence . Many are now listed by the local authorities , one a 2* for its unique unaltered cellar after discovery of a fake wall next to a central core stack.

    From the photo watercolour and description. This building is typical of a 17th Century lobby entrance house of some importance as there would have been no oak on Canvey when built the subsoil and high water table only supporting willow or alder species . The building has been upgraded in the Georgian Period probably because the owners had been quite successful in the farming of the land . It would have showed wealth to restyle the original early Stuart timber frame building to the proportions of a newer Georgian house . It was likely that the refinish would have been ashlared stucco to appear like stone and colour washed . The central stack and back to back ” inglenooks” is typical of the period . Originally the roof would have been thatched from local reed and the walls wattled and daubed , but it’s location would have taken its toll on this method of construction with its exposed daubed panels . Featheredge , was the usual remedy to keep out draughts due panel shrinkage . The proportions have been altered by the addition of timber plates on top of the originals to increase the height of the walls and and saddle joists on top of the originals to decrease the pitch from the 50° plus of the original thatch roof to 40° to permit slating or tiling . The catslide side addition added at the same time to place the cooking and scullery services outside of the main building . Windows would have been intentionally covered over or altered to achieve the Georgian characteristic appearance .

    The brick footings are normal for a timber frame building in this type of marshy location . In well drained areas of sand and gravel the sole plate timbers would have been laid laid directly on the subsoil , sand or gravel . A compacted lime ash floor laid and finished in brick pamments in like putty. Luckily many comparable buildings still exist in similar locations on the Essex coast . Unfortunately the size of the bricks were not described as these are an immediate indicator of age .

    The outbuildings were built at the time of , or slightly later during the Georgian upgrading .

    An example of a new build Georgian era farmhouse is that proclaimed to be the haunted house of Spragge’s farm . This is not the original building that stood on that site in 1704 of William and Mary Period but a later Georgian built house of new build with a stack at either end . The original would have been much like that above . This is all to do with one upmanship to simply show off how well the owner is doing . One upgrades an existing timber frame farmhouse to look ‘de rigeur’ , the neighbouring farmer demolishes his timber frame building and replaces it in brick in the latest style .

    I am surprised that a little more effort was not put into the saving of this Farmhouse by CIUDC at the time .

    By Malcolm Roberts (07/12/2018)

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