The Island was mainly made up of open fields and horses would neigh and whinney their way around Canvey. Almost all the buildings were built from wood, a popular commodity and easy to work with.
In was on the recommendation of a close friend that Mr (Alfred) Jones decided to buy some land on the Island. His friend, Mr Blaxter was an agent for the Canvey and Benfleet RSPCA and it was this man who convinced Mr Jones to buy some land from the Canvey Football Club, they needed to sell the land as their club finances were not very good.
Mr Blaxter lived at the Winter Gardens, a now famous part of the Island. It was these two men who designed and built the first timber and asbestos building. This was the start of the Jones Corner empire that is as much part of the modern Canvey as the Canvey of 60 years ago. The first shop supplied all manner of sweets and confectionery to the pupils of the nearby and newly built William Read School. Trade was also made from the regular football matches and, they also helped quench the thirst of many of the thousands of cyclists who regularly passed the shop at weekends. During the summer seasons the store opened till late at night. Sometimes the store was the only place open to get refreshments and something nice to eat. Breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. The store could cater for every body.
To give you some idea of the cost of having a cream tea at the store, you could have a pot of tea, a traditional bread, butter and sandwich and to finish off you could have a fresh cake, all for just nine very old pence (9d), which is about four new decimal pence at today’s rate. They sold fresh water for about half an old penny for one bucket or you could pay 3d per week and have as much fresh water as you liked. There was no electricity, gas or drainage on the Island at the time, so all cooking and heating was derived from oil stoves and lamps. The business slowly expanded until their range of merchandise was vast. The motto was ‘If the customer wanted it they would supply it’. It was because of that flexible attitude that the little store became a general store and the whole business grew and grew.
When the second war came, Mr (Albert) Jones was called up to do his bit for the war effort. He spent his term in the Navy, during which time (his sister) Phyllis Jones carried on the business and dealt with the problems of rationing and the massive shortages that came with the war.
The end of the war came and as Mr Jones started to settle back into the routine of running his store the great flood of 1953 hit the Island. Almost all the residents of the Island had to be evacuated for their own safety until such time as the water level had gone down. During the flood the store was kept open. They supplied both the police and the rescue services with everything they needed. Come thick or thin, Mr Jones and his team were always ready to help.
Gradually the Island returned to normal and the store carried on as before. In 1963 it was discovered that the flood of ’53 had caused serious damage to the foundations of the original building. Something had to be done, so it was action stations once again for the Jones family. It was decided to knock everything down and start again, so during the subsequent ten years new buildings were erected and it was gradually turned into the Jones Corner we know and love today. Extra shops were added to help cope with the expansion of the population on the Island. Now, of course, Jones General Stores has been replaced by a number of regularly used shops, including a motor spares shop, a supermarket, newsagent and many other much in demand shops and stores.
Jones Corner is an institute of Canvey Island, everybody knows of the original store and it is a popular talking point among the many residents in the community. You know something is great, when 60 years on the name of Jones and the memory of the wooden building and the corner is still remembered by the established members of the community and even the youngsters who are now at school also know of the great achievement made by Mr Jones during the past 60years.
Note from the Editor: The Island Times would like to express its appreciation of the help given by Mr Jones in the preparation of this article and of the loan of certain photographs.