1 - Canvey's Canada Corner and Canadian Memorial Garden
The Island's Permanent Links with Canada
Following the East Coast flood disaster of the 31st January 1953, the people of Canada were particularly noteworthy for the generosity of their aid, both monetary and material, for its victims. This response may probably have been initiated by a Mr & Mrs Kemp, former Canvey residents, then living in Canada, who immediately started a collection for flood victims as soon as news of the tragedy hit the headlines.
In the late 50’s, when the Island was ‘back on its feet’ it was the inspired idea of Canvey’s then Chief Public Health Inspector, the late Mr Donald Legg, that a fitting tribute should be made from the people of Canvey Island (who had been the beneficiaries of a large proportion of this aid) to show their gratitude to the citizens of the then Dominion of Canada.
This lasting tribute would take the form of a stand of trees of Canadian origin to be planted at a memorial site on the Island.
The seeds of this idea were sown when Mr Legg bought a Canadian Magazine and saw a picture of a tree farm, which he contacted with the intention of purchasing 100 Canadian White Spruces to be brought to the UK and planted on Canvey. He was backed in his efforts by the Canvey Island Urban District Council particularly by Councillors Harry Whitcomb, Arthur Mason and George Prince. However this scheme fell foul of UK Import Regulations and had to be scrapped. Undeterred, Mr Legg than contacted the Ministry of Agriculture who in turn got in touch with the Forestry Commission from whom it was possible to purchase a quantity of trees of Canadian origin for the princely sum of £4. (According to the Southend Standard) These plants were from a variety of species including; Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedars, Western Hemlocks, Canadian Maples and Contorta Pine.
The designated site for what was to be known as ‘Canada Corner’ was significantly a vacant piece of land in the Newlands area, at the North of Smallgains Creek. (see map)
The importance of the scheme is illustrated by press coverage both local and national. On the 2nd June 1961, a year prior to the tree planting, Fred McCave announced the plans in an article in his ‘Canvey News & Benfleet Recorder’ headed ‘Tree Link’. In the weeks prior to the ceremony the ‘Southend Standard’ published a very detailed article (from which most of this information was gleaned) and also ‘The Daily Express’ published a substantial report of the forthcoming event with quotes from Mr Legg and a photo of the then ‘Mr’ Bernard Braine who would be attending.
The planting ceremony duly took place on Saturday 31st March. According to Fred’s Canvey News, in attendance were; Mr Bernard Braine MP for South East Essex and Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, who paid tribute to Mr Legg, Council Chairman George Prince, Don Holdway (Chairman of Public Health), Cllr George Pickett (Chairman of General Purpose and Finance) and Lt Col. Horace P Fielder, the last four gentlemen planted a tree a piece aided by Cllr Harry Whitcomb.
The whole ceremony was carried out under the watchful eye of Mr Donald Legg, the Originator of the idea and later in the year he also took the opportunity to inform the Canadian Prime Minister Rt Hon John G Diefenbaker (who was on a visit to the UK) about Canada Corner and invited him to visit Canvey. The text of the letter and the Canadian PM’s reply were printed in the ‘Canvey News’ and can be seen below.
The total number of trees planted could have been up to 100 but contemporary reports are somewhat confusing. It was stated at the time that the ambitious end result was for 30 acres to be planted on Canvey but as we know this was definitely not fulfilled.
Two years later, on the 4th November 1964, an official naming ceremony was conducted by the then chairman of the CIUDC, Councillor HC Whitcomb, his wife Mrs HC Whitcomb accompanied by Mrs D Kemp from Canada, who first initiated the collection for flood victims. Once more Mr Legg was in attendance to see the final fulfilment of his scheme for Canvey People Tribute of Gratitude to the People of Canada.
Canada Corner Memorial Garden
Unfortunately over the following decades Canada Corner, probably because of its somewhat isolated position, became neglected and the target of persistent vandalism so much so that by the late 70’s hardly any tress existed. Concerned by this state of affairs, a resident in that area brought the sad condition of the site to the attention of the Castle Point District Council. By fortunate coincidence a Benfleet representative Cllr. Goddard, apparently worked in the vicinity of Canada House and had some contacts there and through this connection CPDC were able to acquire twelve Canadian Maple Saplings. It was then decided that the Council would fund the re-location of Canada Corner with an inscribed marble tablet surrounded by the maple trees. The chosen location was to be adjacent to the drive in front of the Paddocks. During 1983 preparations were made under the auspices of the Recreation and Amenities Committee Chairman Jim Bowden and supervised by Clerk of Works Alan Finch. Chairman of the Council, Peter Woods, sent an invitation to Canada House for a representative to be present at the inauguration ceremony for the Memorial Gardens. This event duly took place on 8th May 1984 with the Deputy High Commissioner for Canada, Mr P A Lapoint and his wife as guests of honour. A civic reception at the council offices was followed by a visit to Canvey’s heritage site ‘The Dutch Cottage’ and after lunch at the Paddocks the installation ceremony took place.
At the time of the ceremony the marble tablet was not quite ready, so a well presented board with a sign written replica of the engraved script was used in its place.
As can be seen from the photograph below, the Memorial Garden remains as an enduring tribute of gratitude from the people of Canvey Island to the people of Canada for their generosity after the 1953 floods.
The Archive is grateful to Dr Alan Whitcomb and Olivia Whitcomb for all the general information, photos and news paper cuttings about Canada Corner and to former CPBC Mayor Betty Woods and former CPDC Chairman Peter Woods for photos and information regarding the Memorial Garden.
More photos can be seen here
Comments about this page
As a child I remember finding Canada Corner between the Council Tip and the north seawall of Smallgains Creek. I seem to recall it having a white picket fence around it, you got to it by walking between two dykes (dug out to make the sea wall). It had a large wooden sign like in the photos and from memory about 40 small trees. My Mum said they were from Canada which grow to a massive size! When the Tip was expanded all this land was consumed right up to the Sea wall (now Canvey Heights).
Further to “Canada Corner”, I seem to remember that the piece of land situated on the corner of Larup Avenue and Mornington Road was donated by the Canadian Government “for the children of Canvey” after the 1953 flood.
Indeed Ian – the Childrens Park. I have a photo somewhere of the plaque that has since vanished.
Thanks Ian, for reminding us about the playground, it certainly belongs under this heading. I remember on the day it was opened there were so many kids there we had to form disorderly queues to get onto the slides etc. Interesting about the plaque, Dave, perhaps the Town Council might consider replacing it with another one(vandal-proof, of course!) Graham.
In response from a request by Andrew Love who is involved in refurbishing the Larup Ave Park, I have added the plague photo to the gallery above
Nice work, Dave! Perhaps it might be a good idea if Andrew Love could get C.P.B.C to have a look around, just in case it’s been stashed away at Kiln Rd. It would be great to have it re-instated
Thanks for that, but wasn’t part of the reason for moving Canada Corner was because of the expansion of the tip? If my memory serves me right there was a few lakes in the area as well and they were filled in as well. Perhaps the more appropriate place to now site Canada Corner is on Canvey Heights right back in the area it was first put.
Hi John, Thanks for your comment, I think your right the expansion of the tip most probably played a part in the relocation of Canada Corner. However, I think the established grove of trees and marble memorial are in the right place at the Paddocks where they are accessible to most othe local populace (even if they’re on their way to the Medical Centre). I think what might be appropriate would be a notice-board on Canvey Heights marking the approximate original location of Canada Corner. Graham.
Dear Graham That really is a great idea. I bet your knowledge is a lot better than mine as to where it would have been. Somewhere round about the picnic tables do you think? Have posted a bit about the Dutch Cottage Museum, any thoughts on that? Best regards John T Pharro
Hi John, I have to admit my knowledge of the location is virtually nil although my Dad some involvement in the original project I’m afraid Ididn’t take much notice of what he was up to at the time. Later on in early 70s my only reason for visiting the area was to dispose of rubbish.(I guess you could say my interest in local history wasn’t exactly at the forefront then.) However, I stand to be corrected but I think we can probably gather some clues from the photos on the page: In the top photo looking north/east( mainland in distance?) Mr Legg is standing with his back to the dug-out lakes which I recall were about 50yds from the Small Gains Creek wall. In the lower black/white group photo we’re looking south/east with Small Gains Creek wall in the background(Tewkes Creek would have been topped with metal piles then.) So I reckon the present position would be on the southern side of Canvey Heights appx opp. Canvey Supply. Graham.
You are correct. I have only lived on Canvey since 1970 and I live in Orrmo Road which was not far from where Canada Corner was. My wife says it was just where you say. Thanks
if my memory serves me correctly there also used to be a lake of sorts around orrmo rd. was fenced of i think. used to go there as a kid
You are talking about Croppenburgh Lake Tony
I have enjoyed reading this archival entry covering the development of Canada Corner from it’s first location and to it’s present attractive site. Congratulations to all who worked on this great project of thanks to Canada for their aid following our terrible flood. I was reminded also, that during my time spent on Canvey Island and which included W.W.11, I have the recollection of receiving aid in the way of food items from Canada. Does anyone else remember the “dried egg yolks” and “powdered milk” etc.? As kids, enduring the wartime on Canvey, we appreciated this type of aid from Canada too.
I used to go to Small Gaines Creek area to catch lizards and things in the overgrown grass and junk that surrounded Canada Corner.
I often wondered how and why it was there. It was well kept back in the early 70s. now, after all these years, and thanks to these pages, all has become clear.
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