Some memories of Canvey

by the late Alan Gregson

William Hart Gregson’s Establishment. Map drawn by his son Alan from memory in 1993. Click on the map to see an enlargement

A good many of the roads on Canvey Island were given Dutch names eg Tilburg Road; and most of Captain Gregson’s bungalows were given French names like Jethou, Sailly Laurette, Herm.

The Capt’s right-hand man was a Londoner Mr Walter Fuller, who lived with his wife in one of the properties Lake Villas. They had no children. Mrs. Fuller was pink and plump and kind. She had expressions like “Bread and iffits” (bread and if it’s buttered you’re lucky). Mr. Fuller was a tall good-looking middle-aged man who could turn his hand to anything. He collected the rents, kept the cashbook, supervised the workmen, he could paint and wallpaper, mix cement, dig postholes, hang a door, or  help a defaulting tenant on his way. (Note from Editor. Both Walter Fuller and his wife were victims of the 1953 floods. They still lived at no 1 Lake Villas, which were in Thisselt Road)

Lake Villas

The only full-time workman was a carpenter ; first Mr. Bowles who cycled in each day from Benfleet where he and his wife lived in a houseboat! (Somebody had discovered that a disposed-of railway carriage would exactly fit into the hatchway of a disposed-of Thames lighter, and several houseboats were like this). Alan’s friend Douglas referred to him as Mr. Bowels ; but at least he was ‘Mr’ and not impudently thought of by a Christian name.  Mr.Bowles was dea??(unreadable) , and taciturn ; asked Alan not to blunt his tools (his livelihood, remember) – and was fully occupied making joinery for houses the Capt. was constructing ; and repairing or improving existing ones After he left he was replaced by Mr. Watts, also a good versatile carpenter it was during Mr.Watts’ time that the Capt. began building a 20-foot diagonal-planked motor launch “with lines like an ocean greyhound”. It was meant to have a Brooks or a Thornycroft engine. It occupied the big workshop but was never fitted-out or launched.   After the sale of the big workshop and its staging (to Mr.and Mrs.Groves who built their dream -home there) Mr.Watts did his work in the Pram Shed, another of the appurtenances of Lake House. Some land behind the Pram Shed was sold to Mr.and Mrs.Eames to build on. They had a son Bobby about Alan’s age; and a lodger Const. Simpson the policeman.

Lake House with the bungalow Jethou behind. Gregson’s younger son Anthony in the front

The purlieu of Lake House was really good for boys ; it ran from “The Lighthouse” along Knightswick Road (the orchard) almost to Lakeside Corner, thence back westerly to the Pram Shed, followed the ditch to behind Jethou, and east along the lakeshore past the main house and then north-east to the Tuck Box (a lock-up shop which the Capt. let to Mr.Everest opposite Capt’s garage).

The garden contained a round metal Army hut full of interesting cobwebby relics ; a wigwam that the Capt. started for the boys which they never finished – they made an army dugout instead ; a round concrete tower for the boys’ King Arthur games ; the harbour built by Alan for his fleet of’ model ships – this had a concrete approach road at least 50 feet long ; the jetty for the dinghy ; a stone seat on which the Capt. inscribed the date 1522 ; and masses of shrubs, glass frames for plants, rockeries paths and odd corners.

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