Canvey's Punch & Judy Family

Paul & Winnie Capser

Every sea side holiday resort had a Punch & Judy Show and Canvey was no exception. Paul Capser entertained children on Canvey’s sandy beaches for many years as seen in the photo below.

Paul Capser’s Puppet Show at Concord Beach in the 1950’s

Paul Capser was born in St Pancaras in 1896 and attended St Giles-in-the-field Boys School. He married Grace Burrell in 1917 at St Pancaras.

Paul went off to France to fight in the Great War. After the war Paul & Grace had a daughter in whom they named Winfred Grace Capser. I believe the Photo below is of Grace Capser.

Winnie’s Mother

The family lived in London during the 1920’s & 1930’s. Possibly as early as 1938 the family moved to Canvey Island and rented a bungalow called ‘The Dak’ at 25 Roggle Road. In 1942 the typical rent for this type of property was 15/- a week. Paul ran the Punch & Judy show until his death in 1965, a year after his wife Grace’s death.

Their daughter Winnie took over the Punch & Judy show and became known by the children as “Aunt Winnie”. Winnie was the Chairman of Canvey’s RSPCA including the horrific time of the 1953 floods where many animals were rescued. For this work she was awarded a meddle. She was also the Public Relations Officer & Chairman of the Canvey Island (National) Savings Committee from 1967 to Jan 1976. Winnie became friends with the Stuckey family who lived nearby in Rayment Avenue, for the Stuckey Sisters Story click HERE.

I would like to thank Joan Liddiard (nee Bishop) for donating the box containing many old documents relating to the Capser family, to Janet Penn for her help in tracing the family history and to Geoff Barsby for showing us the Capser’s Punch & Judy Puppets (See below). The box has since been donated to distant relatives discovered since this article was published.

2008: Geoff Barsby kindly showed us some of Paul & Winnie’s Puppet Collection

If you can add any memories or information on the Capser family, the Punch & Judy Show and the Canvey RSPCA please add your comments below.

Click on the Pictures below for a larger view and description:

Comments about this page

  • A brilliant piece of research. I remember going to Paul and Winnie’s shows. They cost 3d.

    I agree that in spite of the passage of years the people in the photos are definitely Paul and Winnie.
    I think that the jacket Paul is wearing may be Royal Flying Corps

    By Robin Howie (04/06/2008)
  • I regret never having seen the Capser show. There was a platform on the beach next to Chalkwell station. The beach belonged to the railway company and the stage was built of railway sleepers. The Capsers provided the entertainment. A few year ago, I was asked to look at the Capser booth that Southend Museum had acquired. ( I am a local Punch and Judy man.) It succumbed to woodworm whilst in store and I never got to see it.

    By John Alexander (26/07/2008)
  • How I loved the punch and judy shows. I would time my visits to the beach so I could see the shows, day after day, I never tired of them. I liked the policeman, I wasn’t too keen on Punch as he threw the baby down the stairs, but my very favourite was the crocodile. The poor thing never did get the sausages. I never had a ticket so could only sit on the outer circle of the crowd of kids sitting on the sand, and never did win one of the prizes. Usually a colourful paper bird on a long length of elastic you whirled above your head. Never seen another one since leaving Canvey.

    By val phillips( nee Sparkes (31/07/2008)
  • Seeing this article about Paul and Winnie Capser filled me with nostalgia and very fond memories indeed.

    As a child I lived in Roggle Road on Canvey Island, about 30 yards from where the Capsers lived, which I recall was a simple timber bungalow, with a veranda and which sat amid a veritable smallholding with lots of Geese, Ducks, Rabbits, Hens, and of course Doves, which Paul used in his magic act – see below. I was about ten when Paul (at that stage an old man, as I perceived him) asked me if I would like to become his helper. So for about 3 years I assisted him and Winnie (the photo is DEFINATELY her) sell tickets to the kids on the beach and help drag his wheeled Punch and Judy booth up and down the sea wall onto the beach at Thorney Bay and at the top of May Avenue (always a 3pm show on Sunday I recall) – which were his two main ‘pitches’. In the evenings I would sit (with Paul, Winnie and another lady who I always imagined was Winnie’s older sister, but perhaps not) at his home making the paper birds referred to elsewhere and sew them onto elastic, we would also make paper mache balls and colour them with water paints in bright vivid reds and oranges, and thread them with lengths of elastic to make bouncy yoyo balls.
    I remember that Paul had an old Trojan van (green I think), which I had to ‘crank start’ and often push to help get it started.

    In the winter months Paul and Winnie performed magic shows at children’s parties and I especially remember the Ford Cars kids Christmas party (at the Basildon factory) because the ‘goodies’ were superb and with so much free ice cream – not too common in 1961/2.
    It was there that i saw him play the musical saw with a violin bow – never saw it before nor since!

    I moved from Canvey to Southend in 1963 and it was a good few years later that i heard of Paul’s death and I never saw Winnie again ( I’ve just recalled that she would typically be dressed in brown ‘land army’ style dungarees most of the time). They were both very kind, simple living but special people and this website has helped me to remember how special those early 1960s days were for me. I am so glad that his puppets have been saved because they were the very tools of a wonderful couples livelihood.

    Coincidentally, Mr Geoff Barsby, are you the father of Janet Barsby, who I recall was in my class at Long Road junior School and at Furtherwick school for the few years I was there?

    I live in Cambridgeshire and have only tenuous links with Canvey Island now, but it was where I was born, grew up and had a childhood full of freedom and fun. Incidentally, my first memory as a child is of the day I was lowered out of the upstairs loft hatch of my grand mothers house in Bardwick Avenue, into a fishing boat and whisked off to the safety of Leigh on Sea – that would have been in 1953 but is an altogether different story.

    By Peter Raven (born 7.2.1950)
    On February 11th 2009

    By peter raven (11/02/2009)
  • Thanks for your comments.

    I have been given some more excellent photographs including the van so stay tuned and I’ll publish them once processed


    By David Bullock (12/02/2009)
  • Thank you so much for writing this article love to see part of my family history out there for the world to see. Would love to know where all the puppets have been passed onto though

    By Emma Capser (21/05/2010)
  • Uncle paul as i know him was nan’s brother we went to see him a few times. I remember a pet monkey and a dodgem car on the “veranda”.

    Also chasing papier machete balls with elastic down the beach.

    Don’t know much about this side of the family but would like to know more.

    Remember a rose and tom and an alfred.

    Please e-mail for contact

    By MURF (16/05/2014)
  • I do remember Paul and Winnie Capser with their punch and Judy shows on Canvey beach and Thorney Bay camp where mum/dad had a small Bluebird caravan sited there called ” Elaine” i remember those paper mache balls attached to elastic he used to ‘ping’ over us audience which i never managed to catch.! – – i was around 8 or 9 then now 73 yrs young but vividly remember those summer days, and I’m still a ‘ Canveyite’. 😀

    By Alan Spall (27/08/2021)

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