Croppenburg Lake and Island Farm

The Disappearing Lake

These photos were taken by my wife, Sandra’s Uncle, George Spires. Sandra’s family, the Jessens lived in Orrmo Road, which runs from Smallgains Avenue right up to the Lake, opposite Island Farm. (The Jessen family and Lil Spires can be seen in the gallery below.)

Swans on Croppenburg Lake

From 1923 to 1926, Island Farm was the home of my mum, then Kay Porteous. She lived at ‘Mispah’ one of the two bungalows on the site, with her mother, older sister Annie and older brother ‘Billy’, who died in 1923 shortly after arriving on the Island, as a result of WW1 gas attack. (A picture of the ‘Mispah’ can be seen in the gallery below).

The bungalow ‘Mispah ‘ in the distance

The main reason for the move from Hornsey was to improve Annie’s health but she died of TB in 1926.  Not a very happy time for my mum!  After Annie’s death they moved to Hornchurch where my mum’s teenage years appeared to be much happier.

Island Farm is not really a farm but a tongue of land forming the southern side of Croppenburg Lake accessed through Kollum Road.

Croppenburg Lake 1963

I remember the lake as having no fences round it. We used to fish for eels under the guidance of an old man called ‘The Olk’ (Octavius Ethelbert Elson) who had a bungalow with a long verandah that faced onto the lake. (The Olk with the Jessen family can be seen in the gallery below)

Croppenburg Lake

There were several winters when I remember people were skating on the ice. I only learned it was Croppenburg Lake or that the ditch that flowed into it along Holbeck Road was called Croppenburg Canal recently.

Lake with part of Stella Maris and gypsy caravan in background

To us it was just ‘The Lake’. Graham

Croppenburg Lake is an offshoot of Smallgains Creek, it has been in existence since at least the mid 1600’s where it can be clearly seen on J Blaeu’s map dated 1650. (A copy of the map by DM Dowd can be seen here) The date the lake became known as Croppenburg Lake is unknown, it was named after Joas Croppenburg, who was instrumental in the reclamation of much of Canvey by the Dutch about the same date as J Blaeu’s map.

On this Google satellite picture you can just make out what is left of Croppenburgh Lake

The lake was used as a balancing and flood storage area, particularly useful when we were tide-locked and flood waters could not be pumped straight into the river. The lake is today a poor shadow of its former self, it is now a boggy ground that only occasionally fills with any significant amounts of water.

It was probably cut off from Smallgains Creek when the new seawall was built in the 70’s. Today there is a new pumping station, built near the seawall end of the lake.  The pictures on this page and the ones in the gallery below, show many different views of the Lake and Island farm, but I think the Google satellite one is the most fascinating. Despite all the odds the outline of the lake can still be clearly seen. Janet

Comments about this page

  • Well Graham, this was quite a surprise. I never realised the ‘Lake’ was so big! It was much smaller when I was young and my father used to catch eels there.

    I’m sure I have a photo of Lil Spiers with my mother, probably taken in the 1930’s or 40’s as I believe they were good friends. Let me know if you want a copy. The site gets more and more interesting.

    By Maureen Buckmaster (04/02/2009)
  • Ron & Brenda were my grandparent & Lillian, I remember we used to call her Nanny Pie & she lived in a house with great uncle George & that damn cuckoo clock! I never remember the lake being a lake, just a field with horses in it! Shows how much things change.

    By Hannah (14/08/2009)
  • The photo does bring back some memories of Rose Cottage as that was my Nan and Granddads house in Rattwick Drive which I was born there. Also my mother and father and my Nan Lil Spires are in the photo. I also remember the trees in the garden but they were much bigger as I remember them. Old Olk I never met as I don’t think I was born then but I remember his name as my mother and father and Nan talked about him a lot and said how kind and helpful he was.The lake I remember the lake when there was eels in it and ducks and swans nesting in the reeds it looked much better then it does today. I remember when the water board started work put up a chain link fence around the lake to keep people out. (Not that it kept me out). Work now started draining the lake and I remember it took some time then they seeded it with grass. As years went on the lake started going back to how it use to look like but it was only one half reeds started to come back and the water. Up to a few years ago there was a lot of work going on in the lake putting in a new pumping station at the sea wall end and now the water in the lake has started to go. I just want to end this now which I think the lake looked better there than not with a fence around it with grass which no one can enter. Now a days you don’t even see any wildlife visiting the area ducks, swans, newts and grass hoppers and many more of our wildlife which use to live close by. By Colin 16.5.2010

    By Colin Mark Jessen (16/05/2010)
  • Hello, I have been searching for my birth mother on and off unsuccessfully for years and today it has led me to your site. I have just received her birth certificate and her parents Henry Leonard and Christine Moss lived at Island Farm, Leigh Beck, Canvey Island, my mother, Sylvia Barbara, was born on the 6th June 1927. It would be absolutely amazing if anyone connected with the farm knew her. A long shot but worth a try. Trying not to get too excited, but please reply if you have any info re. the Moss Family of Island Farm, Leigh Beck. Thank you, Hilary Tipping, Wellington, New Zealand.

    By Hilary Tipping (05/09/2010)
  • Hi Hilary, Thanks to Janet Penn pointing out your post to me I was able to read it shortly after it came onto the site. I held back a bit hoping I might have some more positive info for you, however, at present all I can add to what was written about the Moss family is that my sister Jenny Stacey has reminded me that there were two more sisters, Valerie and Lily.

    We do not know if any of the four siblings still live on the Island but there is still something of a local ‘grapevine’, if we put out a few feelers we might come up with some more info. Regards, Graham.

    By Graham Stevens (19/09/2010)
  • Thank you very much Graham, every little clue helps. Regards, Hilary

    By Hilary Tipping (28/10/2010)
  • Hi Hilary I have just learnt that the members of the Moss family mentioned above have no connection with Island Farm. I apologise to you and to the Moss family members for publishing this misinformation which will shortly be deleted from the page. Regards, Graham.

    By Graham Stevens (29/10/2010)
  • George and Lil spires are my aunt and uncle, Lil was my Mums Sister Ada Nash (nee Knight)

    By Joe Nash (27/01/2018)
  • Old Olk was my Aunt Lils  (Fancy Man) my mum told me, who was Lils sister Ada Nash

    By Joe Nash (27/01/2018)
  • I think I may have misspelt Octavius Elson’s nickname in original text. There wasn’t an’l’ in it. He was known as ‘The OC’ ,just the phonetical sound of his christian name! I first got to know him when I about 8yrs when my Auntie Blossom told me to go down to see him about fishing for eels in lake, he gave me a couple of old rods and tried to show me how to bind rods etc. I was useless but he was a very patient and kind old guy. Graham.

    By Graham (21/05/2021)
  • My mum and dad Jim Mortimer & Josie Mortimer /Denney nee Nash, used to live at island farm,in the late 50’s my brothers were born there, Jim, mick and Tony Mortimer, lil spires was my mums Aunty, my Nan Ada Nash’s sister

    By Karen (25/01/2022)

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