Cottage of St Hugh

aka Riverside Café

Front elevation of the plan dated 1907

I have recently found a copy of the plans for a building on the corner of Hellendorn Road and The Promenade (Eastern Esplanade) dated 1907. The plans are of St Hughs a building quite prominent on the seafront and later known by many on Canvey Island as the Riverside Café.

The building was commissioned by a member of the Seabrooke Family, Charles Herbert Seabrooke, who was a Director of the family’s brewery in Grays which was founded in the early 1800s by Charles’ great grandfather, Thomas Seabrooke. Both the Lobster Smack and the Red Cow on Canvey Island were Seabrooke Houses.

From the pictures I had seen of the building it looked like a typical timber building so I was surprised when I looked at the plans. Although it has a timber frame the walls were in fact Galvanised Iron weather boarding sheeting. The upstairs over-hung the lower floor not only with the veranda but also the floor space upstairs was much bigger than below. It was built as two flats, the lower smaller one for the ‘caretaker’ with a kitchen and bedrooms. The upper floor, which had a separate entry from the stairs outside was for the ‘owner’ with a lounge and two bedrooms. Also on the ground floor but outside the ‘caretakers’ flat were four soft water tubs collecting rain water. (More of the plan can be seen in the gallery below)

Early picture of the two story bungalow with its galvanised iron weatherboarding walls

Charles lived there until at least 1911 where he can be found with a visitor, Bernard Halls, a housekeeper, Eliza Hitchcock and the housekeeper’s husband, Frederick.

His father died in 1913 which is when he probably moved back to Grays as he can be found in Grays in the 1914 Kellys Directory. By 1914 Charles, like many others, had joined the 3rd (City of London) Volunteer Rifle Corps. A notice in the London Gazette dated 13 October 1914, Captain Charles Herbert Seabrooke of the Army Service Corps, was to be made Major. He married in 1915 to Laura moving to Upminster. As well as being a Director of Seabrooke Brewery and a Major during WWI he went on to be an Essex County Councillor for Grays. Charles died in 1940 in Whitechurch, Oxfordshire.

St Hughs from the seawall. As can be seen there was little development along the Promonade at the time the bungalow was built.

By 1918 Edgar Horatio White, a weighting machine proprietor, was registered as being the owner although his main residence was in Forest Gate, London. The family probably used the bungalow as a holiday home.

Edgar was still there with his wife, Annie, in the 1929 Electoral Register as were John Foden Herbert and his wife Ivy. Perhaps the later were the caretakers whilst the White family were in London. Edgar died in Forest Gate in 1938 which may be the time the place changed hands again. If anyone knows please comment below.

Riverside Cafe. Dormer windows have been added to the roof and the outer stairs have been removed.

At some point the building was taken over by the Lacy family who turned it into the Riverside Café. The downstairs was the cafe, the upper floor was turned into a separate flat with its entrance door downstairs opening onto Hellendorn Road. Dormer windows were added to the roof to make another level. The stairway leading to the veranda was also removed.

Later still Fred McCave used a room in the cafe and ran his business from there. When the Lacy family retired Fred took on the building and it became his base for his bulletin magazines, printing business and his museum of Canvey artifacts. The building was pulled down in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

If you have memories of the cafe or can add anything re the history or people please comment below.

Comments about this page

  • This is my dads (Michael Lacey) old family home! My uncle Martin Lacey still has a printers on the island (riverside printing!). I have heard many stories about their childhood here and will try to get some onto this site! Apparently one of the great train robbers stayed here whilst on the run! My dad searched the place high and low for any stashed loot). My Nan (Jean Lacey) had 2 houses built on the site which remained in the family until 1996.

    By Richard Jackson (14/09/2013)
  • That would be great Richard. Thank you

    By Janet Penn (14/09/2013)
  • Hi there i came across this site after a long chat with my 92 yr old grandma this afternoon. She was over the moon to hear about the history of this house and loved looking at all the pictures. We were looking at and old picture of her as a child and she mentioned it was taken in the garden of her grandfathers house St hugh on Canvey. She said it was one of the first houses to be built on canvey and she has wonderful memories there. Her grandfather was Edgar White and they were from Forest gate. He’s wife was Annie (who was in the photograph with her) and their daughter was Jessie who was married to Frederic Philips who were of course my grandmas parents. She remembers the balcony that looked out at the old lighthouse and how she and her cousin used to walk over when the tide was out collecting cockles in their buckets and chatting to the lighthouse keeper. She also recalled a shop not far from the house which she said was called fourteen star and they used to go in there and buy their sherbet dabs from a Mrs Hubbard. Unfortunately she couldn’t recall what happened to the house when he died etc…She does have a brilliant memory for 92 but unfortunately there are some gaps! any more information i can gather I will add! so interesting for me to hear about though. 

    By Brioni Maker (20/10/2014)
  • Thank you for adding your grandmothers memories of St Hughs. We have more pictures and information on the site of the house later known as Riverside Cafe.

    By Janet Penn (20/10/2014)

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