Old Dutch Houses On Canvey Island

Rural Life Journal 1905

Canvey Island gives a pleasant impression of remoteness from civilisation, though it is really only thirty miles from London. It is reached at high tide by means of a primitive ferry across the branch of the Thames which divides it from the mainland, but when the tide is low the pedestrians can cross Benfleet Creek by the aid of stepping stones and planks. John Norden gives a graphic description of the place in his history of Essex, dated 1577. “Near the Thames mouth below Beamflete are certaine islandes called Canvey Ilandes, low merishe grounds; and for that the passage over the Creeks is unfit for cattle it is onlie converted to the feeding of ewes, which men milke and thereof make cheese (suche as it is) and of the curdes of the whey they make butter once in the yeare which serveth the clothier.”

Camden, writing in the end of the sixteen century, tells us that the Counos mentioned by Ptolemy, and adds; “The ground is so extremely low that it is very often quite drowned, except a few of the highest hillocks whish serve as a retreat for the sheep, of which there are commonly fed 4,000 in the island, whose flesh is of a very excellent taste.”

Canvey Island is interesting as having been a Ditch settlement, and we hear of one Joas Croppenburgh, who in 1622 offered to reclaim the island from the overflowing of the tides. The Dutchmen’s efforts were on the whole successful; roads dividing the properties were made, flanked by dykes, and houses built. Of these perhaps the most picturesque is that on the road between Benfleet and Canvey (see illustration dated 1618). The view is taken from the garden, where masses of flowers, and especially the white lilies, worthily keep up Dutch traditions. The other illustration shows a cottage in Canvey village, and bears the date 1621.

Cottage date 1618

Cottage dated 1621

Two Round Dutch Houses on Canvey Island

Photos by Augusta A Temple

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