Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Dutch are to blame for Canvey Island.

A few days ago I was on Canvey Island in Essex. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and I tried hard not to remember that I was at the side of the River Thames and below sea level.
Canvey Island on the coast of Essex in the Thames Estuary, 1955.

Canvey island really owes its existence to the Dutch. In 1621, the owners of the lands around Benfleet called a meeting to try to resolve the problem of the sea encroaching upon the marshes of Canvey, south of the town. Sir Henry Appleton, the principal landowner, invited Joas Crappenburgh over from Holland and agreed to make over to him a third of the land that he managed to drain and safeguard from the sea.
Low tide, crossing from Essex mainland to the island in 1899
He surrounded the island with a sea wall twenty two miles long and dug the channel deeper around it and Canvey Island was saved. For centuries the island was only accessible on foot or by carriage at low tide. A line of stepping stones and planks led the people across the muddy bed of the creek until the first road bridge was constructed in the 1930s. 
High tide, same day, looking from island to the mainland.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Canvey Island still had no telegraph wires, only one pillar box for posting letters, no butcher's or baker's shop and the nearest doctor lived seven miles away on the Essex mainland. Dutch could still be heard often spoken in the pub of an evening where the skippers of the Dutch fishing boats from the Texel would congregate. 

It was generally said that Canvey Islanders, 'talk slowly, walk slowly and think slowly'.

No comments:

Post a Comment