Posted: June 20, 2012 by BTP Liam in Website Update

Welcome To Beyond the Point

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Beyond the Point is an award winning organisation based on Canvey Island, dedicated to BTP Joe and Liam exploring and researching historical remains mainly in South Essex, but spanning as far as London and Kent. Ranging from everything from Medieval castles to nuclear bunkers, we follow our goal to enlighten you on the usually skimmed-over parts of local history.  In strong co-operation with local archives and museums, Beyond the Point compliments the work from archivists within the area, receiving views from all over the world. We bring the past into the 21st Century via YouTube documentaries found in our articles.

To start discovering, mouse over ‘Local Heritage’, ‘Interactive Map’, or ‘General History’ along the top menu to navigate our articles, photographs, and documentaries. Scroll down to see our latest additions to the site. Photo Albums Here

This post continues from Part 1.

From 1827 the tunnels had remained derelict although from graffiti carved into chalk walls, it is known that soldiers were based there guarding an ammunition store in the 1850’s and 60’s. This is because they were on high alert for invasion although this threat never came to anything. In the First World War, the same tunnels were also mainly used for ammunition storage and perhaps as emergency stationing for soldiers about to make their short trip across the channel to the trenches of Northern France and Belgium. The tunnels were under the control of the Royal Navy during the First World War.

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey who died in 1945 from a plane crash. Photo from FanPop.com

Without much action for the next two decades, the tunnels were called back into action when the Second World War commenced. They were first converted into an air-raid shelter in 1939 although later became a secret military command centre and underground hospital. In May 1940 Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey directed the biggest operation ever seen at the site, from deep inside the White Cliffs, – Operation Dynamo, also known as the evacuation of Dunkirk.

The tunnels needed to be upgraded and transformed and this was a big mission itself. Over three miles of new and secret tunnels were dug out (by hand) to accommodate these changes. New levels of tunnels were commissioned from 1941 to provide separate, hidden and secure centres of operations for Army, Air Force and Navy. Many of the older tunnels were fired back into use by being lined with plywood or corrugated iron, of which much remains today. In addition space was needed for kitchens and mess rooms, maintenance and communications centres, barrack accommodation and a hospital for the wounded. The existing casemates were converted into offices, workshops, a telephone exchange, generator and planning rooms.

By the end of the war there were completed tunnels on three levels, one below the other.

A – Annex level, which from 1941 contained the hospital, dormitories, kitchens and mess rooms.

The planned B – Bastion level, behind Casemate level, was to be combined military headquarters and dormitories, but was never completed and never used.

C – Casemate level (the original 1797 tunnels and casemates planned by Twiss), held Admiralty Headquarters’ plotting, telecommunications and planning rooms, workshops and offices.

D – Dumpy level, the lowest level, built in 1942, was intended to be the main operations headquarters for the Army and Air Force.

Wartime life at Dover Castle

Photos Copyright English Heritage Photo Library

Post War

The DUMPY sign still at the Castle.

The Admiralty retained an interest in the tunnels until 1958 when they were handed over to the Home Office for a new defence function – a Regional Seat of Government to be used in the event of a nuclear war. The final phase of the working life of the tunnels came in the 1960s during the Cold War when tensions between East and West were at their height. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962, with its serious threat of nuclear war, particularly concentrated the minds of politicians and military planners in Britain. The government response was to identify a number of sizeable and secure fall-out shelters from which some vestige of local organisation could be continued in the event of a nuclear attack by the USSR. Dumpy level of Dover’s still secret, underground tunnels was chosen as the Regional Seat of Government for South East England, known as R.S.G.12. This Government centre was to be controlled by a cabinet minister with a staff of service personnel and civilian administrators after a nuclear war.

The work of converting the tunnels started again although this time converting them into radiation proof T.V. and radio studios, living accommodation and operations centre. Doomsday rehearsals and civil defence training were carried out regularly in the modified tunnels throughout the 1960s although the tunnels became increasingly difficult to maintain (and keep secret) during the 1970s. It was also realised that the porous chalk would have offered barely any protection against contaminated rainwater percolating down from any nuclear winter at ground level. The tunnels were abandoned as a Regional Seat of Government but were kept secret until 1986 when they were passed into the hands of English Heritage for eventual opening to the public.

Present Day

Scent bottlesToday English Heritage take pride in creating a realistic experience for people to a glimpse into what it would have been like during the war. The tunnels are open to the public with tours available for free (entrance fee to the site applies). While some of the tunnels maintain the wartime look and feel, some are making the most of technology with projections and immersive sound effects. Bottles like these are used to create realistic smells of some unusual things such as the boiler room, beef and a general musty smell.

Medieval Food

Posted: January 11, 2016 by BTP Liam in Case Study, Various
Tags: , , , ,

Cooking something up in the kitchen is always good fun, but even more fun when you try and produce a type of food completely alien to modern day cuisine. This is what I did aided by cousin Merlin one cold day when I fancied exploring history a bit differently this time. It was a great way to get behind the way people actually thought about food between 900 and 500 centuries ago. What I began to realise was that people didn’t just eat different things, but they combined ingredients people wouldn’t dare attempt in any professional restaurant today; yet they still had surprisingly successful results. Who would’ve thought you can make jelly from breadcrumbs?

How exactly did Medieval food vary to what we eat today? In some ways, not much- they still ate soup, stew, roast meat if you had money, and regardless of money lots and lots of bread. Obviously processed food is far more available today – its easier to eat a ready-made meal than it is to grab basic ingredients, causing a backlash of pro-healthy eating interest in raw fruit, veg, and even unprocessed meat. This is arguably the result of technology becoming so advanced that it is effortless to manufacture food, giving people a desire to return to simpler times. However, would you believe that in the Middle Ages people desired to have their food produced as much as possible? Raw stuff was just not popular. Perhaps this was a way to avoid eating nasties and getting sick, or just a result of fashionable refinement that frowned upon having raw foraged plants straight from the outdoors. Either way, foods like pottage were essentially stews slow-cooked to reduce the contents to a homogeneous mass. The thicker and therefore more broken-down the pottage was, the more refined the dish.

Meat was less-commonly eaten by peasants apart from that of pigs, because they could find their own food such as acorns in the woods and could rough out the winter just fine by themselves. Believe it or not, sheep were slender, the size of dogs, and had long tails, so were worth more kept for wool than slaughtered for meat. Hunting game in the lord’s domain was punishable by having your hands cut off as a peasant, so wild animals were a no-go, and birds would’ve been difficult to hunt before shotguns and air rifles existed. Therefore brown rye or barley bread and vegetables were the mainstay for peasants, and in the afternoon whilst working in the fields villagers would eat a ‘ploughman’s lunch’ – bread, cheese, and ale. Those living by the sea might be able to take advantage of seafood. Nobility and those with money could enjoy meat, sugar, imported spiced, fish from ponds, and white wheat bread fairly similar to that of today. People would drink mainly weak ale made from barley, as it was safer and more pleasant than water, although milk too was drunk. Of course fermentation would make water safe to consume, so even children would drink ale.

We decided to make three recipes; peas pottage which was a staple working-class main course, cherry pottage which would’ve been a fine dessert for those who could afford sugar and white bread, and leeks with sops and wine which represented a high-class version of a dish enjoyed by people from all backgrounds in the Middle Ages.

Peas Pottage

Pottage was a staple food for the everyman throughout history was a cross between soup, chowder and stew. Essentially it was a dish ate in a ‘pot’ or bowl and during the Medieval era consisted of foods slow-cooked until the broke down. Legumes, cereals, and if you were lucky, meat, was all used to make pottage. Peas pottage was probably the archetypal evening meal for a Medieval peasant.

To make the pottage for the two of us we took 450g of peas, although other English beans could be used, two onions, a sprinkle of salt and sugar, and a spoon of oil (of course olive oil was not common in England but this isn’t going to affect the recipe dramatically). We put the peas and chopped in a pan heat them and to speed up the process we blended them, before adding them back to the pan with other ingredients. A pint of water was added, and this should all be cooked at lower heat until the pottage is thick and no longer watery. Although the result looks like mushy peas, it tasted much more like a pea and onion soup and was very hearty even by modern standards.

Cherry Pottage

This pottage was very different to the first, and was left to cool and set into a jelly-like pudding rather than a soup. However both are similar in that they are ideally a one-colour, homogenous bowl dish with no particular bits of food left distinguishable – ideal in the mind of someone alive 700 years ago. Cherry pottage contained white sugar and white bread so would’ve been a real delicacy probably only for nobility.

To make one pudding that serves two you will need three slices of bread crumbled into bread crumbs, two punnets of cherries (450g), 80g of sugar, 350ml of red wine, a pinch of salt, and 30g of butter. First remove stones from the cherries before adding them to a blender with the sugar. Then add this to a saucepan with the breadcrumbs and wine, as well as the sugar and butter. Simmer until it becomes very thick and similar to jam. Place in a bowl evenly and leave it to set, either in a fridge or naturally on the side whilst covered. To decorate you can sprinkle sugar over the top and even paint the ends of some cloves gold and balance them around the bowl to add some extra grandeur to this fine dish. It sets firm like jelly and is unrecognisable as the product of any of the whole ingredients. It’s very different to jam; more of a thick paste pudding/jelly, but well recommended. I was impressed how such a jelly-like dessert was made with the help of only sugar and bread.

Leeks and Sops in White Wine

Sops were essentially pieces of bread soaked in a soup-like liquid before being eaten. People of all classes would’ve enjoyed sops perhaps with pottage or any other cooked food and its juices. Even though this recipe is basic, white bread and white wine was reserved for upper classes, so a peasant would probably have eaten sops of brown bread with cooking juices rather than wine. Monks were said to officially have been able to eat stewed leeks cooked in water on white bread, but often deviated and ate them cooked in white wine.

To make two plates of the dish you will need half a bottle of white wine, a teaspoon of oil (your preference although olive oil was not common), a pinch of salt, four slices of white bread, and five leeks. Remove the tougher green parts of the leeks and simmer them in a pan until soft in the wine with the oil and salt added. When done pour the contents over the bread which should be broken into nugget-shaped pieces and scattered across a plate. The end result was pleasant; the white bread wasn’t too bad soaked in the juices, although the entire dish was pretty potent considering the sauce was made of dominantly wine.

That concludes our guide to Medieval food. Why not try changing the dishes? How about adding oats and bacon to the peas pottage, using apples and currants instead of cherries in the dessert pottage, or making a broth to eat with sops of brown bread? Hopefully the first part of the article should give you an idea of who ate what in the Middle Ages. Alternatively, get yourself a copy of the book that inspired our adventure; The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black.

The oldest house in Benfleet as it has been known was formerly a ‘poorhouse’, which we would interpret as a government-funded structure that would support those in poverty and provide them with housing. Whilst ‘poorhouses’ include the trecherous workhouses of the Victorian era, the three houses including the Moorings would appear to be only a place to live for the poor with perhaps work in and on the land around the house to pay for their residence.

Photographs above are from HadleighHistory.org.uk in an article written by local author and Historian Robert Hallman

Dave Blackwell with the building when it was supposedly 'saved' from demolition, months before it was torn down

Dave Blackwell with the building when it was supposedly ‘saved’ from demolition, months before it was torn down

Whilst the building is thought to have been extant since 1621, it is believed only a small part of the house is still contemporary because of the amount of changes it has seen in the years since. A report from the Castle Point Echo in September 2014 explains ‘the oldest house in Benfleet has been saved from demolition… for now… councillors admit it is only a matter of time before someone puts forward another application’. It appears that application has come forward because as of Summer 2015 a building fence has sprung up around the building and it now exists torn in half and semi-demolished. We managed to get some photographs before it went completely.

For those who haven’t visited Beyond the Point before, we are an award winning organisation dedicated to revealing the unseen history of Essex and beyond. Ranging from everything from Medieval castles to nuclear bunkers, we follow our goal to enlighten you on the usually skimmed-over parts of local history. Read more about us…

Howdy BTP readers! As Christmas day quickly approaches, so does the new year which means another year of exploring a vast variety of site along with a hefty collection of photographs and video clips. Our latest documentary for BTP is something quite different…

Beyond the Point has been given exclusive access to film a documentary on the derelict Severalls Hospital site in Colchester. This documentary is particularly special as the NHS has declined every single filming request (except ours) for those wanting to film on the site, even to major broadcasters such as the Discovery Channel. Therefore, Beyond the Point will be the only organisaation to have filmed legally on the site, both to date and probably in the entire time that the hospital is standing. The site was opened in 1913 as ‘Severalls Asylum’, a psychiatric hospital, and provided psychiatric care for North Essex until it closed in 1997. The massive 300 acre site was built to house up to 2,000 patients and the site was built based on the ‘Echelon plan’ where staff and patients could move around the site without going outside. If you have memories of Severalls Hospital, why not post them in our new Facebook Group, dedicated entirely to the hospital?

When asylums were first built in the late 1800’s, they were placed away from towns although they were a community in their own right as asylums were built with farms, laundry facilities, staff housing, shops and everything needed to live on the site. Mental health had quite a stigma attached to it at the time and little was known about curing it. Women could be admitted for struggling with a large family or for even being raped. This led to some scientists and doctors to experiment with treatments including electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and the use of frontal lobotomy.

Paul Lindup flying his drone

Our documentary will explore the history from when Severalls opened up until it closed and will show what the site is currently like. We’ve pulled out all the stops for this documentary and have teamed up with Airbourne Imagery who are providing us with some amazing drone shots of the site. We also have helicopter footage from ITV News. In the new year we’ll be speaking with former staff members about their time at the site and will publishing our documentary around mid 2016.

To find out more about this project and to see early production photos visit our production website, JoeMander.com. You can also get regular updates about the documentary by liking Globlue on Facebook. We’ll be posting an article focussing on the history of the site, alongside our current photos, in the new year. If you have any photos or memories of the site, then please don’t hesitate to Contact Us. You can watch a teaser below:

 

Press Features:

Daily Gazette Feature | East Anglian Daily Times | Maldon Standard | Chelmsford Weekley News

The Corringham Light Railway was a line built in 1899, opened in 1901, as part of access to the Kynochs munitions factory on the site of what is now Coryton. It went from the London Fenchurch/Tilbury/Southend line at Thames Haven down to Corringham and Kynochtown to allow for transport to and from the munitions site but was used as late as 1971 for oil refining activities.

The line has been at first glance removed without trace, but plenty of remnants begin to appear when you follow the line closely which we did in 2013 with the Corringham Light Railway Preservation Society with great thanks to Lisa Sargent. We found remains of the CLR and Kynochs munitions works all the way from the housing area near the Pegasus Club in Stanford-le-Hope out into the remote farmers fields where we stopped. We found ponds near the Pegasus Club that would’ve been used for brick works serving the railway, as well as sewage works left by Kynochs serving the works colony, and also Brickfield Bridge now in the water-logged fields that the CLR would’ve run over. Trackbed remains such as sleepers, and surrounding fences, still survive too. The station platform at the start of the CLR also surves in a garden in a residential area. Inside Coryton refinery, which is of course heavily guarded due to terrorist threats, the 1919 Coryton Station platform survives.

This article was written in January this year as an overview of Beyond the Point’s coverage of the First World War for the Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Partnership which we are proud to be a part of. In light of remembrance 2015, its now here on Beyond the Point.

I shall begin by introducing our organisation. BeyondthePoint.co.uk is Essex-based and was established by myself (Liam Heatherson) and my friend Joe Mander, in 2011 when we were fourteen years old. Like this site, we created it using WordPress (originally as a blog). We were awarded Best National Community Archive, Website, and Heritage Group of 2012. We use our site to share and document our fascination with local history, offering an innovative approach to the subject by focusing on what is usually glossed over by historians; primarily what remains of our heritage today. The ‘hands-on’ nature of exploring local heritage in our opinion is a good way to fascinate a younger audience. Also, we use professional-quality video equipment to produce documentaries on the places we visit found on the site.

We were encouraged to join the Centenary Partnership by the Bay Museum who is also a partner, whom we know very well. Like ourselves, they believe seeing and investigating remains of the Great War is the most effective way to really capture people, like history did to myself many years ago.

Beyond the Point has been running a series of articles on relating to the First World War, and we have many planned for the future. We began our investigation by having a look at the remembrance of the sacrifice paid. Joe and I took a trip to London and visited the poppies at the Tower of London, and also the Tower Hill Memorial for those who lost their lives in both world wars in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets. You can read about our visit and our partnership with the IWM here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1if Next we paid a visit to the Imperial War Museum London itself as it was only fitting. We visited the First World War exhibition there. Read more here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1mb

Having paid respects to the more obvious commemoration of the Great War, we then set out to provide our own contributions. As we usually explore and document historic remains, we took a trip to Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve which held the ruins of the Ministry of Defence site that was there as far back as the 1700s up until recent. It served most notably as a firing range during the First World War. Joe and I took two friends with us and they were definitely fascinated like ourselves. We tracked down the ruins of an anti-submarine blockhouse, which shot down a zeppelin in March 1916, explored the impressive remains of the 1915 firing range, and ventured inside a gloomy anti-aircraft ammunition magasine; one of the original eight. We provided a downloadable trail guide on our website to enable viewers to discover the remains for themselves. You can read the whole detailed investigation, see all our photographs, and get the trail guide here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1s6

This is only the one of our investigations into remains of the First World War on the home front and we plan several more for the future. BTP created a 5-minute short documentary on Southend in The First World War based on the book ‘Southend at War’ by Dee Gordon. It visits sites that were bombed, or used in the war effort. Read the article here: http://wp.me/p1HP6Z-1md

We will be visiting the site of a First World War Kynoch munitions factory that is currently thought to be gone without trace by historians, to conduct an archaeological search, after we found signs of ruins corresponding to the original plans via Google Earth. We visited a similar site, now a nature reserve, in Pitsea, several years ago (Wat Tyler Country Park) which made much of the .303 ammunition for the standard-issue Short Magasine Lee-Enfield rifles used by troops in the Great War. This is somewhat antiquated content on our site which is not representative of the quality of our articles at present, although you can read about this here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-Xl We also visited a munitions factory from the same era in 2013 at Cliffe, whose ruins span miles of Thames-side marshland in Kent to this day: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-1af Finally, again in 2013, we visited Stow Maries Aerodrome which was abandoned up until recent years in which a restoration project has taken place. They fly contemporary aircraft from the site, and hold a collection of restored and left-natural buildings from the time of the First World War. Read here: http://wp.me/P1HP6Z-Sx

Thanks very much for reading and thanks very much to the Imperial War Museum for the First World War Centenary Project which we are grateful to be part of.