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

Welcome To Beyond the Point

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.

We also have a Facebook Page containing over a thousand photographs from all our ventures, many of which do not make this final site. Photo Albums Here

The History of Medieval Dragons

Posted: April 23, 2015 by BTP Liam in Case Study, Various
Tags: , , , ,

So it’s St. George’s Day 2015, and we all know the tale of the knight in shining armour slaying the dragon to rescue the damsel. Dragons and the Medieval Era are like bread and butter, but of course they aren’t real! That led me to further investigation; what is the historic significance of dragons in Medieval Britain? They appear as mythological beings as far back as ancient Greek civilization, with mixed symbolic meaning, but by the Plantagenet times (what is generally considered to be the Medieval era), dragons started to symbolize the Devil in Christianity. The religious significance of the St. George and the Dragon tale derives from the Crusades and is possibly a metaphor for the conquest of Christianity over what they saw as ‘evil'; the Seljuq Turks’ occupation of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The tale along with dragon imagery became highly popular towards the late Medieval Era in the 1400s, and can be seen in contemporary artwork.The tale reached as far as Mediterranean Europe seen in the works of renaissance artists.

Fewer works featuring the dragon exist prior to the European renaissance revival in arts, although there are depictions dating as far back as the 10th/11th Century in a church in Cappodocia (now part of Turkey) hence its roots abroad in the Crusades. It is quite strange to picture the origins of the tale coming from somewhere very different to the rolling English countryside yet being so integral to it. The dragon appeared in text around this time, yet George was mentioned as early as the 7th Century as a mere soldier, implying it was probably a story that evolved over time, and the dragon immortalized the peak of the exaggeration of the popular story.

Looking at artwork from the Middle Ages, it is evident dragons haven’t always been four legged scaly winged beasts. They often appear to not have their front pair of legs, and are more similar to serpents – some don’t even have wings! It derives from the Greek term ‘drakon’ meaning “serpent of huge size, water-snake”. This suggests historically dragons have always been viewed as mythical snakes rather than four-legged beasts, but variations differ. One thing that seems consistent in most artworks of St. George and the Dragon is that it is green rather than red; unusual considering something bad is usually thought of as being red – an association that may have developed since the medieval times. Perhaps the green colour comes from the colour of the wilderness – a place feared in the Middle Ages considering it was home to wolves and wild boar in areas which are now barely residence to a wood pigeon. Imagery of red dragons in more recent artworks possibly come from Welsh influence in which a red dragon is seen on their flag and is part of their folklore. Dragons in the Middle Ages existed as little more than a Christian symbol, but they have existed around the world with many other meanings for many previous centuries.

Please note the information above is given from personal judgement of contemporary artworks and re-iteration of other secondary sources. It may not be factually correct although it is often a reasonable judgement.

Hello all! Some of the shutters have now come down on Canvey Island’s own landmark – the King Caute public house. The building, which isn’t listed, is now under new ownership. Liam and I popped down to the club upon hearing that some of the shutters had been taken and upon arriving we spoke to the new owner. He said that he is unsure on what he’s going to be doing with the building, although it will be a few months until anything happens but he is keen to keep the building in it’s heritage condition despite being able to modify it as it isn’t listed. He also said that the building signage will be kept and most likely framed as he agreed with us that the history of building is important.

The short video below shows what the pub is currently like inside. The owner also said that we were welcome back in a few months to view more of the site. These clips will all be used in a documentary that we are working on which covers the history of the site!

Below is our collection of photos of the interior of the former pub, which we took at the same time as we filmed our video. You can also like our Facebook page where we also post our full set of photographs, videos and website updates including new content.

 – Sewage Works Remains
– Second World War Pillbox

Two Tree Island was reclaimed from the Thames in the late 1700’s and was used as farmland until 1910 when a sewage works was constructed on part of the site. These sewage works were used for the majority of the 20th century. During the North Sea Floods of 1953 two of the sewage workers had to be rescued by boat from a shed roof on the Island. From 1936 the entire island was used as a landfill site and continued until 1974, when only a smaller section was used for landfill. It is believed the sewage works stood there roughly up until this time. Soon after it was capped and re-seeded with grass. Like Canvey Heights, once also a tip, and Canvey Wick, once an oil-refinery, it is land which saw former use by man which often becomes the most appealing to wildlife.

Little is known about the sewage works and its structure on the island, so please contact us or comment below if you have any useful information or even photographs.

 Geograph contains several photographs of the Island in 1987 when it first became a nature-reserve

For a long time, the site was known as Leigh Marsh, although more recently, the site has been known as Two Tree Island as it was less-commonly known historically. Today the site is a nature haven and country park. At the peak of the Second World War, a pillbox was constructed on the eastern edge of the island, looking out across the Thames. This survived the war and is still there today for fellow explorers to visit, although over the years it’s become a victim to severe weathering. Since our first visit in 2011 its roof has nearly entirely caved in.

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Hello Beyond The Point readers! Liam and I are excited to announce the launch of a new scheme called ‘Your BTP’. We recently released ‘iBTP‘ which allows you to follow in our footsteps and re-create the BTP visit yourself, by using our iBTP map and guide. ‘Your BTP’ connects you with Beyond The Point even more, although in a slightly different way.

Over the past three and a half years of running Beyond the Point, we have met so many people, all of which have an incredible passion for their local history – they might have been part of history themselves, or just hold a strong interest in it. We’ve been thinking for a while about how we can get people even more integrated with Beyond the Point, and Your BTP is the way forward. The scheme works by people writing their own memories and tales (or sending us some old photographs/video clips) on the area’s that we cover; perhaps you’ve grown up here, have some old family photos of the area or even worked at the one of the places that we’ve featured like the Fisons Factory for example. Then, you can send in your memories to us so that we can publish them on our website. A new tab will be created at the top of the website where we will publish the articles, allowing all of our website visitors to view and comment on them.

Beyond the Point is a unique community archive, in that our community is South-East Essex and is expanding further afield. We’ve covered so many sites across Essex and ‘beyond the point’ at Kent ;), including Runwell Hospital, Rainham Marshes, The Imperial War Museum, The Gherkin, Wartime Southend and many more. The amount of people that have passed through these places with their own unique story of the place is incredible, and we would like that archive those memories for the future. So whether you’re from Canvey, London, Tilbury or somewhere else – why not send us in your memories?

If you would like to write an article for our website or send us in any old photos or video clips, then please send them via the Contact Page, or email them to us at BeyondthePoint@mail.com

Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre is a museum set up inside Magasine No.5 from the Royal Magasine of Gunpowder. This MOD magazine (which means an explosives and ammunition  store) was contracted in 1759, consisting of five buildings, plus a proof house for testing the explosive. Four of the magasines, which would have held up to 10,400 barrels of gunpowder, were left in a derelict overgrown state until they were demolished when Thurrock Council bought the site off of the MOD. The magasines were part of a larger Ministry of Defence site covering what is now Rainham Marshes Reserve. See our visit here: http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/historic-locations/east-tilbury-and-west/rainham-marshes-firing-range-ww1/

We decided to take the train down one Monday to see the museum. The 300 year-old timbers that line the floor and rafters still remain, and were imported from America because they were the only timbers long enough to be carved into the required shape. The museum does a commendable job of retaining the original look and feel of the building, such as the original painted numbers on the timber, whilst accounting for the modern-day appeal of the exhibits. There is still a huge attic spanning the length of the building used for storage filled with tons of original sand to contain an accidental explosion.

Alan Gosling decided to save the building, and I was fortunate enough to speak to him on our visit. He explained how the museum has to work the displays around the preservation of  the listed building. It became a museum in 1992, housing an impressive collection of artifacts and displays relating to both the magazine itself and local history, as well as British military history from the 19th Century, such as the Zulu War, through to the two world wars and beyond. The scale of the interior is huge and it is entirely full with displays and artifacts; there is plenty to see! The welcoming atmosphere of the building was finished off with some appropriate wartime music and enthusiasts dressed in British infantry uniform from the Second World War who were stopping by.

Visit the centre’s website and check their opening times at http://www.purfleet-heritage.com/

The Rainham/Purfleet area has been in use by man since the days of the so –called ‘Cavemen’. You can see some of the petrified tree trunks still remaining today from a 6,000 year-old Neolithic forest, opposite the very northern end of Wennington Marsh, in the Thames foreshore. However, much of Rainham came to use in the last few centuries by the Ministry of Defence on Aveley Marsh; this is what we investigated with guests Luke Baker and Michael Clark, paying a visit to the now RSPB-owned nature reserve.

The article following has been designed in manner which both documents our visit, informs readers on the location, and offers advice enabling you to make a visit yourself as part of our ‘iBTP’ scheme. If you do wish to visit, follow the numbers on the satellite map below which correspond to the places mentioned in the following article. We recommend you download and print our ‘printer-friendly’ trail-guide version of the article found below the map. Please note trail shown on map is not to be followed religiously. May contain errors or be subject to change over time. Please note the historic structures shown in the article are not accessible and are on potentially dangerous land. However, they can be clearly viewed at leisure from the footpaths.

Purfleet Train Station (not to be confused with Rainham Station further down the river) is part of the C2C train line. It will take you towards London or Southend-on-Sea. Trains only run roughly once an hour so make sure you plan a train. Alternatively you can drive and park in the Rainham Nature Reserve car-park next to the visitor’s centre. The reserve has been designed with nature in mind, although with respect to the sites heritage, so the marshes are well worth a visit if bird-watching or any other kind of wildlife enthusiasm is of interest to you.

ibtpRainhamMap

Download Printer-Friendly Trail Guide Here

  1. Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre is a museum set up inside 1759 Magasine No.5 from the Royal Magasine of Gunpowder Check opening times here: http://www.purfleet-heritage.com/pages/contact.html We took some video footage and photographs during our visit, and were fortunate enough to speak to founder Alan Gosling. We will release a short video and more in-depth article on the building in the near future which will be linked here.
  2. Rainham Marshes Visitors Centre was built around 2006 after the MOD land was bought and cleared by the RSPB in 2000. It has a café and toilet facilities, and houses views of the marshes as well as its own impressive architecture. We visited and the food/facilities were respectable and ideally located.
  3. The Anti-Submarine Blockhouse can be found at the end of one of the longest sections of the walk (around 10 minutes) which takes you to the western side of the central reserve. However, you can appreciate views of the Thames from here, also ideal for bird watching. This is a pillbox-type outpost made of brick and concrete, although much larger than conventional pillboxes, and is the first sign of the areas use during the First World War. It is said that in March 1916, decoy beacons were lit on Wennington Marsh, and the structure shot down a German zeppelin via the machine gun that would’ve been mounted on its roof. It remains in fair condition, but is water-logged and inaccessible.
  4. The Firing Ranges span across the green line marked on the map, and divide the two marshes. The war department created this rifle range in 1906, and the structures you see today were built in 1915. The firing range sheds (‘mantlets’) remain, which were where the target-mechanism operators would stand, as does one of the three ‘butts’ (the area in which the targets are set up).  The target area (butt/backwall), made up of a brick ‘Aztec-looking’ plinth with wooden numbers on, is visible from path. Its size means it can be seen across most of the reserve. It is on private land and inaccessible to the public. The surface of the remaining butt is littered with quite sizable bullet-holes in the brickwork, probably inflicted by the standard issue service rifle of the time – the Lee-Enfield and its .303 calibre bullets. The firing sheds (mantlets) were on private land and are inaccessible. They were made of metal and still held original wooden seats and other decor, as well as a corrugated iron shed. The mantlet roof was covered with earth from the bank to protect the target-mechanism operators from fire coming at the back-wall overhead. They span the entire western side of the central reserve in two sections. The green line on our map above marks their location. They were highly impressive.

  5. The Cordite Store was a large magazine building that once stood on the square area extant today. You can see the blast mound around the outside of this which would’ve contained an accidental explosion. We can imagine this must have been an immense building when it stood, more like some form of hangar or hall than a store-room.
  6. Only one of the eight Anti-Aircraft Ammunition Magasines remains today; ruined and overgrown just north of the visitors centre. The rest were demolished shortly after the RSPB gained the land in 2000. It lies off of the main footpath and is not accessible to the public. It was surprisingly large and had a small walkway between the blastwall and the exterior of the main structure. Window-frames inside were still present although no other features survived. You can see all eight magasines in the 1940 image at the bottom of the post.
The marsh in 1940

The marsh in 1940

That concludes the trail. If you decided to follow it you can now return to the Visitors Centre or go straight back to the C2C train station. Beyond the Point certainly enjoyed our visit and found it highly fascinating. First-time heritage-explorer Michael Clark said the trip was “thrilling; history meets adventure, and it really captivated me”, in the same way that BTP Joe and Liam were by their numerous adventures into remaining glimpses of the past.