Chafford Gorges

Posted: April 21, 2014 by BTP Liam in Event Review
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Transformed from chalk industry giants of the 20th Century, these huge craters in the landscape now form nature reserves due to the mineral-rich soils. What’s more, is that water collects in the bases of them, forming lakes. One of these can be walked to after ten minutes, as soon as you cross the Lakeside c2c railway footbridge. The chalk was harvested from the gorges for use in making cement at the Tunnel Portland Cement factory roughly on site of the QE2 bridge (Essex side), built in 1874.

A photo of the industrial site at Thurrock, 1948. Courtesy of Britain From Above.

A photo of the industrial site at Thurrock, 1948. Courtesy of Britain From Above.

The gorges, some taken over as Nature Reserves, others left ‘abandoned’ to form lakes, were visited by myself and Jack Swestun early Winter 2013. We discovered a few remains such as a shell of a small outbuilding, manholes, and pipes. Climbing around a gate to get to a restricted path on the opposite side of a fishing lake in one of the gorges, we were rewarded by tons of fresh apples growing on trees. However, we should’ve turned back, as carrying on around the lake meant we had to tackle a metal spiked fence by stacking chairs found nearby, after rolling down the bottom of the cliff-face among heaps of chalk. Dangerous, and best not repeated!

Wikipedia explains:

The reserve is on the site of three major chalk quarries - Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge, and Grays Gorge which were worked from the end of the 18th century for around 150 years.[2] In the Lion Gorge are the remnants of an old tramway cutting created in the nineteenth century to transport chalk from Lion Pit to the riversidewharves.[3] The tramway ran roughly south from the chalk diggings to the Lion Works – a Portland cement factory opened in 1874. (Until about 1980, Thurrock was a major centre for cement production.) Part of the course of the tramway can be seen under the bridge where the railway line crosses a path from The Chase to Hedley Avenue and is also visible on London Road between The Chase and Foxton Road.

Lt. Col. Horace Percy Fielder could be considered the man to whom established Canvey as a residential area. A few decades before, at the turn of the century, Frederick Hester established Canvey as a tourist plotland area (read more here). However, Fielder could be considered the first to put Canvey on the map as a day to day residential ground – before, it’s population consisted mainly of retired individuals, tourists, or farmers. Now, it would become a place where the everyman could live.

Fielder’s Bunglows

The Canvey pioneer began his work by arranging the construction of similarly designed bungalows all over the Island, during the 1930s.  Although cheap in construction, they were considered of modern design at the time. Many remain to this day, either in original state – abandoned or still lived in, or heavily refurbished to the point where they are difficult to recognize. A giveaway feature is the slanted roofs which sometimes subtly change angle at the front, sometimes with original square roof tiles. The reason for the front side of the roof’s angle becoming more obtuse about half way down is because they were originally built with the roof slanting over a porch, with an air of American ranch house. Many of these porches were converted not long after into extensions of the house, being small as they are, but some remain intact. About half of the bungalows had such porches, the rest had straight sloping roofs which were longer on their right side as the building extended a extra room. Both examples can be seen in the 1933 photo below. Please note there were other variants, and were not an ‘exact science’.

Rainbow Avenue, a small road off Rainbow Road on Canvey, is a complete 1930s Fielder street. Many of the bungalows have been heavily modernised, others barely. It consists of ten Fielder bungalows.

Fielder's Canvey from a 1933 Guide

Fielder’s Canvey from a 1933 Guide

 Thorney Bay Holiday Camp

During the early Second World War, Fielder was posted at Canvey Fort – the sea defence battery and army camp at Thorney Bay. In May 1940, he lead Canvey troops to engage the Germans in Norway. At the time, he was Colonel of Canvey’s Territorial Army. After returning he furthered his pioneering prestige by established Thorney Bay Beach Camp amongst the wartime buildings remaining from the war, in the early 1950s. For example, the barrack huts were reused as accommodation, or halls. It drew many East End holiday-makers to Canvey up until the 1990s, many of which settled here. It still stands as the dubiously named ‘Thorney Bay Holiday Camp caravan site, whilst nearly all of the military buildings are long-since gone.

Whilst he also planned a promenade pier, to rival Southend as a seaside resort, these never came to fruition.

Fielder did however decide to crate a dam across part of Thorney Bay itself, allowing thirty acres of inland water to remain when the tide was out. This was successfully created, but has since been filled in as land, now home to a children’s park.

Radio Caroline, one of the most famous radio stations in the UK was launched 50 years ago today, just off of the Essex coast. Founded in 1964 by Ronan O’Rahilly, it is considered the first proper kick-start of popular music broadcast however Radio Caroline was unlicensed by any government for most of its early life which became formally illegal in 1967.


The Radio Caroline name was used to broadcast from five different ships owned by three different owners from 1964 to 1990, and by satellite for over a decade up to 2013. Radio Caroline currently broadcasts 24 hours a day via the Internet and by occasional Restricted Service Licence.  Ronan O’Rahilly was an Irish musician manager and businessman. Encouraged by the presence of the Scandinavian and Dutch pirates, Ronan O’Rahilly raised the capital to purchase a suitable vessel and in February 1964, he obtained a former 702-ton Danish passenger ferry, Fredericia, which was converted into a radio ship at the Irish port of Greenore, which was owned by O’Rahilly’s father. Financial backing for the venture came from six investors, including John Sheffield, chairman of Norcross, Carl “Jimmy” Ross owner of Ross Foods and Jocelyn Stevens of Queen magazine, with which Radio Caroline shared its first office with. O’Rahilly named the station after the daughter of US President John Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy. On a fund-raising trip to the US, O’Rahilly reportedly saw a photograph of Kennedy and his children which inspired the name “Caroline Radio”. In the photo, Caroline Kennedy and her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., are apparently dancing in the oval office as their father looks on, an activity which O’Rahilly reportedly interpreted as a playful disruption of government

With the decision made, The Fredericia was renamed MV Caroline and was anchored off the cost of Felixstowe, where it began test transmissions on Friday, 27 March 1964, 50 years ago today. radiocaroline460The following day it began recording regular programming at midday with the official opening being conducted by Simon Dee. The first programme was pre-recorded and was hosted by Chris Moore. The first theme of the show was ‘Round Midnight’ by Jimmy McGridd which was a jazzy tune. Band The Fortunes, recorded a song in March 1964 called ‘Caroline’ which later became the main theme song. The theme can be listened to on YouTube here. The slogan of the station was “Your all-day music station” with tunes being broadcast from 6am-6pm, 7 days a week, to avoid competition from Radio Luxembourg. The station did however return at 8pm ad continued until after midnight to avoid direct competition with popular TV programmes. The target audience of Radio Caroline was housewives however they later targeted children and without serious compeition, they quickly gained a daytime audience of over 3 million listeners.

Only July 2nd 1964 the station was merged with Radio Atlanta, which closed that day at 8pm. The new station was called ‘Radio Caroline South’ and whilst MV Mi Amigo remained off Frinton-on-Sea, MV Caroline would broadcast as ‘Radio Caroline North’.  BBC Radio 2 newsreader Colin Berry and Classic FM’s Nick Bailey started their careers reading the news on Radio Caroline South.MV Caroline sailed from Felixstowe around the coast of Great Britain to the Isle of Man, broadcasting as she went with the only broadcast staff on board being Tom Lodge and Jerry Leighton.  The two stations were thus able to cover most of the British Isles and some programmes were pre-recorded on land and broadcast simultaneously from both ships.

In October 1965, O’Rahilly bought Crawford’s interest in the MV Mi Amigo and engaged Tom Lodge from Radio Caroline North to make programming changes and regain the audience from Radio London. Tom Lodge hired a new group of DJ’s and introduced a free-form style of programming which, by August 1966, had succeeded, creating an audience numbering 23 million.

Radio_Caroline1In 1967, the UK Government introduced the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act 1967, which outlawed advertising on or supplying an unlicensed offshore radio station from the UK. In an earlier House of Commons debate (in June 1966), the government had claimed that the pirate ships were a danger because of radio frequency interference to emergency shipping channels, and to overseas radio stations and the pirates were paying no royalties to artists, composers or record companies. Furthermore it was stated that the pirates’ use of wavelengths also broke international agreements. The Manx parliament (Isle of Man) attempted to exclude the North Ship from the legislation, appealing to the European Court on the legality of the act being applied to the Isle of Man. Two of the stations, Radio 270 and Radio London (out of 4 offshore stations) were closed, but the two Caroline ships continued with their supply operation moved to the Netherlands, which did not outlaw unlicensed ship based broadcasting until 1974.

When the act become law on 14 August 1967, Radio Caroline was renamed Radio Caroline International. Six weeks later, the BBC introduced its new national pop station Radio 1, modelled largely on the successful offshore station, Radio London, and employed many of the ex-pirate DJs. The BBC Light, Third, and Home programmes became Radios 2, 3 and 4.On 3 March 1968, the radio ships, Mi Amigo and Caroline, were boarded and seized before the day’s broadcasting began. They were towed to Amsterdam by a salvage company to secure unpaid bills for servicing by the Dutch tender company, Wijsmuller Co.

So there you are, a brief oversight of the ‘Boat That Rocked’. In 2009 a film was released about it called Pirate Radio starring Nick Frost (you can see the poster and UK trailer in this post). If you remember listening to the radio station then drop us a comment below!

Southend Airport

Posted: March 6, 2014 by BTP Joe in Case Study
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Copyright Southend Airport

Today, the airport is an expanding hub however the airport has quite a history. In the 1960′s it was the third busiest airport in the UK and remained so until the 1970′s when Stansted Airport took over the title. Located between Rochford and Southend, it has a six thousand foot runway (1.2 miles) and can take the weight of a Boeing 757.

In 1914 the airfield was established by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and was the largest flying ground in Essex, also with the greatest number of units. It was taken over by the Royal Naval Air Service in May 1915 and remained so until 1916 when it became RFC Rochford. It was designed as a night fighter station and many sorties were flown against Zeppelin airship raiders. It was closed in 1920 and was reverted to farmland for a while however it was officially opened on September 18th 1935 by Philip Sassoon the Under-Secretary of State for Air. On the west boundary there used to be an aviation museum.

The Cantilever Pillbox by the Airport (Not BTP)

In 1939 the Air Ministry requisitioned the airfoil and was formally known at RAF Rochford in the World War II. (However it was known as RAF Southend between October 1940 and August 1944.) It because a satellite base and a base for fighter aircraft including Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes as well as Bristol Blenheim (bomber). There were 50 pillboxes built to protect the airport from paratroop landings (military parachutists) with just under half remaining today. The underground defence control room near to the current Southend Flying Club still remains today. Roughly 20 or so pillboxes remain in the surrounding area. In Canewdon, 2 miles north-east of the airport, a World War II Chain Home radar station was built. Chain Home, or CH for short, was the codename for the ring of costal early warning radar stations which were built before and during the Second World War by the British. A 110m tower at Canewdon was relocated to the Marconi works at Great Baddlow during the 1950′s.

Southend Airport 1961 (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

In 1946, after the Second World War, the airfield was decommissioned from military use and returned to public use in 1947. The name ‘Southend Municipal Airport’ name also returned. The airport is often remembered for the car ferry flights. A Carvair ATL-98 was a product of Aviation Traders and subsequently there was one at the airport. Annual passenger numbers peaked in 1967 at 692,000. The airport continued to handle more traffic than Stansted until well into the 1970′s. It took 45 years to beat the previous annual passenger traffic recording, ending in February 2013 with 721,661 passengers. In May 1972 an aircraft museum was officially opened however, it closed in May the following year and the majority of their entire exhibits was sold in 1983. The Museum had been open quite a long time earlier than its official opening on 26th May 1972; many of the exhibited aircraft were placed there as early as May 1967.

As well as this new record, the airport also holds a UK record for having the first airliner flight flown by an all female crew on October 31st 1979. Since 1986, the airport has been home to the Avro Vulcan XL426, one of just 3 in working condition. It is owned by the Vulcan Restoration Trust, a registered charity, which keeps the systems and engines of it serviceable, allowing it to be occasionally taxied although it is not airworthy.

The Big Vulcan! (Not Courtesy of BTP)

Southend is also known for the annual airshow, which is currently at threat. The very first show was on May 26th 1986 and was the first of 27 successive annual shows with the last being in 2012. Many of the aircraft featured were held temporary at the airport whilst they were not flying.

1990 to Present

In 1993, the airport had been making losses for a number of years and the decision was made by the council to sell the airport. It was purchased and re-branded to the current ‘London Southend Airport’, dropping the term ‘Municipal’. The largest ever aircraft to land was a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar which landed at the airport in 1998 to be scrapped. A debate was started in 2001 over the possible relocation of the Grade 1 listed church next to the runway with the council rejecting the plans in 2003. The airport was put up for sale again in January 2008 and was bought by the current owners Stobart Group for £21 million. EasyJet signed a ten-year contract with Stobart Group in June 2011 and the following year, around 70 flights a week were taking place. The destinations also increased including places such as Alicante and Malaga. A new terminal was built and opened in February 2012, being opened officially by the Secretary of State for Transport. That year also saw more flights, destinations and an increase in the runway length.

Here is a video filmed and edited by some college friends on the airport currently. Liam and myself will filming a documentary over the summer.

The following exclusive photos show the airport currently, taken from some great angles. Courtesy & copyright of Southend Airport.

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Information from Wikipedia and Peter Brown. With thanks to Peter Brown and London Southend Airport.

Last Summer we were awarded the national award of ‘Best Community Archive and Heritage Group’ and ‘Best National Website’ of 2012. Now what have we achieved at Beyond the Point since?

First and foremost BTP has noticed a significant increase in publicity. We have featured in the local newspapers, and on several websites and magazines. These include The National Archives website, and the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ magazine, both shortly after we were given the award. This generated a double in website views, going from around 2,000 per month from January to June, to the increase up to 4,170 in July when we got the award. Sine we have received on average of over 3,000 views each month, highlighting a noticeable increase in audience.

For Halloween 2013 we decided to branch out to encompass the paranormal into our coverage of ‘secret local history’. We took a trip down to the site of Borley Rectory, the ‘most haunted place in England’ and interviewed Simon Basham who had some strange events when he and a friend camped out there some twenty years ago. This illustrates how BTP has branched further within the topic of local history.


In November we were invited by the Community Archive and Heritage Group down to the Houses of Parliament to represent ourselves at the opening of the ‘Explore Your Archives’ campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of archives and local history. We had a great time meeting members of the National Archives at Kew and many MPs who were also historians.

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In January we received a rare tour around behind the scenes of Tilbury Fort. We were personally invited to this by English Heritage, which was nice to see as our name had therefore spread throughout the history community. We were given privileged access to great tunnels and Victorian rooftops unopened to the public but Kevin Diver who curated the site.

On the 1st of February we attended the unveiling of a plaque at Jotman’s Lane ceremony to commemorate victims of the 1953 Floods buried there, providing media coverage of this event for the Canvey Island Community Archive. We have been recording at many other non-historic community events as we continue our service into modernising coverage of the local area, such as the Canvey Christmas Lights Switch-On,  and Charity Concert. Two different university students also heard of our work and interviewed us in relation to work on the local area and it’s history for their projects. Again, our wider audience and increased has meant we are being approached by others, rather than us approaching them!

With our accolade of current Best National Archive we hope to use this position to gain tours around the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of many more relics. As well as local historic buildings which are currently open, we also plan to cover many historic buildings in London, showing you the parts which are not open to tourists. It has been a genuinely exciting time since gaining the award, and we look forward to releasing our feature-length reenactment on the Canvey Island 1953 Floods due for release Summer this year.

Before Dutchman Cornelius Vermuyden reclaimed Canvey from the sea in the 17th Century, the Island was no more than an area salt marsh. Like many other places across Essex, such as Moldon and Mersea, salt-gathering was a prime industry here during the Neolithic (‘cavemen’)Era , foremost the Roman Era, and even up into the Middle Ages. Red Hills were earthworks created from scraps of old pottery and clay used to evaporate the salt. Red Hills were used as furnaces to evaporate the salt from the water first collected in lagoons dug in the marsh. The heated soil and pottery gave these mounds their distinctive red colour, hence their name.

A 1960s map showing the red hill sites across east Canvey

A 1960s map showing the red hill sites across east Canvey (courtesy of Warwick J. Rodwell)

A simple map of the entirety of Canvey showing the red hills and other Roman sites.

A simple map of the entirety of Canvey showing the red hills and other Roman sites. from Dowd’s Canvey Cyclopedia.

A replica red hill created at RSPB Bower's Marsh nature reserve, Canvey Island.

A replica red hill created at RSPB Bower’s Marsh nature reserve, Canvey Island.

An actual site of z Red Hill. a faint hill remains, which is hard to see in this image. it exists in the fields between Waterside Sports Centre and Cornelius Vermuyden Secondary School.

An actual site of a Red Hill. a faint hill remains, which is hard to see in this image. it exists in the fields between Waterside Sports Centre and Cornelius Vermuyden Secondary School.