The Crash

The Canvey Archive has a large collection of memoirs, photographs, and information on the crash please see here: http://canveyisland.org/category/world_war_ii_b-17g_aircraft_collision and a booklet detailing the events from ‘See History’ they shared is here: http://canveyisland.org/documents/DHB_v2_Med_Res.pdf

On the 19th of June 1944 a formation of B17 Flying Fortress American bomber planes were heading back to their base in Kimbolton, and it was pilot Lt. Lloyd Burn’s 29th mission. The Heavenly Body II was the new plane he was meant to be flying that day, although co-pilot Lt. Fred Kauffman asked to have a go at flying and Burns let him do so for practice. Another of the B17s began to lose control as one of its engines failed after being shot at on the mission they were returning from over Zudausques where they had to take out a V1 Doodlebug launch site. It began to fall and crashed ontop of the Heavenly Body II, killing Lt. Kauffman in the pilot’s seat instantly. When Burns tried to take over the found the controls had no bearing on the behaviour of the plane, and they had to bale. Many of the crew ejected, but Edward Sadler was killed and Louis Schulte drowned upon hitting the water. There were many more casualties in the other craft that crashed in the Thames near All Hallows, because the escape exit had become damaged and wouldn’t open.

Uncovering the Wreckage

It is worth noting that respect for archaeology and history hasn’t always been widely-viewed as commonplace in the way it is today, and it is only in more recent times that conservation has been a universal concern hence why very little attention was given to the wreckage immediately after wartime. Until the 1970s and 80s much of the wreckage had remaining sticking out of the mud at Canvey Point simply because much of it was left without any action; with parts claimed as scrap rather than for its importance. At this time Canvey Islander Gary Foulger was one of the first to resurface and raise awareness of this dreadful tragedy that had previously been put to the back of the minds of the locals alive to witness the crash first hand.

Photographs from Ian Hawks, Shirley Gartshore, and Gary Foulger can be seen below of the recovery of the remains:

Remembering the Sacrifice

The crash was commemorated in a plaque at the Paddocks on Canvey down Long Road as a result of Gary’s investigations. It was upgraded recently.

Canvey War Memorial featuring a plaque to remember the crew

Canvey War Memorial featuring a plaque to remember the crew

On June the 19th 2015, exactly 71 years after the crash, an information board was erected on the seawall near Canvey Point educating passers by on the price the crew paid to liberate the future. Personally I believe this is an excellent display which I would like to see more of for more lesser-publicised sites of historic and cultural significance, as now the heroes of the Heavenly Body II and their peers have been immortalized in a physical reminder for the public to see. The local sea scouts stood at the plaque alongside Ray Howard and the Reverend David Tudor who both gave a speech. Messages from the families of the crew were read out by Geoff Burke. See them here: http://www.canveyisland.org/page/messages_from_the_b17_families The MP Rebecca Harris alongside the Mayor, and Alan Foreman and David Thorndike of the Bay Museum were also were present at the unveiling. Afterwards we went to the Yatch Club adjacent and had tea alongside displays from the Bay Museum showcasing some of the remains and the story of the crash.

The Crossing

Prior to the construction of the Colvin opening bridge in 1931, a ferry and stepping stones at low tide were used to get from Benfleet to Canvey and back. The stepping stones were cast into buckets originally and were removed in 1931 and held in the old Canvey Council Offices down Long Road for a long time. In 2012 however, they were moved close to their original site again in the Olympic Park just south east of the current Benfleet bridge. You can still see the worn down centres of them where people would have trodden, and you can now step those same steps for yourself. There was also a gravel causeway across the silt prior to the building of the bridges and the gravel from this too can be seen today.

Below you can watch the causeway and stepping stones being used alongside the 1931 bridge which is being constructed:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/benfleet

Our videos here show the stepping stones, although they are of a quality worse than our current production standards:

The Station

Benfleet station was first opened in 1855. The Royal Assent was given to extend the line from Pitsea station, rebuilt in 1855 but had existed decades earlier, as far as Leigh and Southend in an 1852 Act of Parliament. The 1855 wooden Benfleet station and platform unfortunately burnt down in 1903 and a new station – the one seen currently, was opened in 1912. The platforms too are very close to their original form and still feature white wooden embellishments (canopies) in good condition similar to that of the other platforms along the current C2C line built at this time, although these are said to be gradually decaying upon close inspection.

Over the Christmas of 2012 major modification came to the Benfleet railway bridge which goes over Ferry Road leading to the bridge to Canvey. Joe and I managed to visit the bridge whilst this was going on over Boxing Day. Here they were removing a large steel curved shape similar to the one (possibly the exact one) seen in the sepia old photograph above of the platform from eye level. You can see this taking place in our video above. Apart from some cosmetic change to the platform and rail-bed, as well as the bridge which now has ugly steel supports bolted into it, the major task caused very little disruption to the form and external structure of the railway. James Hanson, project site engineer, reports:

Since mobilisation in late October; BAM Nuttall (with the help of various subcontractors) have faced a string of setbacks and problems that have kept even our experienced team scratching their heads. Our dedicated team of suppliers and subcontractors from across the country have aided us in coming up with the necessary solutions. The preparation for the main works have required an unplanned intensive piling  scheme – involving installation of sixteen twelve metre long piles, after discovering extremely poor ground conditions, 24 hour working on the station platforms and the installation of support beams weighing up to 12.5 tonnes to the bridge soffit. No easy feat considering the working space available and our aspiration to maintaining traffic flow under the structure during peak times. We have discovered huge culverts, abandoned headwalls and cess tanks, river beds and old oak piles – all remnants from the damming of Church Creek many years ago. We’ve even had the Thames at spring tide to keep at bay, but all in a days work for the dedicated team.

Despite the set-backs  and the weather, the team are confident and eager to get stuck in for a Christmas that is sure to offer up more surprises and enough challenges to test even the most experienced staff. We look forward to the completion of the project before the New Year and will be happy to have contributed just a little bit to the history of Benfleet.

BTP Joe explains…

Have you heard of Frederick Hester, the man who promoted Canvey in the early 1900’s to make it a fantastic seaside town? In the early 1900s an entrepreneur had a dream of turning Canvey into an Island holiday resort. His name was Frederick Hester. He was born in Fulham in 1853, the son of George Hester and Catherine (nee Potter). Frederick married Sibyl (nee Brewster) and they had seven children together, some of which were to help their father in his Canvey project. “F.W.B. Hester” in the poster below was Frederick’s estate agent son, Frederick William Brewster Hester, who was born in 1876 and named after his Mother & Father. He was to play a big part in his Father’s project and remained on Canvey all his life. Many changes were going on in these days. For example the expansion of the LT&SR railway line from Fenchurch Street to Southend-on-Sea. Frederick took advantage of the Benfleet Station, which is virtually on the Island as it was potentially an ideal holiday resort for Londoners to get out of the crowded city and get a glimpse of how life is different here, compared to the noisy and busy London! Posters like this one would have posted around London to try and promote the Island.

Hesters’ advertisement for Canvey-on-Sea

He built a monorail in the Island. Of course, their version of a tram was a horse and cart!  BTP Liam and I walked through where it would have been. Although it was just a horse and cart, Hester did have plans to make it a proper railway line with electric. He started building a generating station but it wasn’t ever finished or used. The bed and at least path of the monorail still exists today going up to Benfleet Boat Yard at the seawall south next to Castle Point Golf Course ranges, across Somnes Avenue, turning through the originally named ‘Station Approach’ and then ‘Central Wall’ roads, up to where it crosses the dyke as a modern footbridge opposite Venlo Road, behind Genk Close. It does not appear to carry on any further.

HestersMonorail

The images below show what remains of the wall that would have been for the ticket office to Wintergardens Greenhouses, which would have been a tropical experience. It was obviously built in Hester’s time and it’s the place where you would pay for a ticket. You can see a few metal spikes in the wall, which would have been bigger for security purposes. They were cut down in around the 80s due to health and safety reasons.

Frederick Hester dreamed of Canvey being the next Southend-on-Sea or even better by building a two and a half kilometer two-storey Pier which he planned would reach the Chapman Lighthouse. The photo below shows his pier with a Thames Barge unloading materials onto a small locomotive that ferried the materials to shore – Frederick certainly planned on joining the Pier with his railway that ended in this area. Marlboro House, the first building the Hester’s built on Canvey, can be seen on the far left.

Hester’s Pier

His pier can be seen in the image below (curtsy of the CCA and CanveyIsland.org.ukOnly 122 meters were built and it was later taken down and replaced by the Chapman Sailing Club.

Hester’s Pier

The pier today (2011/12)

Photographs from 2014 of the boys at the Sailing Club jetty adjacent to the site of Hester’s remaining stumps. The concrete barrels taken from the sinking of the SS Benmohr in 1902 were used to create part of Hester’s tourist jetty. Today they litter the beach around the site of the old jetty and can be seen in the photographs.

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Read more at the Canvey Archive:

http://www.canveyisland.org/page_id__1549_path__0p228p236p30p.aspx

http://www.canveyisland.org/page_id__613.aspx

You can see archived footage of the jetty, ticket office wall, and monorail path here in our 2011 videos (please note these are of poor production quality unrepresentative of BeyondthePoint’s current professional level)

 

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Now lying derelict with overgrown grass, collapsed ceilings and smashed windows, this building once held over a thousand students and staff. With the building getting older year on year and student numbers on the up, the school packed up its bags in 2011 and moved to a brand new school building, leaving this site to decay. With written permission from the property owners, we proceeded to the site of my (BTP Joe’s) old school, to tour the decaying site with the previous headteacher Russell Sullivan.

Please note that this was a permission only visit and  you should not attempt to access the site for both your safety and trespassing laws. There is 24/7 security on site.

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The site has been left empty for the past three years with no plans for re-using the buildings. Occasionally, Essex Police have used the exterior and interior of the school for armed police exercises and bullet shells are scattered around with police tape covering doors and windows of the building. Over an extended Christmas break at end of the 2011, staff packed up all of the equipment, books and more to move them to their brand new site at Canvey’s town centre. In January 2012, staff and students moved into the new building, with staff having to leave furniture and memories behind.

A final message from students and staff

Castle View School opened its brand news doors to the new £2.4 million state of the art school in 1980 as the 3rd secondary school on Canvey Island, due to increased pupil numbers, joining Cornelius and Furtherwick Park. The school welcomed a year group at a time, starting with 150 year 7 pupils. The school building was built in two phases, with the main building being built first followed by the second part (the now sports block) afterwards. Beyond the Point has tracked down the first head teacher of the site and also the head teacher who oversaw the planning for the new build; Jack Telling and Russell Sullivan.

CVS Futuristic

The building was designed by County Hall architect David Schreiber and was built in only 18 months. It had been planned to be built in three phases, although only two of the stages ended up being constructed. With only one year starting at a time, the building work didn’t prove too intrusive to pupils or staff. The main block was described in local newspapers as ‘space age’ due to it being solar heated as the heat of the sun would warm the building up. The following year in February 1981, the school was officially opened.

The Headteacher who opened the school was Jack Telling, who came from a Colchester school where he was deputy head for six years. Jack was appointed Head one term in advance of the opening when the building was at foundation level and had the opportunity to discuss with the architect aspects of of the building. It was Jack who oversaw the official opening for the school and secured its place within the community.

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Beyond the Point also managed to track down some of the first students. Karen Daykin-Woodberry (front left) was in the second year of students there. Karen remembers how great the school was, it even appeared on TV for being so advanced but she also recalls jealousy from other schools who didn’t like the fact that Castle View was so modern. Another key thing that Karen recalls is how friendship lasts as over 30 years later she is still friends with the Head Girl from her year, Kerry Starling (front right). Kerry also recalls how the school was great; the facilities, the technology, the new hockey pitch and music department and Kerry says she felt privileged to be there.

From The Evening Echo 10/10/1980

Jack remained at the school for 6 years, leaving in 1986 (see right), to become the head of St. Martins school in Brentwood. Taking over from him was Eileen Simmons. Eileen remained at the school until 1997. One of the biggest changes during her time at the school was the introduction of the maths block. This was added in 1994 when the school became grant maintained. The set of maths classrooms was officially opened by Falklands War Hero Simon Weston and the building became known as the Simon Weston building from then on.

Taking over in 1997 was Russell Sullivan who is the longest serving head teacher to date. Asking Russell if he remembers his first day, he responded “My first day? Yes, very well.” Russell joined Castle View in 1997, the day after the Nation learnt of Princess Diana’s death. Russell remembers how he arrived at the start of the new term with students and staff shocked by her death. Russell’s first assemblies at the school started with a minute’s silence in memory of the Princess. Over the next thirteen years at the school, Russell had welcomed myself to Castle View (in 2008), he had introduced new state of the art science labs and started planning for the new £28 million building, over ten times the cost of the original school. Upon Russell leaving the current head teacher joined the school, Gill Thomas, who oversaw the finalisation of the plans and the transition into the new building. (Also, when I started at Castle View in 2008, I was in the same class as her son, Daniel!)

Russell Sullivan, back left.

Click to view larger: The back of the new Castle View School

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“We were saddened by the images of the buildings now rapidly falling into disrepair and being ravaged by vegetation.”

Speaking to Russell, Jack, Karen and Kerry, they all agreed that the building looked a sorry sight and Russell agrees that it was still right for the school to move to a new building.

Although the old Castle View was well looked after and respected by its pupils, it was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. It was also becoming rather cramped given increasing numbers of pupils. Added to that, we thought that the young people of Canvey deserved better in terms of attractive, state of the art facilities and was so pleased that we were able to seal the deal, after four years of planning, before I retired. Admittedly, it is a shame that more thought has not been given to how the Meppel Avenue site could be used more constructively as a whole. The new college, which was part of our original vision, is a welcome additional opportunity for the young people. – Russell Sullivan

We were saddened by the images of the buildings now rapidly falling into disrepair and being ravaged by vegetation. I hope that an alternative use can be be found for the buildings but in the event of them being demolished let me know so that I can say that I witnessed the birth and death of Castle View at Mepple Avenue. The new buildings look splendid and I wish the new school every success. – Jack Telling

Definitely a shame to see it so neglected. You’ve got to laugh at the old technology now – solar heating and computers! – Kerry Starling

We contacted Castle View School although had no response.

School Prospectus Photos – Summer 2002

Opening of the new Sports and Science Department – October 11th 2004

The Old Site – 2014

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.