Over the years many have lamented the loss of old buildings, which contributed to the village feel that Benfleet possessed. Fortunately we now have a conservation area to protect much of what is left and to ensure that new development is sympathetic.
The information provided is covered by two documents, one of which, the South Benfleet Conservation Area Descriptive Tour and Map is reproduced here in part, courtesy of Norman Chisman and the other, the South Benfleet Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan which can be viewed by using the download at the bottom of this page.
Key to the map
1 St Mary’s Church – In 893A.D. King Alfred’s army defeated vikings who had encamped at Benfleet. It was the tradition to erect a church at the site of a battle as a sign of thanksgiving, and this is the probable date for the establishment of St Mary’s Church.
2 The Anchor – Apart from churches and castles, this is the oldest building in Castle Point and probably S.E. Essex.It was built in 1381 A.D., following the burning down of the original Manor House ( near the site of the Methodist Church ) during the Peasant’s Revolt. The present “Moorings” buildings on the left were the stables – 4 horses being required to take a carriage up Vicarage Hill.
3 The Bus Shelter – Erected by public subscription in the late 1930s, a clock was installed in it, taken from the “Clockhouse Cafe” adjoining ( now the Mumtaz ).
4 The Historical Plaque – This metal plaque is on the wall of the short-term car park and was erected by the Council in 1999 as part of improvements to the Conservation Area created in 1988.
5 Shops – All the shops going down the High Street are old and original. The off-licence was the village general store, held in 1870 by Joseph Frostick, and later (1879-1933 ) by Tuffield, and then Sugg. The next shops down were Fred Attwell, ironmonger, then Bill Attwell , butcher. There were shops on the other side of the road, which were demolished in 1964.
6 The Close – Before the railway came in 1855, this was the only road serving this part of the village and originally properties in it backed onto the creek. It was called South Street – Essex Way was East street, High Road was North Street and High Street from the War Memorial to the creek/timber wharf adjoining the Hoy.
7 Gas Lamp Columns – The two nineteenth cast iron gas columns are listed, as are the second pair of cottages on the left, which were built around the 1860s. For properties on the right, see 14.
8 Old Post Office – The Close turns right and, where it comes out in to the High Street, turn left at a pair of brick cottages, one now being used for a taxi office.This was the Post Office in 1872 until 1913, when it moved to the Anchor. At the rear stood the Manor House, demolished to make an entrance into the car park.
9 Shiner & Holmes – The glass-sided car showrooms building was the original Cash Drapery Store, later Duttons then Shiner & Holmes.
10 Railway Forecourt – The building on the side of the forecourt was the stationmaster’s house. The part nearer the railway was the booking office and the only entrance into the station. The adjoining buildings, fronting High Street are nineteenth century.
11 Level Crossing – This was the only road to Canvey with a level crossing at the railway line. The four large gates were opened manually by turning a wheel in the signal box at the end of the “up” platform. If the gates were closed, passengers could cross by a metal footbridge (12), which came down along-side the signal box.
13 Church Creek – Backing on to the creek ( and demolished in 1961 for the underpass ) there was a wharf near the railway, the Auction Rooms, and business and old residential property. The creek was lined by houseboats on both sides.
14 High Street – On the other side of the High Street, three houses backing on to the close, can be seen from the Conservative Club car park – the one from which the club extends is eighteenth century or earlier, is listed, and has a fine example of a hip roof.
15 The Half Crown Houses – The three houses adjoining the Half Crown( one now a dental surgery) are pre-1900.
16 The Half Crown – Originally a Customs House to control smuggling – a significant part of the eighteenth century local economy. In 1868 it became the Crown and in 1969, when struck by a lorry, was renamed the Half-Crown.
17 Benfleet was a very busy port in the sixteenth century, exporting timber to many parts of the country for ship-building, and to Westminster Abbey. All came from the wharf on the creek, adjoining the Hoy, behind the Fish Market restaurant. The Timber Wharf in 1916 was still busy – boats lowered their mast to get under the railway station bridge when built.
18 Hoy and Helmet – The centre section is a fifteenth century house with eighteenth century two storey addition (nearer the church ). The “and Helmet” was added in 1922 – see notice board outside.
19 The Smithy was between the Hoy and the entrance path to the church.The church gave the land for the smithy to be established in the eighteenth century for the employment of orphans and the poor. The building was demolished in 1950 for use as a car park…….The blacksmith in 1910 was Cyril Osborne…