A report of the Canvey Bridge Pile Driving Ceremony

In the Benfleet Gazette of 23rd May 1930

This is a transcript of a report in The Benfleet Gazette of 23rd May 1930 about the Pile Driving Ceremony for the Canvey Bridge. You can view a video with description here.


History was in the making on Wednesday, May 21st, when at the Canvey side of the Benfleet Creek, the Lord-Lieut. of Essex, Brig. Gen. R.B. Colvin C.B. performed the Pile Driving Ceremony for the Bridge which is to connect Canvey Island with the mainland.

The approaches to the Creek were plentifully be-flagged, crowds lined the Causeway and Sea Walls, and Canvey generally was en fete for the occasion, when t he Lord Lieut. accompanied by Lady Gwendoline Colvin and Lady Augusta Fane, arrived, and were greeted with a cheer of welcome, as they were met at the approach to the platform by Mr. G.H. J. Chambers, Chairman of the reception committee. The approach was lined by members of the Girl Guides, Girls Life Brigade, Boy Scouts and Boys Life Brigade under their respective leaders. Among the distinguished persons on the platform to meet the Lord Lieut. were Alderman H. E. Brooks, Chairman of the Essex County Council, Major A.P. Wedd J. P. and Mr. J. Tabor, Junr. J.P. of the Local Government Committee of the E.C.C. Ven. P. Bayne, Venerable Archdeacon of Southend, Capt. J. A. Unett, D.S.O., Chief Constable of Essex; also, Mr. H.J. Deane, Consulting Engineer for the Bridge, and Mr. A. E. Farr, the Contractor.

Mr. Deane having explained the mechanism of the Pile Driving apparatus this was set in motion, and the Lord Lieut. pulled the lever which released the one Ton “Monkey” and with a reverberating crash the pile was driven almost a foot into the Creek bed, amid further applause. He then declared the pile well and truly placed and driven. The Archdeacon led prayers asking for God’s blessing on the work. Bouquets were presented to the ladies by little Barbara Hawkins and Ethel Fisk.

At luncheon, in the Sports Pavilion of the Canvey Athletic Association, proposing the toast of the Canvey Island Urban District Council, the Lord Lieut. referred in humorous vein to the past history of the Island and to the fact that some time in the 17th century, in spite of the precautions taken by the Dutch settler, the waters swept over the Island. He was sure that when the Council had this Bridge under consideration they were thinking of the safety of the inhabitants, and he was proud to have had the privilege of taking part in the Building of that Bridge. He wished them every success in the completion of the Bridge and the future of the Island.

Mr. Chambers, replying, thanked the Lord Lieut. for coming to perform the ceremony. He told him he was standing in what was undoubtedly the healthiest district in the whole Kingdom. They had wonderful air, less rain and more, sunshine than any other district, and he did not think they boasted of this as much as they should. He regarded this as a happy day for he felt it was the beginning of all things for the Island. He thought they should feel very proud to have had one who was practically the King’s representative to drive the first pile and he thought that the Bridge should bear no other name than “Colvin Bridge” (applause).

Alderman Brooks, proposing the Toast of the “Lord Lieut.” recalled the historical fact that King Alfred, who was his own Lord Lieut. in those days, fought a brilliant engagement with the Danes somewhere along the Benfleet Creek, and he said, he could picture him standing there, possibly on the same spot where the Lord Lieut. had stood that afternoon, directing operations.

The Lord Lieut., replying, said he hoped he might be able to be present when the Bridge is opened.

Other Toasts were: “The Engineer,” proposed by Mr. H. J. A. Bensley, and “The Contractor,” proposed by Mr. F. J. Leach, Chair man Canvey U.D.C.

Mr. Deane, the Engineer, in his reply, gave some details of the construction of the Bridge: total length of works 1,600 feet of which the approach on Canvey with embankment on the saltings is 1,000 ft., width-between banks 270ft., of this, two fixed portions will amount to 210 ft. and the balance a 60 ft. navigation opening. Accommodation is for two lines of traffic, i.e., 20 ft, between kerbs and a 5 ft. footway. The foundations of the fixed approaches will be provided by timber piles the heads of which are cased in concrete and buried below the Bed of the Creek.

The Bridge is designed’ to carry the Ministry of Transports standard loading, that is, an engine of 20 tons can be driven across it. Mr. Farr, the Contractor, mentioned that he reckoned the number of Bridges he had built and it averaged two per annum for every year of his life. He had made up his mind that this should, be the best Bridge he had ever built.

Mr. Crane, on behalf of the, Canvey U.D.C., then presented the Lord Lieut. with a replica in silver of the pile driving apparatus.

The Lord Lieut. driving the first pile
The Benfleet Gazette 23rd May 1930
Flag on top of pile driver.
The Benfleet Gazette 23rd May 1930

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