Canvey Bridge Pile Driving Ceremony

The first pile is driven in by Essex Lord Lieut. R.B. Colvin on Wed. 21st May 1930

From 1900 onwards Canvey Island tried many times to get permission and funds to build a bridge to Benfleet. By 1930 they had success, when after reconstructing Long Road, they obtained a 50 percent grant from the Ministry of Transport towards the estimated cost of building the bridge of £18,525 (over a million pounds in 2015 terms.)

The papers reported that Work had started on building the first Canvey Bridge by the 2nd May 1930. On Wednesday 21st May 1930 The Lord Lieut. of Essex, Brig. Gen. Richard Beale Colvin C.B. came down to formally drive the first pile for the bridge.

The video shows the ceremony. With the aid of newspaper reports from the Benfleet Weekly Gazette, and The Essex Chronicle both of the 23rd May 1930 we can add names and what happens in the video.

Canvey Bridge Pile Driving Ceremony

The Lord Lieut. of Essex drives in the first pile for Canvey Bridge on Wed. 21st May 1930 (2 mins 23 secs)

The first section of the film shows the Lord Lieut., accompanied by Lady Gwendoline Colvin and Lady Augusta Fane, walking between two lines of members of the Girl Guides, Girls Life Brigade, Boy Scouts and Boys Life Brigade under their respective leaders. There is also a large crowd present.

We then see the Ven. Percy Matheson Bayne, Archdeacon of Southend and Canvey’s vicar, Rev. Edward Bonamy Dobrée, come into shot. The Lord Lieut. and his party shake hands with the Archdeacon and the vicar.

The Chairman of the Council, Mr Frederick John Leach, with the chairman of the Reception Committee, Mr George Henry John Chambers, then introduces the Lord Lieut. to the other guests. These included: Mr John Richard Anthony Oldfield, M.P. for South East Essex, Alderman Herbert Edmund Brooks, Chairman of the Essex County Council. Major A.P. Wedd J. P., C.C. and Mr J. Tabor, jun. J.P., C.C. of the Local Government Committee of the E.C.C., Mr N.A. Anfilogoff, J.P, C.C., Capt. John Alfred Unett, D.S.O., Chief Constable of Essex, Mr H. Price Powell, chairman of Canvey Wall Commission, members of the Urban District Council, along with Mr Henry James Deane the Consulting Engineer for the Bridge, and Mr A. E. Farr the Contractor.

The consulting engineer Mr H.J. Deane is shown by the pile driving mechanism with an operative. They are joined by the Lord Lieut. and Mr Deane then instructs the Lord Lieut. in what needs to be done. The Lord Lieut. then pushes a lever and starts the pile driver. The papers reported that the initial blow sent a pile in six to eight inches and there were cheers from the crowd and a Union Jack was unfurled.

We then see the Archdeacon of Southend offering a prayer “that the building of this bridge, begun, continued, and ended in Thee, may promote the glory of God and Thy kingdom.

We then see the party leave the platform where two young girls present bouquets of carnations to the ladies in the party. The first young girl was Miss Elsie Fisk (who was Mr G.H.J. Chambers niece and in later life became Mrs Elsie Lesadd), who presented to Lady Gwendoline Colvin and the second was Miss Barbara Hawkins, who presented to Lady Augusta Fane.

The camera then concentrates on the crowd around the pile driver as it drives the pile into the ground. Then a close up of the head of the pile driver. The final shots show the pile entering the ground.

After the Pile Driving Ceremony

The party then went for luncheon with speeches at a the Sports Pavilion of the Canvey Athletic Association.

Another film was shot during the summer of 1930 showing the causeway in use and progress in building the bridge.

Canvey Bridge was opened exactly one year later on Thursday 21st May 1931 by the Chairman of Essex County Council, Alderman John Henry Burrows JP.

Lord Lieut. Colvin watching the Pile Driver
From the Geoff Barsby collection
Flag on top of pile driver.
The Benfleet Gazette 23rd May 1930
Members of the Girl Guides, Girls Life Brigade, Boy Scouts and Boys Life Brigade lining the approach at the Pile Driving ceremony
From the Geoff Barsby collection
Crowds coming to see Pile Driving on 21st May 1930
From the Geoff Barsby collection

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