Official Opening of the Colvin Bridge

Bridge opened on 21st May 1931 by Alderman J. H. Burrows

Official opening by Alderman J. H. Burrows

Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Brigadier-General R.B. Colvin, C.B., after whom the bridge was named, performed the pile driving ceremony for the bridge, exactly one year to the day before it was opened.

The opening of the bridge was a great occasion for the local community, in particular those people on the Canvey Island side.  Alderman J H Burrows officially opened the bridge at the ceremony held on  Thursday, 21st May 1931.   People living on the island declared the day a holiday and parties were held to celebrate.  The opening was followed by a celebratory meal.

As a swing bridge, it opened to make a channel 60 feet wide for the passage of vessels and preference was given to river traffic. When the bridge was closed there were two navigable openings, each 30 feet wide, with a headway of 2 feet above high water. The first bridge operator was local man, Fred Edwards, who had previously been the ferryman.

This bridge was operational for around 40 years and opened for the last time in November 1968.  The bridge that crosses the creek today was completed in 1973 and at this time the old swing bridge was demolished.

How it was reported in the Papers

The Essex Newsman of 23rd May 1931 reported:

Canvey Bridge Opened

On Thursday Ald. J. H. Burrows, J.P., chairman of the Essex County Council, opened the bridge which has been erected over the Creek to join Canvey Island to the mainland. Mr. H. P. Ansell and members of the Canvey Island Council’s Reception Committee received the guests on the Benfleet approach road side of the bridge. Ald. and Mrs Burrows were escorted to the first barrier, where the Bishop of Barking said dedicatory prayers and blessed the work.

Ald. Burrows then pressed a button electrically connected with the barrier and raised the arms and broke a white silk tape stretched across. In the name of the Urban Council and the residents, a bouquet was handed to Mrs. Burrows. The party were shown the the electrical equipment for opening and closing the roadway. Then, returning to the second barrier, Ald. Burrows opened the bridge to river traffic. 

A guard of honour was comprised of Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Girls’ Life Brigade, and Brownies. Every Society and Association on the Island sent representatives.

The guests at the luncheon at the Canvey Hall included the Mayor of Southend (Ald. A. Martin), Major F. C. Cook ([Chief Engineer of] Ministry of Transport}, and Mr J. R. Oldfield, M.P. Mr F. J. Leach, chairman of the council presided.

Miss C. G. James presented Ald. Burrows with a souvenir of the occasion in the form of and automatic silver writing pad.


The Colvin Bridge as viewed from Benfleet
The Colvin Bridge as viewed from Canvey Island
Ald J.H Burrows about to open the Colvin Bridge
From the Norman M. Chisman collection
Report of the opening of the Colvin Bridge
Crowds and flags just before opening of the bridge
From the Norman M. Chisman collection
Fred Edwards at the bridge opening event
From the Norman M. Chisman collection
A sailing barge comes through the bridge sometime on the opening day
From the Norman M. Chisman collection
People and cars crossing the bridge on opening day
From the Geoff Barsby collection
The first car over the bridge
From the Geoff Barsby collection
The bridge shortly after opening
R.F. Postcards Collection

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  • The bridge last opened on my wedding day 14th December 1968, a cold day, and my wife to be had to wait for the bridge to open to the road, although Fred McCave said the last opening was on the preceeding Tuesday. Hope this will define the last usage of it.
    Mick Warwick

    By Michael Warwick (24/08/2021)
  • There is absolutely no truth in the belief that the bridge is second-hand from the crossing at Kings Ferry on the Swale. That waterway dwarfs Benfleet’s muddy rill. Sea going vessels navigate beyond to Ridham Dock, even today.

    By Nick Ardley (11/06/2012)
  • I am informed that the ‘old bridge’ was ‘second hand’, originally located on the Isle of Sheppey. Does anyone know if this is correct?

    By Robert Scott (26/08/2011)
  • I have completed more research and the Colvin Bridge was a sliding bridge – which I would think would be fairly rare in the UK – I cannot find a reference to any other. Please see Canvey Island Org – Canvey Community Archive Ferry Tales which shows plans of the sliding bridge.

    Richard Hayden

    By Richard Hayden (11/05/2011)
  • Is the term “swing bridge” correct? My memory recalls that, on opening, two bridge spans lifted slightly and then “rolled back” across the roadway leaving a gap for creek traffic – they didn’t “swing”.

    Richard Hayden

    By Richard Hayden (07/05/2011)

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