Speeches at the Bridge Pile Driving Luncheon

These are reconstructions of speeches made on 21st May 1930

After the first pile was formally driven in by the Lord Lieut. R.B. Colvin the party then went to the Sports Pavilion of the Canvey Athletic Association (almost certainly St Anne’s Social and Athletic Association) for a luncheon and speeches. The meal was chaired by the Chairman of the Reception Committee, Mr G.H.J. Chambers.

There are two newspaper reports of the speeches in the Benfleet Weekly Gazette, and The Essex Chronicle both of the 23rd May 1930 and this article uses these as a basis for reconstructing what was said and converting it from reported to actual speech.

The Lord Lieutenants Toast

The Lord Lieut. of Essex, Brig. Gen. Richard Beale Colvin C.B. proposed a toast to the chairman and members of Canvey Island Urban District Council.

He started by referring to the past history of the Island, “Sometime in the 17th century, in spite of the precautions taken by the Dutch settlers, the waters swept over the Island. I am sure that when the Council had this Bridge under consideration they were thinking of the safety of the inhabitants, and I am proud to have had the privilege of taking part in the Building of that Bridge.

“I congratulate all men who give their time and ability to doing all they can do to assist their neighbours and the community generally. I especially congratulate Canvey on this red-letter day, and on the success of their efforts in overcoming the many obstacles that were always in the way of any under­taking like that, including of course, that of the Essex County Council. (Laughter). I wish you every success in the completion of the Bridge and the future of the Island. As I believe the history of Canvey Island will almost begin from that completion day. (Hear, hear).”

The Chairman of the Reception Committee’s reply

The Chairman of the Reception Committee, Mr G.H.J. Chambers, replied, “Thank you Lord Lieutenant for coming to perform the ceremony. You are standing in what is undoubtedly the healthiest district in the whole Kingdom. There were many who had gone across the sea who owed their lives to this district. I myself had been given up by the doctors, but since I came to Canvey I have been spared, to torment a few more of them a little more. (Laughter).

“We have wonderful air. We have the lowest rainfall of any place in England and, on the authority of the Vicar, there is only one place in England which has more sunshine. I do not think that we boast of this as much as we should.

“I too regard this as a happy day for I feel it is the beginning of all things for the Island. I think we should feel very proud to have had one who is the King’s representative to drive the first pile. In honour of this day the bridge should bear no other name than that of the Colvin bridge. (Applause).”

The Chairman of Essex County Council’s Toast

The Chairman of Essex County Council, Alderman H. E. Brooks, proposed a toast to the health of the Lord Lieutenant. He said, “Essex seems to be regarded as a centralised county, but to those who know and love the county there are historical associations that equalled that of other parts of the realm.

“I recall the historical fact that King Alfred, who was his own Lord Lieutenant in those days, fought a brilliant engagement with the Danes somewhere along the Benfleet Creek. I can picture him standing there, possibly on the same spot where you had stood today, directing operations.”

He then proposed the health of the Lord Lieutenant.

The Lord Lieutenants Reply

In reply to this toast the Lord Lieutenant said, “I am indeed honoured by the suggestion that the bridge should have my name associated with it. I hope to be spared to be able to be present to witness the completion and opening of the bridge.”

The Toast to the Engineer

Mr H. J. A. Bensley proposed a toast to the “The Engineer”.

Mr H.J. Deane, the Engineer, gave some details of the construction of the Bridge. He said, “The total length of works is 1,600 feet of which the approach on Canvey with embankment on the saltings is 1,000 ft. The width between banks is 270ft. Of this the two fixed portions will amount to 210 ft and the balance is a 60 ft. navigation opening.

“There is accommodation for two lines of traffic, or 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 are buried below the bed of the Creek.

“The bridge is designed to carry the Ministry of Transports standard loading, which is to allow an engine of 20 tons to be driven across it.”

The Toast to the Contractor

The Chairman of the Council, Mr Fred. J. Leach, proposed a toast to “The Contractor”.

Mr A. E. Farr the Contractor replied, “During my career I have reckoned that the number of bridges I have built averages at two per year, for every year of my life. I have made up my mind, that this bridge shall be the best bridge I have ever built.”

Presentation to the Lord Lieutenants

Mr. A.C. Crane on behalf of the Canvey Urban District Council then presented the Lord Lieutenant with a model in silver of the pile driving apparatus.

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