Robert’s father William Bowles was born in Tooting in 1914. He moved to Benfleet with his parents Alfred and Clara when he was seven because of his severe anaemia. They hoped that the open air life and playing in the mud would make him well, which it must have done, because he only died in 2005 aged 90, still fending for himself to the end.
The first houseboat William lived on in 1924 was called “Elsie” and was sold to the army in 1943. Subsequently it caught fire and was burnt out.
The second houseboat “Seven” was built by William and his father and was moored on a stretch of the creek called “Ben” – by the railway tracks.