In 1929 the Ecclesiastical Parishes of Hadleigh, Thundersley and South Benfleet were wrested from the Rochford Rural District and united to form the new Urban District of Benfleet.
The Rochford Hundred of Saxon times did not include the Manors of Thundersley and South Benfleet (they were in the Barstable Hundred) but in 1834 these two parishes were added to the Rochford District. This latter District then comprised the portion of Essex between the River Crouch and the River Thames with the western boundary the Parishes of Rawreth, Rayleigh, Thundersley and South Benfleet and thence to Hole Haven Creek on the west of Canvey Island to the River Thames.
Southend had already sprung from the Rochford Hundred and Canvey Island Urban District had been established in 1926.
First Official Guide
As far as can be seen the first Official Guide to the new Urban District of Benfleet, (see scans on this page), which is undated but published around 1935/6, Benfleet was to become a thriving area for development allowing one’s living and working environments to exist side by side.
Councillor Walter Bingham, in his notes to this Guide writes
There is an ever increasing realization amongst the people, that although they may be compelled to divide their waking hours into two parts, one occupational, providing the essential means of existence for themselves and dependants, the other, the private and home life, which embraces the domesticities of the family ménage, personal pursuits, sport, hobbies, social intercourse etc., the advantages of residing in rural and congenial surroundings, away from the hurly burly of industrial commotion and the proximity of factory, office or warehouse, are innumerable and eminently desirable.
With this in mind the Benfleet Development Committee produced the Guide with the “purpose of bringing before the public the amenities and charms of the Benfleet Urban Area as a desirable residential district”.
Ten thousand copies of this first Guide were produced (price 3d) with, it was anticipated, “a much more elaborate and informative Guide” to follow “in the near future”.
This new Residential Area in Essex was “about 30 – 33 miles from London” with the rail service terminating at Fenchurch Street. The utility services comprised Water – The Southend Waterworks Company; Gas – The Gas Light and Coke Company Ltd and Electricity – The London County Electricity Supply Company Ltd. There were schools in South Benfleet, Hadleigh, and Thundersley, a Public Cemetery and Fire Stations in Hadleigh and South Benfleet together with a “modern motor ambulance” which was housed in Kiln Road.
The estimated population of the Urban District was given as 13,000.
Numerous Open Spaces were listed including Benfleet Recreation Ground, Shipwrights Wood and Thundersley Glen. The area was served by Southend General Hospital although the “Isolation Hospital for infectious diseases is at Sutton Ford, Rochford”.
The Council becomes owner of The Downs
Perhaps the greatest amenity for the area was that the Council had become the owner of The Downs. This is a vast area of land stretching from the Colvin Bridge along the shore line to Leigh giving a “commanding view of the splendour of the Thames Estuary”.
In the Residential Attractions of Benfleet (Published D.H.Cox and Cole) it was stated that “Views extend eastward to the point where the Creek joins the Thames and this great river enters the North Sea. The view over Canvey Island leads the eye to the wooded hills of Kent and beyond. To the west the hills of Langdon and Vange are visible across the lowlands of Fobbing and Corringham”.
The Downs were opened and dedicated to the public in perpetuity by Sir Edward Bonham Carter KCMG on 14th July 1934.
Social Organisations and Clubs were given along with groups for young people. Finally details of the Inns and Parish Churches (together with their incumbents) provide a full account of the area for the visitor and resident alike.
With the charge to “SUPPORT THE GREEN BUSES” on the back cover, it can be noted that the journey from Benfleet village square to Southend via Tarpots Corner took just 40 minutes with two buses an hour.