Post Second World War
The Guide which contains the calendars for 1947 and 1948 followed much the same pattern but now contained some black and white photographs. Reference has already been made to the establishment of Benfleet Urban District Council in 1929. This Guide made the point that “The formation of these urban areas west of Southend-on-Sea was due to the very rapid development following the Great War, a development which is bound to continue, and which rightly directed, with due regard to the preservation of the wonderful natural amenities in the area, will make Benfleet a beautiful residential area and an invigorating holiday resort”
In the piece about South Benfleet it is quoted as “an old world fishing village at the head of the tidal waterway known as Hadleigh Ray on the east and Benfleet Creek on the west of its course”.
Benfleet and the Domesday Book
Benfleet is mentioned in the Domesday Book and King William’s gift of the church of South Benfleet to Westminster Abbey is highlighted. At the time of Henry VIII, timber from Thundersley Park was sent to Deptford for naval ship building and in 1539 the port of South Benfleet was reported as having 50 men capable of bearing arms and in the mid-1560s as having 5 vessels each with a master and 15 seamen. This would have indicated how important South Benfleet was.
Clearly the Second World War interrupted both the development of the area and the publication of the Official Handbook. Our records show the next publication of the Handbook was delayed until the period 1953/4. This edition was actually dated. By now the estimated population (1952) had risen to 20,000.
In the Foreword H.R. Tutt, Past-Chairman on the Benfleet U.D.C., refers to the situation of the Urban District as “under the pathway of the heavy aerial attacks launched by the Germans against London and the docks”. He goes on “Numerous bombs were dropped on Benfleet…but the great majority fell in open country and of the hundreds of flying bombs and rockets that passed overhead only one or two came down in this area, so that though scars remain, there is little damage”.
“And now, with the coming of peace, this district will continue its growth and, under wise guidance, become a waterside town, unsurpassed for its open spaces, its magnificent marine vistas, and the rural aspect of its inland terrain”.
Benfleet “A Sunny Land”
In The General Description of Benfleet District mention is made of the shopping centre in the High Street at South Benfleet and the new modern shopping centre that had grown up at Hopes Green. Benfleet’s climate seems to “a sunny land” and with only average annual rainfall of 20 inches, is reckoned to be the driest part of England.
The estimated population was still recorded as 20,000 as there had been no accurate census since the previous edition was published.
The Council’s offices were in Thundersley at the corner of Kiln Road and Kenneth Road. Having been unoccupied for some years these buildings were demolished in 2010, and at the time of writing, remain a vacant site.
Schools included Benfleet Secondary School (not yet named King John School) (accommodation 1000) and the Primary and Infants Schools in the High Road which accommodated a total of 570 children.