Late Victorian Construction

Mystery ruins caught on film for the first time

Today, my friend Joe Mander and I, ventured out from Benfleet station along the Benfleet side of the Ray west, and passed the Second World War pillbox. We then walked north through the wooded area immediately west of the sewage works, towards a square ‘enclosure’ visible clearly on satellite imagery like Google Maps.  A few weeks back I saw the Benfleet Community Archive at a community event on Canvey and their representative told me about ‘the mags’ – explosives magazines (ammunition stores) from the early 20th Century or late Victorian era. He said that it was rumoured they were used as storage from barges carrying explosives down the Thames – one such ‘lighterboat’ lies stranded in Wat Tyler Country Park, which was an explosives factory at the time of ‘the mags’, just like another on the site of Coryton oil refinery.  I looked this up when I got home, and listened to an audio account on this website which mentions them and their location.

I decided it was time to set out and have a look!  So, we came across the mysterious ruins, and they were indeed quite impressive! It was a privilege to be the first to photograph the exquisite construction. I have to say that, for their size, it is highly rare for such remains to be almost unheard of, with their only mention on the internet being the audio clip I previously mentioned.  With the experience of visiting many similar remains, I can say there is usually at least one or two photographs online – but here, none! It truly was a ‘eureka’ discovery.  A full album of photos can be seen here as well as the pillbox:

[Editor’s Note – Please see the comment below, dated 17/05/2013, which was added by Liam, the author of this page.  The remains that he and Joe believed to be Victorian ammunition magazines actually would appear to be the remains of the original sewage treatment plant as mentioned in the comment by William West.  As requested by Liam, the references to magazines have been changed.]

Little is known however about the remains which are believed to be the original sewage treatment plant – please drop a comment below if you can enlighten me!

For more information and images on unseen historic remains in South Essex, visit

The two 'intrepid explorers'
The Mysterious Construction
A full-size illusion
This unusual section - it had metal runners for a door and a metal swivel which had 'rubber' on - a seal for the circular hole
Slate and red brick under the concrete - tell tale signs of Victorian origin
The western half
The eastern half
A metal fixing - any ideas what this is?

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  • I used to play at these ruins in the 1960s and early 1970s.  I can remember iron wheels and metal plates, and the dried sludge in some places.  I remember a trip to Dr Tyndall after one such visit, a finger having got mangled in one of the metal cogs.  Mrs Tyndall was not amused at having to find another appointment at short notice. 

    I know they are the old Benfleet sewage treatment works because my mother confirmed it to me.  She too played as a child here in the 1930s, when she lived on the ‘Wimpey’ estate nearby.  One tale was how she fell in one of the tanks and got covered in sewage (so it must have still been in use in the mid-30s).  Her mother hosed her down in the garden & made her take her clothes off before letting her in the house! 

    By Stephen Jones (02/05/2017)
  • My sister Jackie Barnes and myself used to play in this and surrounding areas when we were young. Our father had a houseboat along that side of the Creek, where other families had houseboats too.  With lovely well kept front gardens too !   Swimming in the creek was the highlight of our Summer holidays from school too !!….

    By Bobbie Jones (29/04/2017)
  • I too used to play as a child among these ruins and my mother (a child in the 1930s) told me they were part of the old sewage works.  She also played there – but in her day they were still active and she fell into one of the settlement pits!  My grandmother hosed her down in the garden when she got home! 

    By Stephen Jones (13/09/2016)
  • Regarding the so called Lighterboat stranded in Wat Tyler country park, if you are refering to the large wooden vessel in the saltings to the south east of the slipway at Pitsea creek she is in fact a wooden lightship built in the 1840’s for Trinity House, I believe she was the Nore light vessel & was run down & sunk by a coaster before the war then refloated & used as Erith yacht club’s floating clubhouse. Later came to Pitsea & was abandoned in the 1960’s.

    Regards Keith

    By Keith Webster (20/03/2014)
  • Indeed, you would be right! Site maintenance, please would you be able to edit this article and replace the mentions of ‘explosives magazines’ with ‘old sewage works’. Sorry for the misinformation – the sewage works would appear to be of a similar time period to the magazines too. Regards

    By Liam Heatherson (11/05/2013)
  • I used to play in this area as a youngster and we used to walk down the track to the creek for a swim and I was told that this was the remains of the original sewage works with the old overflow/settling pits just over the other side of the now unmade road.

    By William West (23/02/2013)
  • Very interesting photos. I am unaware of these structures and their function. The Magazines I was referring to are completely overgrown by the bushes and to the south of the sewerage farm on the edge of the speedway track. Position of possible Ammo Mag. is 51.547407, 0.548680 (I think ) picture to upload.

    By Dave Cowan (21/02/2013)

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