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I grew up in the 1960's on Canvey Island and spent my weekends exploring thorney bay army camp.
The camp was huge and prior to the new sea wall you could explore everything there unless you came upon a certain Mr Fielder who owned the land.
As a child I did not realise what the camp meant to people but after finding this site I will give all the memorys I can to you about this subject.
My playground was the gunsite situated in West Cresent a place of fun for us kids.
Now I live in Cyprus and long to see the Island and it's history again.

By Christopher Culley
On 06/07/2008

I remember the towers depicted in the b&w photos. In the late 1950's, when we were kids, we used to climb to the top even though a whole section of stairs had been removed. We would pull ourselves up on part of the handrail that remained. We would also climb down the ammunition hoist that led to the very dark magazine below.

By John Dawkins
On 01/01/2009

I was a small child in the 1960s, I remember spending Hoildays their as my father owned a caravan on Thorney bay. I remember Mr Fielder, me and my 2 brothers and 2 sisters spent many hours playing in the old towers on the sea wall, we let our imaginations run away with us, it is a real shame these places have gone but the memories still stay with me.

By miss t sanders
On 15/03/2009

As a small child, in the early '50's, I well remember Fielder's Holiday Camp. We lived in London and would pack up a tea chest full of towels and linen to be sent by Carter Pattersons ahead of time. Getting off the steam train at Benfleet Station marked the beginning of the holiday. We would board a double decker bus along with many other holidaymakers to the camp. After retrieving our tea chest from a small warehouse next to the office off we would go to our "chalet". These were spartan buildings packed with bunk beds. I would always claim the upper berth! Mother would get up early and gather mushrooms from the cow pasture behind the camp. Breakfast was cooked on a small gas stove supplied by a coin operated gas meter.

Entertainment was going to a small row of stores a little way out of the camp and playing the slot machines, walking along the seawall and playing on the beach. In the evenings old films were shown in the camp theater, mostly silent one such as those by Charlie Chaplin. There were also talent shows and such.

Colonel Fielder ran the place with the air of a military commander. It was always well kept and he did not allow unruly behavior.

Such a simple time, before all the frenetic amusements required for a good time now. We enjoyed our holidays there.

By Keith E
On 05/06/2009

I remember thorney bay camp, Col.Fielder chased my friends and I out of the camp this was back in 1962 approx. He actually caught up with us and hit me with his walking cane, but these were great days

By janet
On 07/07/2009

I remember well playing in those gun towers along the sea wall. It would have been late 50's / early 60's. My Grandad owned a caravan on the site whose entrance was just across the road from Benfleet station. Some of the stairs and handrails at the towers had long since the war corroded or fallen away so it was a bit precarious to get to the very top and look out of the observation windows. Often meant jumping across the roofs of the lower buildings and actually swinging across gaps on the doors where the landings had long since fallen away.I often wondered whether I was the only kid in this amazing playground and finding this site has stirred such great memories. Thanks so much.

By laurie atterbury
On 22/09/2009

I remember going to the Holiday camp to watch the shows 1950s, very often Fielder would walk in and check every one over, he used to say to my brother David Wilson and I, you two live on Canvey don't you, we both used to say NO SIR, until one day our dog walked in and sat down by us, he came up to me and said your **** George Wilson's girl GET OUT lolo
I used to love to watch the JUVENILES dance shows , my friend Maureen Ford was in it and at one time I think her little brother, Freddy played the piano there, he was very clever and he was only a little kid at the time
My Father and Fielder were like red rags to a bull , I never knew why ?

By mick
On 04/01/2010

I remember my parents taking me to Fielder's Holiday Camp at Thorney Bay. I will never forget "Auntie Renee" who hosted some of the shows (mainly talent competitions) in the outdoor theatre. Although its all gone, I sometimes return to Canvey Island to reminisce......

By Steve
On 17/01/2010

During the late 1940's or early 1950's if my mother ran out of bread on a sunday she would send me over to Fielder's holiday camp to sneak in and buy a loaf (I think there was some restriction on buying bread elsewhere on a sunday,except for the holiday camp-I can't remember the finer details) In any case on this particular occasion my friend David Harcus and I were caught by Colonel H.P. Fielder and quickly ejected over the boundary ditch next to Thorney Bay seawall. During the summer we could hear from our house in Jesmond Road instructions given to the campers via the holiday camp tannoy system -something of the nature of- "On completion of their week's stay all campers WILL vacate their pitches by the agreed time". Also I recall that the toilet blocks were at one time called 'Ablutions'! Ian Newman

By Ian Newman
On 04/02/2010

My Aunt owned a caravan on the Thorney bay beach camp and we spent many summers there during the school hols. During the early 70s i remember exploring all the Gun enplacements and watchtowers and just enjoying the whole area. The camp at night used to have single light bulbs strung around and we used to have to walk to the tin hut toilets by Torchlight. Simple times but they just seemed happier back then.

By Phil Cruse
On 16/03/2010

I remember the Canvey coastal defences very well . My Mother moved our little old caravan to Newlands in the early sixties and the Island , then totally unknown to my brother Stuart and I , was a fantastic place to explore .

We quickly became friends with the Kings (particular the youngest member of the family at that time 'Jeff' as he was closer to my age- and I still have fond memories of what was a lovely family) and together we covered quite a lot of the island on bike and foot in the following years .

I recall the land locked houseboats (including an old barge- I think 'The Rochester' as only the stern and part of the skeleton remained -and the odd converted 60' MTB/ HSL- there was one of these by the 'old bridge' of course-seen from the 3A bus to Leigh Beck) just over the sea wall from or new camp, the concrete barges at the Point, the B17 crash site (a little more difficult to get to across the mud) and of course the emplacements along the sea wall at Thorney Bay.

I also remember finding what was to be an old Mk 1 or 2 British steel helmet in the little stream at Furtherwick during one of these forays . During that time Canvey only had just begun its programme of redevelopment and much of the character still remained.

The old battery was a great place to explore and during my mothers convalescence there  and with new founds friends met at William Reid school in the late sixties, again interest turned to exploring these sites.

A school friend of mine at the time Keith 'Fuge' Fugal showed me what I remember to be a really great camp or hideout under the Labworth Cafe as he and his parents lived nearby and he had a keen interest in anything 'war' like me. Certainly room for a few adults and the burn marks and evidence of old candles still there - what this was I cant be sure but it was certainly well concealed -any ideas?

The most interesting I thought, was the old gun battery as it sometimes took what we thought were 'death defying' leaps to get onto the roofs of these and other adjacent structures. Much of the heavy doors and hoist mechanism still survived at that time and into the early 70's, but at that time I was a fully fledged teenager (13) and my sights turned to other entertainment and distractions although the seawall walks still featured!

As development took hold and the comfortably familiar began to disappear and after only fleeting visits to the island in the 70's, I thought it was time to move on. Sad to see what was obviously great memories for so many disappear so relatively quickly under featureless urbanisation.

For those who would like to experience what those defences were like there are very similar defences still pretty much intact and very recognisable -including observation towers (despite the best attempts of the Royal Engineers!) at Beacon Hill nr Harwich in Essex. Harwich not being blessed with the redevelopment budget of CIUDC and Castle Point during the 70's and 80's . Best wishes to all there that knew me .

By Malcolm R
On 02/06/2010

Not sure if I am supposed to comment on the 'comments' made, but I lived at number 3, Beverley Avenue as a child in the late 1940's/1950's and remember Fielder only too well. My friend Alan Booth and myself were using his slug gun on Fielders property and he took us both to the police station. My dad (a lawyer) came to get us, and give Fielder a piece of his mind for man handling us to the police station! Thorney Bay was the place for most of us kids, and we would play all day on the sand. In those days there was a break water right across the bay so that we could swim any time as the water was trapped. I remember the 1953 flood, and waking my parents up to tell them that the tide was coming up the road! We all walked along the Fort Road to Long Road and the train station. Like most kids of that time, I have a load of stories to tell, and have considered writing a book. Thanks for reading this. Tony Gerard - now aged 68

By Tony Gerard
On 08/10/2010

Here's a photograph of them - that was a lucky find: http://www.canveyisland.org/page_id__1388.aspx

By Liam Heatherson
On 27/10/2011

We used to go camping here in the 50s. There were about 15 of us in a large Ex army tent. Mr Fielder used to take films of us and show in theater. I remember the stage where we used to perform for sweets. lol Great times, exploring all the old sea wall and military buildings. Would be great if those films still existed.

By John Paterson
On 15/02/2012

We used to spend our holidays on Thorney Bay Beach Camp from about 1957 to 1961. We didn't have a car so got the train to (I think) Benfleet. We stayed in a caravan with calor gas lights (no electric). I have extremely fond memories of these holidays. My sister and I used to get up really early to "explore". I remember the gun turrets and that ariel thing. Then we would go back to the caravan where Mum would have bacon and eggs waiting. I remember the talent show on Thorney Bay and the Casino with the haunted house and helter skelter with the bowl at the bottom. Great memories!

By Dave Colli
On 29/03/2012

Wow, what memories I was looking here to get some pics to show a class of years 5's (ww2 project coming up) it's great to see all the comments as I too remember these areas as my playground in the late 50's early 60's this was pre health & safety laws of course! We thought it was so cool to swing from a tattered old rope from one side of the gun turret to the other no one ever got hurt (well not seriously anyway) & we had fun for the whole day & everyday of the school holidays. Mind you those buildings did stink didn't they.

By dianne fogg
On 12/04/2012

My grandparents brought their first caravan on Fielders camp in 1958 a year before I was born. We had great times from the 60’s to the 90’s spending every summer there with them, my mum & dad and my brother & sisters they were great times. No running water & gas lights until the 1970’s when the van was updated it was such fun. My Nan telling us that if we were naughty the old Mr Fielder would come and get us. Even when my own children were young we still were enjoying holidays there, they loved it to. I remember most of the things & places reminisced by others here.

By Caroline Fleming (Matthews)
On 25/05/2012

I too remember much of the things mentioned above,being chased by Colonel Feilder with his swagger stick, we would run through his flower gardens and enrage him even more! silent movies in the outdoor cinema, fresh cockles picked off the beach, the flood of 1953, the steam train from Romford to Benfleet. I also knew the King family from Romford, Mr. King always drove enormous American cars. There were many Dutch names on the island,and a Dutch style building for a pub. I have'nt been there since about 1958.

By Bob Coombs
On 02/07/2012

My grandparents went to Thorney bay for their holidays from the late 60's to the mid 80's. As a youngster in the 70's I often stayed with them, I used to love all the old gun emplacements, there was a massive one on the old sea wall and you could see the vast concrete turning circle of the gun. I always remember kids getting stuck in them and up the tower and the Police having to come to get them out. I will always remember the toyshop on Joneses corner and the Tremayns shop on the camp. Funny to think the site never used to have power between 8.00am and 7.00pm! all the old buildings have gone but I will always have fond memories of Canvey and Thorney Bay!

By Paul Nash
On 10/07/2013

Looking at this site the memories are coming in thick and fast, I remember my grandperents used to stay at a friends caravan every year, it was a rectangular type and it was pink and white and called Pandora, it was about six back from the sea front and on the main roadway from the entrance gate right down to the front. As it was the early 70's there were still a lot of the old round style vans about, and you often saw them being taken to the concrete areas near the old army tower to be burnt! no recycling laws then! I kid I used feel sad that was how the old caravans ended their days! the caravan next to us was an old round grey one and in it lived an old army office called george, he was a very decent chap, had lareg side whiskers and always seemed to wear a pair of desert rat style shorts. One day my grandparents heard of a new cafe opening on the other side of the refinery, I think near the Lobster smack, it seemed to take all day to get there along the sea wall, I am sure we even had to clamber over some pipes! when we got there, they had hardly anything in stock, and I ended up with a 'Breakaway' chocolate bar, they had just come out, so it shows how long ago it was!

By Paul Nash
On 10/07/2013

My father, Harry Reader and his brother Arthur, used to entertain every Monday night in the 1950s. Barbara Fielder used to introduce all the acts, there was also a kid's talent competition. Does anyone remember this? I have some photos, one is my dad and uncle and 'ghost' in the background who was Colonel Fielder dressed up. At the end of the show, they used to sing "Now is The Hour"

By Sheila Macey(Reader)
On 22/09/2013

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