'Kismet'

Whatever will be will be

By Janet Penn

Photo:'Kismet'

'Kismet'

I am sure you all know Kismet Park on the Eastern Esplanade. Where did the name come from? What is its connection to Canvey? The name ‘Kismet’ brings up all sorts of Middle Eastern exotic connotations. Well that is not too far from the truth.

Nissim Levi, the owner of the house called ‘Kismet’ was born in Turkey in 1873. His parents Moses and Saltana were married in Constantinople in 1860 in a Jewish Ceremony. The family, Nissim and at least four other siblings came to England between 1873 and 1878. The family lived in London and Moses had a business as a Carpet Merchant.

About 1899 Nissim married Lettice (there are various spellings) Elizabeth, I have not yet found this marriage. As far as I can tell Lettice was English and born in the City of London. We also know she was of the Catholic faith. Nissim’s sister Pearl also married in 1899 to Henry Clarence Abrahams.

By 1911 Nissim and Lettice and three of their surviving children were living on Canvey at Pier View Lodge, Leigh Beck. I suspect this is either the same building renamed later as Kismet or where they first stayed while they had Kismet built. The first time we find the name ‘Kismet’ in any documents is in 1914. Nissim’s occupation shows he followed in his father’s footsteps he was an Oriental Carpet Importer.

During his time living on Canvey he was very much involved with the community. Fred McCave in his Bulletin of 1981 wrote about the building of the Catholic Church:-

Arrangements were made to hold Mass at the home of Mr. Levi (a Jew) and his wife (a Roman Catholic). Eventually Mr. Levi became a Catholic and his two sons Jesuits. They built Father (later Canon) Francis W. Gilbert (1917-1952, Parish Priest of our Lady of Lourdes Leigh) a wooden hut in their garden and he said his weekday Mass on the dressing table.

The family’s dalliance with Christianity had been going on for some years. In 1903 Nissim’s younger sister Rose was baptised into the Christian Faith.

By 1918 his sister Pearl who had been living in Leigh on Sea, had moved to Canvey with her family living at 'Riversdale', Leigh Beck. Pearl and her family were not found on Canvey in the 1929 Electoral Roll.

Nissim and Lettice stayed on Canvey until 1929. After leaving Canvey they moved back to London then spent time travelling to New Zealand and Jamaica, before eventually settling in Hamworthy in Dorset where they both died within days of each other in May 1945. Nissim was 72 and Lettice was 65. Whatever will be will be...............................

Photo:Postcard showing location of 'Kismet'

Postcard showing location of 'Kismet'

Photo:Same area today

Same area today

This page was added by Janet Penn on 28/02/2014.
Comments about this page

Great research on the Levi family and 'Kismet', they certainly were an interesting lot weren't they. Also nice to see a photo of Kismet House itself. 

The 'Orchard' as it was known was a great overgrown adventure area for children and teenagers from time immemorial til the early 70s. Planks and all sorts of rubbish formed bridges across the dyke and there were rope swings etc in the big trees on the Gainsborough Ave side. I guess it's the nearest thing we got to 'woodland'. 

The reference in 1914 to Kismet probably applies to plans for 'Kismet Cottage' at the top of Gafzelle Dve which the family had built for their chauffeur. You can see more about that in 'Basketful of Memories pt 5' on this site. 

I suppose the biggest mystery surrounds the fate (kismet) of such an attractive and substantial property such as Kismet House which by all appearances had been reduced to a few bits of foundation and some holes in the ground by the end of WW2. Anybody got any further info?

By Graham Stevens
On 02/03/2014

My Mother told me that she taught Dancing in Kismet, her Maiden name was Gladys Bishop, my Uncle Bill Bishop, once stored apples in the loft of the house, this would have been in the Forties.

By TONY MATTHEWS
On 20/03/2014

Does anyone know what year Kismet was demolished?

By Val Court
On 08/12/2014

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