Canvey Island Essex, UK

I have tried in this website to show the History of Canvey Island but more importantly the history of its people. Who are the Canvey Islanders? Where do they come from? What makes the Island what it is today? They are not made up of London East-enders as many would like you to believe indeed they come from all walks of life, from all corners of the UK as you will see from the family trees I have sorted so far from the island’s families.


Canvey was not directly mentioned in the Doomsday Book as it was just marshland. But it was in use as grazing land for sheep. Sheep farming was a thriving industry. The fat-tailed variety was the favourite breed. The ewe’s milk was used to make cheese which was very popular in London. During this period the number of inhabitants was just a handful.


With the change to agricultural the population started to increase but was very transient with workers moving from farm to farm around Essex. In the 1800s the inhabitants of Canvey were mainly made up of Agricultural Labourers, some tenant farmers, not many owned the land they worked on. There were several families from the Coastguards that had a large presence on the Island for many years. Many of the families both agricultural labours and coastguards moved away to new locations after only a few years. Some stayed and their descendants live here today.

From the census records there were only
96 people living there in 1861, increasing to 282 by 1881. (These figures do not include the population on Canvey that were recorded in different parishes making it very difficult to gain an exact figure.) 1901 shows a small increase to 301 and the workers turning to different employment, one of which was working as ‘Sea Wallers’ on the Sea defences, vital for the islands survival.

But 1901 may also have been the start of big changes for Canvey Island because the entrepreneur
Frederick Hester moved to the Island and can be found there with his family in the census at Leigh Beck. Hester with the help of his son Frederick William Brewster Hester (FWB Hester as appears in adverts) bought several of the farms on Canvey and tried to develop the Island into a Holiday Resort. You can read all about him in the History pages. The population continued to grow, by 1911 there were 583, 1921 there were 1795, 1924 saw a large increase to 3000. By 1938 it had more than doubled to 6579, this increase substantially after the war with an influx of people from war torn London. Before the floods, of 1953 there were more than 11,000 people living on Canvey. Today the population tops 40,000 and is continuing to increase.


Please take the time to sign the guestbook with your comments thank you.


This website has just been upgraded and updated.

More stories, names and pictures to be added please bookmark and come back to see what is new.

Canvey Island Essex



The Original Canvey History Website

Established in 2000


© 2000-2012