A listing of historical public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in Essex. The Essex listing uses information from census, Trade Directories and History to add licensees, bar staff, Lodgers and Visitors.
The story of the Beckwith family & Lobster Smack from 1828,
The Beckwith’s and the Lobster Smack Inn, Canvey
Charles Beckwith senior, and his son Charles ran the Lobster Smack Inn and Sluice Farm on Canvey Island from 1862 until 1915 which found Charles jr. fighting in France. My Great grandfather had six children, five girls and my Grandfather, who had two daughters with my Mother being the youngest.
Until the first world war the main purpose of the inn was to look after travellers and it was an act of parliament which changed and brought in licensing hours to help the war effort. As the inn stood next to the sea wall it drew a lot of business from ships and yachts, if a ship arrived on the tide at say 3 am in the morning there was a maid on duty to take care of their needs. (It should be remembered that the majority of ships were still sail powered). My Grandmother said that the popular food served was a slice off one of the home cured hams hanging from the ceiling fried on the solid fuelled kitchen range (always with a fire day or night) together with two fried eggs. The top or half the bottom of a cottage loaf accompanied this washed down with what ever they required (usually beer). Water had to be hauled first from Benfleet, then from the village, once the well had been sunk, as there was no fresh water supply at the inn or farm, and any well would have been filled with salt water.
Many of the sailing clubs were regular visitors and knew the inn as Becky’s which reflected the warm welcome and excellent food which was always available, afternoon teas were very popular and were served upstairs.
Sluice Farm had a farmhouse and several thatched barns which were demolished after the second world war, this was an integral part of the inn, as the farm (142 acres, run by four men and one boy) provided most of the provisions needed by the inn. My Great Grandfather and Grandfather were also known for supplementing the menus by taking a punt and gun together with a curly haired retriever (bread for the marches) and bringing back game. Fishing also provided a wide choice, eels were very plentiful, and were caught by threading worms onto strands of wool which were hung in bunches in the water. My Mother said the eels became stuck on the wool, but were easily removed and ended up in the frying pan.
One other source of food came from Holland, my Grandmother told me that cheese and other items were brought in by boat, and that there was a concession which allowed the Dutch to do this as part of the repayment for the work they did on the sea walls back in the 1600’s. Coal was also brought in by sea as was oil for the lamps.
The transport for guests who came and stayed at the inn, consisted of a Victoria and Brougham carriages, one was open with a hood and the other closed to keep out wet weather. Guests usually arrived at Benfleet station, and were taken across the causeway, tide permitting (the Bridge was not built until the 1930’s) and then driven to the inn.
Several horses were kept on the farm and my Mother learnt to ride as well as sail, as my Grandfather had several boats kept in Hole Haven creek.
My Grandfather also told me that the Island often became flooded as the old sea wall did not manage to keep out the spring tides, however this was normal and allowed for as all the roads had fleet’s or ditches along the sides into which the sea water drained. (the remains of the fleet between the inn and the Farm can still be seen) however, many have now been filled in. (in old pictures of Canvey houses, one can see small bridges over the ditches leading to the front doors of the houses. So the procedure was to wait for the tide to fall and open the sluices placed in the sea wall to allow the water to run out. The sluice after which the farm was named was located in the wall between the inn and the farm, this has since been filled in but one can see where the fleet ran.
My Grandfather told me that there was no smuggling from the time the family took over also that the chief customs officer (stationed in the custom house cottages still in existence east of the inn) was related to my Grandmother, and while on a visit, my grandmother met my Grandfather. He did have a good laugh as a subsequent landlord uncovered a fireplace which my Grandfather had bricked up many years earlier, and claimed that it was a smugglers hideaway.
When I visited the Inn with my Mother after ww2, she was very disappointed as apparently the Inn had been changed out of all recognition and did not resemble any of the old features except the front of the main building. The whole rear as it had been was no longer and the small internal rooms had gone, My last visit revealed that the whole upstairs had now been gutted with the bedroom which my mother was born in now no longer, (all bedrooms had four poster beds) but the Inn still stands and is a link with the past.
James Alan Blackwood