Historic Walk

May & Butcher

Walk past the tea room along the sea wall, which was constructed in 1808 replacing an old rotten bank, and has been much built up and strengthened over the years.
The buildings you will find on your left, now used by Newham Council as part of their outdoor education centre, were the first premises of May & Butcher Ltd. Arthur Butcher, a shipwright, set up a workshop on the seawall. Joined by Mr May the company spread to the fields behind, constructing prefabricated wooden buildings. After WW1 the company bought and sold army surplus equipment, including tents and huts.

In 1920 May & Butcher began to bring in ships to be broken up. In WW2 wooden sections for aircraft were built and after the war minesweepers were brought in to be repaired or broken. The firm remained in business until the 1980s, manufacturing wooden shuttering used in bridge construction as well as their traditional gates and agricultural buildings.
Look over the seawall to your right and you will see the remains of their wharf, the concrete base for a derrick and, if the tide is low, the remains of the last minesweeper to be broken up.

Continue your walk past the playing field towards Millbeach, or perhaps turn back to find refreshment in the tea room, one of the two pubs or the kiosk on the canal side.

The Tea Rooms

Cross back over the lock gates and walk along the sea wall. Ahead, the Lock tea room has served as cafe and yacht stores over the years. Previously it was a private house, Pembury, one of the bungalows brought from HMS Osea in the 1920s.

Houses have existed on this odd spit of land since 1811. In 1852 when the ground was sold one of the buildings was described as a broken and decayd vessel which had been fitted up a dwelling house. Later”Aunt Diney” lived in an old cottage dubbed Rat Hall by the villagers. Pembury and Rat Hall are pictured on this 1930s postcard.

The Lock House

The Lock House was built in 1842 to house the lock keeper. Apart from a short period in the late 19th century when shipping declined, and the lock keeper David Clements lived for a while in the closed Chelmer Brig, it has continued to serve this purpose.

The Lock & Navigation Cottage

Turn back to the lock and cross the first lock gates. The canal basin nowadays is occupied by pleasure craft. In earlier times you could have seen timber lighters, eel boats, possibly stacky sailing barges or collier brigs.

Navigation Cottage was originally a pair of cottages, built by Richard and George Coates who had come to the Basin when the canal was being constructed and went into business importing timber and coal.

Workshops & Myrtle Cottage

Stay on the Lock Hill and walk past the derelict garage/workshops. These were built on the site of the granary which was built soon after the canal opened. It was eventually demolished in the 1950s.

On your right you will find a pair of cottages. Myrtle Cottage, on the left was the original Old Ship public house, the second pub to open in the Basin. It became a private house when the licence was transferred to the present Old Ship in 1906.

Eel business

At the foot of the hill beyond the cottages the premises now occupied by Hales Tool and Die Ltd were originally used by Mr Kuijten who in 1928 brought his live eel import business to the Basin. Eels were brought in by ship from Europe and North Africa until 1969. The business continued for three more years using large tanker lorries to carry the eels.

Beyond Hale’ premises there is a passage which leads back to Basin Road. The house on the right has replaced a row of cottages, originally the Carpenter’s Arms pub and occupying the site of the brewery which appears on an 1811 plan.

General Stores

This cottage on the Lock Hill was formerly a general stores providing both village residents and visiting sailors with provisions. As early as 1891 George Clark and his wife Emily were shown on the census keeping a shop on the Lock Hill. Emily continued as shop keeper for many years and was succeeded by her daughters Emily Rose Boorer and Mary Jane Moore. Mrs Boorer continued to keep the shop into the 1960s.

The Old Ship

Turn right by the Jolly and walk up onto Lock Hill. The two rows of weatherboarded cottages were some of the first dwellings to be built, appearing, along with a granary, on a 1799 plan of the Basin.

The Chelmer Brig public house opened in 1799, occupying.the end cottage of the row. In 1858 it was replaced by the present pub building which continued as the Chelmer Brig until 1894 when it became a private house. In 1906 it reopened as The Old Ship.

The Jolly Sailor

Ahead of you the Jolly Sailor nestles beside the seawall. This was the first pub to be opened in the Basin, having been built in 1793 for the Writtle Brewery, and is the only one to have remained in continuous use.

Alfred “Tish” Clark, great grandson of John Clark, took over the licence in 1886 and was succeeded by his wife JaneWoodcraft (from another original Basin family) who it is claimed was the oldest licensee in England when she died in 1952. Their daughter Mona then ran the pub until 1968.

The Anchorage

Carry on towards the sea wall and on your right is the house now called The Anchorage.
An early plan of the Basin shows a house here, built for John Clark. He was appointed as Superintendant of the canal, keeping records of shipping and collecting dues, and raised his family in the Basin. His descendants continued to live in the Basin, working as wharf porters, mariners, watermen, fishermen and a Trinity Pilot. At least three of John’s 4x great grandchildren still live locally.

Later in the 19th century the house became the Live and Let Live public house.