Uncovering the mystery of Canvey's smuggling tunnels

Echo: Smugglers' rumours at Lobster Smack Smugglers' rumours at Lobster Smack

HISTORIANS are trying to uncover the truth about whether Canvey is harbouring a network of secret tunnels underground.

Smugglers are said to have constructed two tunnels during the 18th and 19th centuries to ferry their goods from the coast to Canvey village.

The hidden tunnels are rumoured to have run from the cellar of the St Katherine’s old vicarage, in Vicarage Close, to the Lobster Smack pub, in Haven Road. Another is believed to have run from Denham Road to Hadleigh Castle.

Now, volunteers from the CanveyCommunity Archive are appealing for islanders to come forward with their stories to see if they can uncover the truth.

Janet Penn, from the archive, said: “The story has been going round for years. I’ve always known about it and I’ve lived here since 1976. I am a bit of a sceptic, but it could be true.

“The coastguard cottages near the Lobster Smack have been there for more than 100 years, and they were there specifically to stop smugglers in the area.

“Before then, they were moored in a hulk near Holehaven, so it is plausible the smugglers could have constructed some method of getting the goods past them.”

Rumours of the tunnels have circulated the island for generations, but have so far never been substantiated.

A resident claiming to have seen the vicarage tunnel wrote a report in 1990, describing the tunnel being behind a doorway in the cellar, with stone brickwork walls propped up with wood that led to a large anti-chamber before emerging at the pub.

Ms Penn added: “Another chap told me he could show me where the tunnels were and would write it up for me, and that someone in the Denham Road area had uncovered the entrance in his garden. But unfortunately, I never followed it up.

“Now we really want people to come forward and share their memories about the tunnels, or – better yet – their experiences if they did see them.

“There are a lot of myths and stories about Canvey, and sometimes they do turn out to be true, so you never know.”

Comments (12)

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11:52am Wed 10 Jul 13

marshman says...

Piped dikes ... or should that be dykes? Hey, could even be dykes on the pipe. What a load of tosh, tunnels under lakes and creeks indeed, defies the laws of physics.
Piped dikes ... or should that be dykes? Hey, could even be dykes on the pipe. What a load of tosh, tunnels under lakes and creeks indeed, defies the laws of physics. marshman
  • Score: 0

12:01pm Wed 10 Jul 13

leighman says...

What he said, absolute balderdash!
What he said, absolute balderdash! leighman
  • Score: 3

12:22pm Wed 10 Jul 13

Ian P says...

"The hidden tunnels are rumoured to have run from the cellar of the St Katherine’s old vicarage, in Vicarage Close, to the Lobster Smack pub, in Haven Road. Another is believed to have run from Denham Road to Hadleigh Castle". Are we to assume that this second tunnel was a continuation of the tunnel rumoured to run from Hadleigh Castle to Thundersley Lodge in Runnymede Chase?
"The hidden tunnels are rumoured to have run from the cellar of the St Katherine’s old vicarage, in Vicarage Close, to the Lobster Smack pub, in Haven Road. Another is believed to have run from Denham Road to Hadleigh Castle". Are we to assume that this second tunnel was a continuation of the tunnel rumoured to run from Hadleigh Castle to Thundersley Lodge in Runnymede Chase? Ian P
  • Score: 0

12:33pm Wed 10 Jul 13

Russ13 says...

A lovely story but I think that's about all this will ever amount to....... The fact that most (if not all) of Canvey is below sea level and sinking into the mud would make any kind of underground tunnels difficult to dig and prevent from flooding.

Even on the principle that the sea level was lower back in the "smuggling" days, the floods of 1953 would have probably destroyed them.
A lovely story but I think that's about all this will ever amount to....... The fact that most (if not all) of Canvey is below sea level and sinking into the mud would make any kind of underground tunnels difficult to dig and prevent from flooding. Even on the principle that the sea level was lower back in the "smuggling" days, the floods of 1953 would have probably destroyed them. Russ13
  • Score: 3

2:07pm Wed 10 Jul 13

rayleigh123 says...

Lived on Canvey for most of life - the entire area is London clay - which would be USELESS for any form of distance tunnelling.

Most smugglers tunnels are from Devon / Cornwall area which is mostly rock - which would be possible to tunnel in.
Lived on Canvey for most of life - the entire area is London clay - which would be USELESS for any form of distance tunnelling. Most smugglers tunnels are from Devon / Cornwall area which is mostly rock - which would be possible to tunnel in. rayleigh123
  • Score: 0

4:12pm Wed 10 Jul 13

HadleighBoy says...

rayleigh123 wrote:
Lived on Canvey for most of life - the entire area is London clay - which would be USELESS for any form of distance tunnelling. Most smugglers tunnels are from Devon / Cornwall area which is mostly rock - which would be possible to tunnel in.
You realise the Echo will jump on your comments. The headline will be updated to "Uncovering the mystery of thee Canvey smuggling tunnels which go to Devon"
[quote][p][bold]rayleigh123[/bold] wrote: Lived on Canvey for most of life - the entire area is London clay - which would be USELESS for any form of distance tunnelling. Most smugglers tunnels are from Devon / Cornwall area which is mostly rock - which would be possible to tunnel in.[/p][/quote]You realise the Echo will jump on your comments. The headline will be updated to "Uncovering the mystery of thee Canvey smuggling tunnels which go to Devon" HadleighBoy
  • Score: 0

4:36pm Wed 10 Jul 13

the citizen says...

rayleigh123 wrote:
Lived on Canvey for most of life - the entire area is London clay - which would be USELESS for any form of distance tunnelling.

Most smugglers tunnels are from Devon / Cornwall area which is mostly rock - which would be possible to tunnel in.
Certainly agree that tunnelling on Canvey would be a crazy thing to do bearing in mind it is saturated ground - a mixture of high water table and a geology of clay and sands/gravels. Lethal in days gone by. However London Clay is actually good stuff to tunnel in IF you are able to support with either close boarded timber or pre-cast concrete segments (the latter not generally noted to be available in 18th&19th century.) Having crawled up a few tunnels in my time using both technologies I can confirm that London Clay is ok for tunnelling. Caution always needs to be taken - especially with a seam of blue clay within brown clay - this can slip into the void - and kill. Now... running sands and gravels are a more difficult geology - but still not impossible with modern techniques. But I doubt this was ever possible on Canvey way back in years gone by for smugglers to use.
[quote][p][bold]rayleigh123[/bold] wrote: Lived on Canvey for most of life - the entire area is London clay - which would be USELESS for any form of distance tunnelling. Most smugglers tunnels are from Devon / Cornwall area which is mostly rock - which would be possible to tunnel in.[/p][/quote]Certainly agree that tunnelling on Canvey would be a crazy thing to do bearing in mind it is saturated ground - a mixture of high water table and a geology of clay and sands/gravels. Lethal in days gone by. However London Clay is actually good stuff to tunnel in IF you are able to support with either close boarded timber or pre-cast concrete segments (the latter not generally noted to be available in 18th&19th century.) Having crawled up a few tunnels in my time using both technologies I can confirm that London Clay is ok for tunnelling. Caution always needs to be taken - especially with a seam of blue clay within brown clay - this can slip into the void - and kill. Now... running sands and gravels are a more difficult geology - but still not impossible with modern techniques. But I doubt this was ever possible on Canvey way back in years gone by for smugglers to use. the citizen
  • Score: 0

5:08pm Wed 10 Jul 13

firedog says...

Aah Jim lad, Long John Silver lived on Canvey, I have been told so it must be true.
Aah Jim lad, Long John Silver lived on Canvey, I have been told so it must be true. firedog
  • Score: 1

6:44pm Wed 10 Jul 13

John T Pharro says...

There never was a smugglers tunnel. This was the first attempt at a tunnel from Canvey to Kent. People still believe it can happen, just as barmy Boris believes in an airport in the Thames estuary.
There never was a smugglers tunnel. This was the first attempt at a tunnel from Canvey to Kent. People still believe it can happen, just as barmy Boris believes in an airport in the Thames estuary. John T Pharro
  • Score: 1

10:01pm Wed 10 Jul 13

Cor Blimey says...

its also rumoured that there was a tunnel from the creek to the Hoy and Helmet pub in Benfleet
its also rumoured that there was a tunnel from the creek to the Hoy and Helmet pub in Benfleet Cor Blimey
  • Score: 3

6:38am Fri 12 Jul 13

Snorkyboy says...

I was told there are smugglers tunnels under North Street, Rochford
I was told there are smugglers tunnels under North Street, Rochford Snorkyboy
  • Score: 0

6:28pm Fri 12 Jul 13

John T Pharro says...

Cor Blimey wrote:
its also rumoured that there was a tunnel from the creek to the Hoy and Helmet pub in Benfleet
True, but never proven.
[quote][p][bold]Cor Blimey[/bold] wrote: its also rumoured that there was a tunnel from the creek to the Hoy and Helmet pub in Benfleet[/p][/quote]True, but never proven. John T Pharro
  • Score: 1

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