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.”