Water, water everywhere, not any drop to drink.

This (often misquoted) saying was coined by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s especially relevant today as parts of the country, including Essex, are on the verge of official drought mode.

As far as the rest of the nation was concerned, this was the very case in Southend exactly 99 years ago.

Depressing rumours of a drought in Southend had circulated for some weeks in the summer of 1923 and the faux crisis was gaining momentum, even making the newspapers.

Yet these reports of devastated residents and scorched earth weren’t true. There was, in fact, no scarcity of water in Southend.

The fictitious rumours were put down to ‘moonshine and imagination’, yet that hadn’t stopped them from affecting tourism and trade in the town.

It most likely stemmed from the fact that during the summer season of 1923, the water supply was cut off nightly.

It was a preventative measure - a guard against a possible shortage of water owing to the enormous rush of visitors and daytrippers that were coming to town.

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend more than 160,000 revellers had packed into the town. The infrastructure back then just wasn’t sturdy enough to handle such crowds.

Echo: The old Canvey water pumpThe old Canvey water pump

Yet as one visitor to the town reported as the made the trip to Southend to see what was happening, the rumours were simply untrue.

“No laundry has reported that it has closed its doors and no hardships have been endured by either visitors or residents. Nor has any drought of any sort occurred since the really serious shortage experienced three years ago, when the water supply was cut off morning and night,” wrote the visitor.

Indeed a photograph of the pier in the summer of 1923 in our gallery shows nothing out of the ordinary. The swimming pool looks awash with visitors as normal.

In September 1933 there would be a dangerous bout of grass and field fires across Essex, brought on by a drought. At one point Southend shops were in real danger when a fire broke out in Victoria Parade, threatening 50 shops, a dance hall and a club.

Every firefighting appliance in the town was made use of, and the fire raged on for several hours.

A few miles down the road on Canvey and the villagers there had long since been used to having to go the extra mile for water.

In 1889 the only water supply the Islanders had access to at the time was from collecting rainwater.

So the Rev Henry Hayes came up with a plan to bring fresh water to the Island.

Rev Hayes had taken up his ministry on the Island in 1873 when it was then divided between nine mainland parishes of North Benfleet, South Benfleet, Bowers Gifford, Hadleigh, Laindon-with-Basildon, Pitsea, Prittlewell, Southchurch, and Vange.

There had been no resident vicar before Henry Hayes. There was no school, no water supply, and no post office, but he helped to bring all to the island and thus earned a reputation as the “maker of modern Canvey”.

Financed by public subscription and 50 guineas from the Corporation of the City of London the parish pump was opened on December 5, 1889, by the Chairman of the Port Sanitary Committee.

It stood in front of the Red Cow public house at what is now the junction of Long Road, Canvey Road and Haven Road.

It was built with a thatched roof in a Dutch design and contained the inscription “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst”.