Known as either Canvey Island’s Heritage Centre or St Katherine’s Church, this building stands proud along Long Road. Towards the second-half of the 19th Century, Victorian Canvey was undergoing true establishment as a village, rather than just farmland. With a new church, St. Katherine’s, built in 1875, a village well, constructed in 1879, and numerous other houses, Canvey Village was the heart of the Island in the Victorian Era. Most of these village buildings were erected under the eye of Reverend Henry Hayes, the island’s first vicar of 1881, building a vicarage, post office, and school.
At the entrance to the church site a porch greets you. This was constructed in memory of Susan Fielder, H.P. Fielder’s mother. This was constructed in 1953 as the following photo of the plaque shows.
St. Katherine’s church hasn’t always lied on this spot however. The Dutch Chapel, aforementioned, stood vaguely on this site. In 1712 it was becoming dilapidated, and with a now anti-Dutch mindset the local residents, the church was rebuilt by a certain Mr. Edgar as an English church known as St. Katherine’s. With floods raging in over the Dutch seawall, the church was damaged overtime by the moisture. Then in 1745, the church was rebuilt again under the name of St. Peters, funded by Daniel Scratton of Prittlewell. Like the previous church, it was constructed using timber, and red roof tiles. In 1862, a losing battle was fought in trying to restore the church’s interior with new seating and stained-glass windows. It was rebuilt under the devotion to the previous St. Katherine in 1875. Some components from the old church were used. The church was later left derelict through the 60s and 70s, but was planned as a heritage centre in 1979, before work started in the early 80s. Now standing as Canvey Island Heritage Centre, it lies as a public museum, the building being original though restored.
St Katherine’s graveyard is old but not ancient; with the first recorded burial being in 1813. Earlier burials in the locality would have taken place at St Mary’s in Benfleet. Not many 19th century headstones can be found and a lot of the 20th century headstones can no longer be read due to decay over time.
Janet Penn, from the Canvey Island Archive, has spent 2 years intensely photographing the headstones at St. Katherines and also transcribed the burial records and Monumental Inscriptions. With a staggering 1500 graves registered, mostly some with the bare facts, over 600 now have grave photos along with as much detail as she could. You can search online at FinaaGrave.com. This collection is quite amazing and extremely interesting to trowel through.
Below are some photographs of the church whilst it was left abandoned, from Canvey Community Archive See them all here: http://www.canveyisland.org/page_id__400.aspx?path=0p2p14p100p165p