Caught by the River

Brighter Later

Brian David Stevens | 19th April 2012

3. Essex

Brighter Later is a journey around the British Isles looking outward from the coastline of each county

“You ever have to go to Shoeburyness Take the A road, the OK road that’s the best.
Go motorin’ on the A13”

A13 Trunk Road To The Sea by Billy Bragg

I ignore the Bard of Barking’s anglicised version of Route 66 and go there on the c2c train. For those of you that are wondering what c2c stands for, according to their website “The name c2c doesn’t mean anything specific. In a sense it can mean anything you want it to”. This annoys me. I think of a few things it could stand for as the train speeds through the Essex countryside of flatlands, marshlands, pylons and randomly tethered horses in the middle of nowhere. It’s a wonderful journey.

Shoeburyness is at the end of the line situated at the mouth of the river Thames Estuary, the train takes you through Leigh On Sea and Southend before reaching its final destination, although the tracks mysteriously carry on going to the MOD site now used as a weapons testing facility.

Stretching out from East Beach Shoeburyness is the Defence Boom. First constructed in 1939 it consisted of wooden piles driven into the sands both sides of the Thames stretching to the edges of the deep water channel. Once the deep water channel was reached an anti-submarine net was placed across the remaining stretch of river. Stationed along the net there were large barges called lighters weighing some 200 tons. The boom was armed with anti-aircraft guns & searchlights, preventing enemy submarines from attacking shipping anchored in the river. The boom was dismantled after the war and all that remains today are the wooden piles protruding from the sea like lines of morse code.

Shoeburyness fell victim to Martian attack in 1898 according to H G Wells in his novel War Of The Worlds,
‘Some of the passengers were of the opinion that this firing came from Shoeburyness, until it was noticed that it was growing louder. At the same time, far away in the southeast the masts and upperworks of three ironclads rose one after the other out of the sea, beneath clouds of black smoke’

Any place that stands up to both Martians and Nazis is fine by me.

Brian David Stevens