ID: ML2022_001_062 / Ron Green

TitleThe Boating Lake
AbstractWe have a fine new boating lake in East Mersea. I haven't seen it but I hear it is very popular.

I remember very well the West Mersea boating lake in what was called Shears Meadow. It all came about in a roundabout way because of a gas works. The retort house building for this project was built over 100 years ago but the gas works seems to have been a victim of the outbreak of World War 1. The red brick and slate building was not completed and stood in this unfinished state until about 1950 when it became part of the Underwood's Garage complex. It was the body repair shop with Jimmy Simmonds, Les Taylor, Mick Lunnon and others working in there. There was to be a canal from the sea into the works so that barges could bring in coal. Digging had started on this canal and it was this that formed the basis for the boating lake that was opened in 1933. A water course ditch running from Empress Avenue under the spot where Rainbow and Queen Anne Roads join, fed the lake and a dam was built across the beach end to retain the water.

Postcards of the early years show punts similar to those used on the Cam at Cambridge. In 1937 the Boating Lake was sold and the new owners made a major investment. Forty new flat-bottomed dinghies were built locally. A swimming pool and changing cubicles were built and, of course, a kiosk. There was a prominent wind pump on the dam.

I remember during the sharp winter of 1939-1940 the lake froze over and it was put to good use by a lot of skaters. With the outbreak of war, the new boats were stacked upside down under the willow trees at the top end of the lake, and towards the end of the war the local lads gradually put these boats back in the water. I was amongst those who went down after school to have a paddle around, using an old bit of wood as a paddle. This came to an end when the owner took the boats away. There were, and possibly still are, one or two around the Island planted with flowers.

Around 1960 the lake was filled in using spoil from a project at Cosways caravan park, with a number of tipper lorries bringing in the sandy soil which was suitable for the infill, and local builder Hills built what is now Shears Crescent.

The Boating Lake in the late 1930s. Joan Mills is in the nearest boat - she married Harry Vince.

An aerial view of the Boating Lake soon after WW2, with the beach at the bottom and Prince Albert Road at the top. Broomhills Road is along left side.
The canal would have come off the river at the bottom heading north and crossed the dip in Prince Albert Road on its way to the gas works.

Article printed in Mersea Life January 2022 page 62

AuthorRon Green
SourceMersea Museum