ID: ML2021_012_078 / Ron Green

TitleDevelopment old and new
AbstractWith the Brierley Paddocks development now under way and the many groans of disapproval on the social media, I thought it would be interesting to look back at what might have been. Plans were first put forward to develop all this area nearly 120 years ago.

I have before me a layout from a brochure "FairHaven. The New Seaside Resort", held by our Museum and dating from about 1903. It shows a substantial development with 2,459 plots, of which 158 are shop plots - over 50 of them along East Road. The site runs from a point to the west of what is now Fairhaven Avenue to Waldegraves Lane with some gaps along East Road, and right down to the beach.

The double track SB & C Light Railway comes in on the plan from the north with the station opposite the top of Fairhaven Avenue from which a single track electric line runs to the seafront and out onto a 2,550 ft steamboat pier. There is a second pier just to the west of Decoy Point where there is also a gents lavatory. I don't know where the ladies are supposed to go but there are quite a few bushes shown about. There is a glorious Windsor Crescent off East Road from which the 60ft wide Royal Boulevard and Imperial Boulevard run down to the seafront. There is a site for a new school, a town hall, a large building with Lecture Halls, Conference Rooms and Grand Auditorium, but nothing about a doctor's surgery. The Fairhaven waterworks with a tower and engine house is shown near what is now the Glebe - it was many years before the rest of West Mersea would have mains water.. This plan is the first portion, so presumably more to come. This is all prepared for Messrs Callow & Wright, Estate Office, Brondesbury Park, Willesden Green, London.

Within a few years Sam Callow moved from Willesden to Mersea, living in Brierley Hall and then Leysters in East Road. But meanwhile other developers were getting involved. Leonard Weaver, also from Willesden, had moved to Mersea, living for a short while in Brierley Hall which he named Fairhaven, before building Fairhaven House in Seaview Avenue.

The ambitious plans described above were soon scaled back with nothing east of Seaview Avenue. Samuel Callow developed the north end of Seaview Avenue and later Brierley Avenue, but Leonard Weaver seems to taken over the south end, and Fairhaven Avenue. Leonard Weaver was an evangelist and tried hard to develop this area as a Temperance Resort. Before long other developers appeared, developing Empress Avenue, Alexandra Avenue etc.

The bubble burst with the coming of World War I in 1914 and with tears and bankruptcies, including that of Willoughby John Bean who had once owned much of the western end of the Island.

The population figure in 1901 for East Mersea was 218 and West Mersea 1,306. In 1921 East Mersea was 205 and West Mersea was 1,908.

Fairhaven House in Seaview Avenue being built for Leonard Weaver about 1906. It became the Weavers' home and was also advertised as Mrs Weaver's Home of Rest. It is still there, on the corner of Osborne Road, known as Aldeburgh House.
Leonard Weaver is standing on the scaffolding wearing a hard hat, or more likely it is a bowler hat. Next to the chimney is Charles Gethen - the Gethens were related to the Weavers and they were another family that settled on the Island.

Article printed in Mersea Life December 2021 page 78

AuthorRon Green
PublishedDecember 2021
SourceMersea Museum