Foulness Island – Extremely Perilous to leave the Island without a Guide

Extract from ‘The History of Rochford Hundred’ article by Philip Benton of Wakering Hall [p.219]

It is extremely perilous for any stranger to attempt the passage to or from this island without a guide, but the dangers attending it have been a pleasurable excitement to many. Some farmers would stay to the last, and then race the tide, and swim the creeks. Some of those who have been used to the sands all their lives, have there yielded up their breath, and many hair-breadth escapes are recorded.

The present Charles Miller, late surgeon at Great Wakering, who, during his professional duties, occasionally lost his way, formerly possessed an old horse, which upon such an emergency, when the reins were thrown up, her instinct never failed her. Fogs are liable to come on, the tide out of course, and other accidents occur, so that the most experienced may lose their way.

Those on foot who attempt the passage through the creeks, should be cautious, as dangerous holes exist; one called Shagsby's (from a man lost there) is on the edge of the saltings at Great Shelford.

The writer was once lost in a fog whilst wild fowl shooting on the sands, and, but for timely assistance, must have lost his life. These fogs at a little distance appear to be a bank, and upon turning round you lose all idea of north, south, east, or west. As a hint to future sportsmen, the author entertained the idea of tying his arm to the muzzle of his gun (burying the latter in the sand) to simplify the search for his body.

Amongst those who have been drowned upon these occasions was Thomas Jackson,an apothecary, in the year 1711, who was buried at Rochford. Thomas Miller, surgeon, of Great Wakering, son of Morton Miller, of the same place, was likewise lost coming from Foulness, August 21st, 1805, aged 46. He was on horseback, and was discovered swimming in the haven by some men in a barge, who conducted him to Land Wick blackgrounds, and it is supposed his horse afterwards threw and kicked him, as a mark of the shoe appeared on his temple.

One of the most distressing events of this nature occurred in 1836, when two poor girls named Chittocks and Bates were found dead, not drowned, but exhausted from cold, wet, and fright. Although entreated to stay at Wakering, they refused, as they expected to meet their sweethearts on the opposite side. The night was a frightful one, incessant rain, with frequent flashes of forked lightning. Nearly all Foulness attended their funeral.

In 1857, William Harvey, a shepherd, was drowned, in consequence, it is thought, of having been led astray by the Horns light. Another of these victims was Gardner, of Havengore, Mr. Archer's son in law. He was extremely deaf, and being set down from a cart near his own head-way, wandered from the track. His cries were heard from the shore, but on account of his infirmity he did not hear his would-be deliverers. It would have been dangerous to leave the land in total darkness, and the shrieks of lost persons have been imitated.

One of the most recent casualties was that of an unfortunate Irish policeman, who, from a sense of duty, having a paper to deliver, remained too long in the island, and though warned, would attempt the passage, and was overtaken and lost his life, by the raging water at the first creek.

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