South Benfleet is a small town in Essex, thirty miles east of London and north of Canvey Island. It is separated from Canvey by the Creek, a stretch of water which is also known as Hadleigh Ray. It is now designated as a conservation area. Benfleet's name is derived from "tree lined creek". The principle reason for its early growth as a settlement was Benfleet's easy access to the River Thames.
In Saxon times, another settlement grew up (Little Benfleet), north of the original settlement, which did not survive and today the area is largely rural, but the distinction between South and North Benfleet remains. Benfleet was used as a base by the Vikings, but in 894 A.D. at the Battle of Benfleet, King Alfred's son, Edward the Elder, defeated the Vikings. In thanks for the victory a church was built. Today, St. Mary's Church occupies the original site.
In medieval times, Benfleet was an important port, as revealed by the records of imports and exports from the wharf. In common with most towns, the population has expanded considerably. In 1851, only 570 people lived here, but the arrival of the London to Southend railway in 1854, doubled the population by 1901. It now has in excess of 15,000 inhabitants, many commuting daily to London.
The town is well served by historic inns. The Anchor and the Hoy and Helmet were built in the early 16th century and display original oak beams and timber carvings. The Half Crown was previously known as, The Crown and was also built in medieval times, but it was completely rebuilt in brick in the 19th century.
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