Cat no. 4832

On Camera: Mersea Island

Running time29:42 Colour Sound 1975 Mersea Island, Essex

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A profile of Mersea Island and interviews with residents, contrasting the rural, and isolated settlement of East Mersea with the maritime activities of the larger settlement of West Mersea.


Portrait of a PlaceTelevision

Presenter David Richardson reports from The Strood, a causeway connecting the Essex Mainland with Mersea Island. High tide flooding is making passage difficult.

Initially visting East Mersea, footage of the vast rural landscape and stretches of coastline suggest its remote location, a quality local residents enjoy. Exploring Mersea’s cultural heritage, Robinson interviews resident Jim Sunnucks, discussing the famous hymn-writing parson, and once rector of the parish, the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould. Exterior footage of St Edmunds church is complimented by choral singing of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”, one of the Reverend’s famous creations. Robinson also interviews Major J Mansfield at the site of the Mersea Barrow, charting the burial ground’s Roman history.

Turning to West Mersea, a shot of the harbour and sailing boats on the water emphasise the community’s maritime heritage. Oyster fisherman ‘Snowball’ Hughes demonstrates the traditional activity of oyster dredging, then Douglas Mussett, known locally as “the oyster king”, demonstrates the correct way to prepare and eat an oyster, commenting on its aphrodisiac properties.

Contrasting images of the West Mersea landscape is shown, depending on tidal activity. A shot of West Mersea at high tide shows a dog enjoying the flooded harbour; footage of an open stretch of mud flats represent low tide. Ex-professional sailors ‘Pinky’ Hughes and Jim Musset enthuse over the popular yachting activity that Mersea is famed for. A boat, the Boadicea, built in 1808, sits in the water; at the harbour, men repair boats using welding torches; and many moored sailing boats are seen. Interview with author Hervey Benham, at his West Mersea home. He recalls the childhood holidays to Mersea that inspired his love of sailing.

Returning to East Mersea. Inland, a tractor ploughs a field, and cattle graze upon the marsh land. Local farmer, John Gray, describes the land’s geology and suitability for farming.

Canoeing, football, and crafts are enjoyed by teenagers attending a summer camp. Camp Leader, Derek Fenney argues the camp’s cultural diversity prompts understanding among its members. A concert of folk songs and dancing marks the camp’s final evening together.

Returning to the tranquillity of the Island, Miss Lord, Chair of the Parish Council voices the concerns of local residents, asking that Mersea remain a rural area, with little development allowed to take place.

Featured People:

David Richardson, Presenter Jim (James) Sunnucks, East Mersea resident & owner of East Mersea Hall Major J Mansfield, East Mersea resident & amateur historian ‘Snowball’ Hughes, oyster fisherman Douglas Mussett a.k.a. “the oyster king”, lifelong Mersea resident ‘Pinky’ Hughes, ex-professional sailor and ocean racing yacht enthusiast Jim Musset, ex-professional sailor and ocean racing yacht enthusiast Hervey Benham, West Mersea resident and sailing author John Gray, local farmer, and East Mersea resident Derek Fenney, International Youth Camp Leader Doug, Youth Camp member and group leader Miss Lord, Chair of the Parish Council and Mersea caravan site owner. Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, historian, author, writer of many hymns (including Onward, Christian Soldiers), was a famous rector of this parish (starting 1871 for ten years). (Not interviewed or seen, only discussed by others).

Featured Buildings:

East Mersea Post Office St Edmunds church, East Mersea (exterior building) East Mersea Hall, (a historical hall neighbouring the church) The White Hart Public House, West Mersea Fisherman’s cottages on Old City Lane Mersea barrow, East Mersea (An archaeological monument – a mound of earth raised over a burial ground)

Gordon Mosley

Gordon Mosley

Lloyd Hobson

John Lewis

Bill Scroggie; Richard King (Dubbing Mixer)

Romayne Bailey (research); Cynthia Harris (Producer's Assistant)

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