Southend-on-Sea

Street Map 1927 Tour

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Southend-on-Sea is a unitary authority area, town, and seaside resort in Essex, England. The district has Borough status, and comprises the towns of Chalkwell, Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea, North Shoebury, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay, and Westcliff-on-Sea. The district is situated within the Thames Gateway on the north side of the Thames estuary 40 miles (64 km) east of central London. It is bordered to the north by Rochford and to the west by Castle Point. It is home to the longest leisure pier in the world, The Southend Pier.

Originally the “south end” of the village of Prittlewell, Southend became a seaside resort during the Georgian era, attracting many tourists in the summer months to its seven milesof beaches and bathing in the sea. Good rail connections and proximity to London mean that much of the economy has been based on tourism, and that Southend has been a dormitory town for city workers ever since. Southend Pier is the world’s longest pleasure pier at 1.34 miles (2158m). It has suffered fires and ship collisions, most recently in October 2005, but the basic pier structure has been repaired each time. There has been significant loss of pier-head facilities since the major fire in 1976.

Southend, like many other British sea-side resorts, went into decline as a holiday destination from the 1960s, since flights and hence holidays abroad became more affordable. Since then, much of the town centre has been developed for commerce and retail, and during the 1960s many original structures were lost to redevelopment. However, about 6.4 million tourists still visit Southend per year, generating estimated revenues of £200 million a year. H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC), (formerly HM Customs and Excise), are major employers in the town, and the central offices for the collection of VAT are located on Victoria Avenue. The University of Essex, Southend Campus has been developed in order to locally provide further education facilities and to assist in boosting the economy. Southend also has over 80 parks and green spaces and 14 conservation areas.

There are nine railway stations on two lines within the borough which connect it to London.

Southend-on-Sea was formed as a municipal borough in 1892 with the functions of local government shared with Essex County Council. In 1913 the borough was enlarged by the former area of Leigh on Sea Urban District. In 1914 the enlarged Southend gained the status of county borough, exempt from county council control and a single-tier of local government. The county borough was enlarged in 1933 by the former area of Shoeburyness Urban District and part of Rochford Rural District.

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, Southend became a district of Essex with borough status, however in 1998 it again became the single tier of local government when it became a unitary authority.

The council has been controlled by the Conservative Party since they gained control in the 2000 election. Most day to day decisions are by a 10-member executive headed by the council leader.

The latin motto, ‘Per Mare Per Ecclesiam’, emblazened on the municipal coat of arms, translates as ‘By [the] Sea, By [the] Church’, reflecting Southend’s position between the church at Prittlewell and the sea as in the Thames estuary. The town is twinned with the resort of Sopot in Poland, and has been developing three-way associations with Lake Worth, Florida. Sopot has the longest wooden pier in Europe, Southend the longest iron pleasure pier in the world.

Southend Borough Council was criticised as one of the worst financially managed local authorities in England by the Audit Commission report for 2006/7 one of three to gain only one of four stars, the others being Liverpool and the Isles of Scilly. Areas of criticism were the use of consultants and the spending of £3.5 million on taxis during the 2006/7 financial year.

Southend is the seventh most densely populated area in the United Kingdom outside of the London Boroughs, with 38.8 people per hectare compared to a national average of 3.77. As of mid 2006, 18% of the population was aged under 15, with the same proportion being aged over 65. The proportion of people aged 55-64 was 12%.  The Department for Communities and Local Government’s 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation  data showed that Southend is one of Essex’s most deprived areas.

Southend is served by two lines. Running from Southend Victoria north out of the town is the Liverpool Street line, a branch of the Great Eastern Main Line operated by National Express East Anglia. The service operates to London Liverpool Street via Prittlewell, Southend Airport, Rochford, Hockley, Rayleigh, Wickford, Billericay, Shenfield and Stratford.

The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, the Fenchurch Street line, is operated by c2c and runs from Shoeburyness in the east of the borough, west through Thorpe Bay, Southend East, Southend Central to Fenchurch Street in London via Benfleet and Basildon or Tilbury and Barking. Additionally, two services from Southend Central each weekday evening terminate at Liverpool Street.

From 1910 to 1939 the London Underground’s District Line’s eastbound service ran as far as Southend and Shoeburyness.[12]

Besides its main line railway connections, Southend is also the home of two smaller railways. The Southend Pier Railway provides transport along the length of Southend Pier, whilst the nearby Southend Cliff Railway provides a connection from the promenade to the cliff top above.

Two A-roads connect Southend with London and the rest of the country, the A127 (The Southend Arterial Road), via Basildon and Romford, and the A13, via Tilbury and London Docklands. Both are major routes. However, within the borough, the A13 is a single carriageway local route, whereas the A127 is almost entirely dual carriageway. Both lead to the M25 and eventually

London Southend Airport was developed from the military airfield at Rochford, opened as a civil airport in 1935, and now offers scheduled twice daily flights to Waterford and Galway in Ireland and flights to Jersey on summer Saturdays, corporate and recreational flights, aircraft maintenance and pilot training. A new ATC control tower opened in March 2011 and a new railway station opened 18 July 2011; a new terminal under construction is to be opened alongside the station in late 2011. The runway is shortly to be extended, and a new hotel will be built at the airport. Southend Airport is operated by Stobart Air, a division of the Stobart Group. The airport, and aviation businesses based there, provides a major employment site within the town with more than 1,000 jobs.

The town is known for its seafront. Southend-on-Sea is home to the world’s longest pleasure pier, built in 1830 and stretching some 1.33 miles from shore. Since 1986, a diesel-hydraulic railway has run the length of the pier, replacing the electric service which opened in 1890. The pier has been beset by fires; a fire in 1995 destroyed the bowling alley at the start of the pier and another fire in October 2005 damaged the far end of the pier. The pier was also run through by a boat in 1984.

The Kursaal was one of the earliest theme parks, built at the start of the 20th century. It closed in the 1970s and much of the land was developed as housing. The entrance hall, a listed building, is a bowling alley arcade operated by Megabowl and casino. An amusement park, formerly known as Peter Pan’s Playground, straddles the pier entrance. Peter Pan’s Playground was eventually renamed Adventure Island as its size and popularity grew, and has since grown into a large amusement park with over 50 rides. The seafront also houses the “Sea-Life Adventure” aquarium, owned by the Miller family, who also own Adventure Island.

The cliff gardens, which included Never Never Land and a Victorian bandstand were an attraction until slippage in 2003 made parts of the cliffs unstable, and the bandstand has been removed. The council wants to re-erect the bandstand but a location has to be found.

A modern vertical lift links the base of the High Street with the seafront and the new pier entrance. The older Southend Cliff Railway, a short funicular, is a few hundred metres away.

Art on the Railings is a regular exhibition for local artists who display their work on Pier Hill.

The London to Southend Classic Car run takes place each summer and features classic cars which line the seafront.

The Southend Shakedown, organised by Ace Cafe, is an annual event featuring motorbikes and scooters. There are other scooter runs throughout the year, including the Great London Rideout, which arrives at Southend seafront each year.

On the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, Southend hosts a farmers’ market.

There are regular vintage fairs and markets in Southend, held at a variety of locations including the Leigh Community Centre, The Kursaal and The Railway Hotel.

A record fair is frequently held at West Leigh Schools, Ronald Hill Grove, Leigh On Sea.

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