Southend-on-Sea ( pronunciation ) (commonly referred to as just Southend) is a seaside resort town and wider unitary authority area with borough status, in Essex, England, 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, Southend Pier. London Southend Airport is located 1.5 NM (2.8 km; 1.7 mi) north of the town centre.
Originally the "south end" of the village of Prittlewell, Southend was originally home to a few poor fisherman huts and farms that lay at the southern extremity of Prittlewell Priory land. In the 1790s landowner Daniel Scratton sold off land either side of what was to become the High Street, and the Grand Hotel (now Royal Hotel) and Grove Terrace (now Royal Terrace) were completed by 1794, and stagecoaches from London made it accessible. Due to the bad transportation links between Southend and London, there was not rapid development during the Georgian Era like Brighton. It was the coming of the railways in the 19th Century and the visit of Princess Caroline that Southend's status of a Seaside resort grew. During the 19th century Southend's pier was first constructed and the Clifftown development built, attracting many tourists in the summer months to its seven miles of 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 mi (2.16 km). 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 went into decline as a holiday destination from the 1960s, when holidays abroad became more affordable. Southend reinvented itself as the Home of the Access (credit card) due to it having one of the UK's first electronic telephone exchanges (it is still home to RBS Card Services – one of the former members of Access), with offices based in the former EKCO factory, Maitland House (Keddies), Victoria Circus and Southchurch Road. 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 – such as the Talza Arcade & Victoria Market (replaced by what is now known as The Victoria Shopping Centre) and Southend Technical College (now a campus of South Essex College, on the site of the ODEON Cinema). 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 H.M. Customs and Excise), are major employers in the town, and the central offices for the collection of VAT are located at Alexander House on Victoria Avenue. The University of Essex, Southend Campus has been developed locally to provide higher 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.
Seventeen wards each return three councillors, a total of 51. Councillors serve four years and one third of the council is elected each year, followed by one year without election. Following the 2015 election results, the composition of the council is:
The Southend-on-Sea Borough Council was controlled by the Conservative Party after they gained control in the 2000 election. They maintained a minority administration after the 2012 local elections, however the council has been run by a coalition of Lib Dems, Labour and Independents since June 2014. Most day-to-day decisions are by an eight-member executive headed by the council leader.
The Latin motto, 'Per Mare Per Ecclesiam', emblazoned 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 has been twinned with the resort of Sopot in Poland since 1999 and has been developing three-way associations with Lake Worth, Florida. Sopot has the longest wooden pier in Europe while Southend has 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 2006–07 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 2006–07 financial year.
However, in March 2012, Southend Borough Council was awarded the title of 'Council of the Year 2012' by the Local Government Chronicle.
During the 2015 general and local election there was a turnout of 62.17%, equating to 80,899 votes cast.
Southend is represented by two MPs at Westminster.
The MP for Southend West since 1997 has been David Amess (Conservative) who replaced Paul Channon.
Since 2005 the MP for Rochford and Southend East has been James Duddridge (Conservative), who replaced Sir Teddy Taylor. Despite its name the majority of the constituency is in Southend, Rochford makes up only a small part and the majority of Rochford District Council is represented in the Rayleigh constituency. Both Southend seats are considered safe for the Conservative Party.
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. By 2006, the majority, or 52% of the Southend population were between the ages of 16–54, 18% were below age 15, 18% were above age 65 and the middle age populace between 55–64 accounted for the remaining 12%.2
The Department for Communities and Local Government's 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation 3 data showed that Southend is one of Essex's most deprived areas. Out of 32,482 Lower Super Output Areas in England, area 014D in the Kursaal ward is 99th, area 015B in Milton ward is 108th, area 010A in Victoria ward is 542nd, and area 009D in Southchurch ward is 995th, as well as an additional 5 areas all within the top 10% most deprived areas in England (with the most deprived area having a rank of 1 and the least deprived a rank of 32,482). 4 Victoria and Milton wards have the highest percentage of ethnic minority population. Southend has the highest percentage of residents receiving housing benefit (19%) and the third highest percentage of residents receiving council tax benefit in Essex.
Save the Children's research data shows that for 2008–09, Southend had 4,000 children living in poverty, a rate of 12%, the same as Thurrock, but above the 11% child poverty rate of the rest of Essex. 5
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Southend-on-Sea at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
In 2006 major travel insurance company InsureandGo relocated its offices from Braintree to Maitland House in Southend-on-Sea. The company brought with it 120 existing jobs from Braintree and announced the intention to create more in the future.
Southend has major industrial parks located at Progress Road, Comet and Aviation Ways in Eastwood and Stock Road in Sutton. Major firms located in Southend include Olympus Keymed, Hi-Tec Sports and MK Electric. Southend has declined as a centre for credit card management with only Royal Bank of Scotland card services still operating in the town.
Southend is served by two National Rail 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 Abellio Greater Anglia. The services operate 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, one service from Southend Central each weekday evening terminates at Liverpool Street.
From 1910 to 1939 the London Underground's District line's eastbound service ran as far as Southend and Shoeburyness.
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 entirely dual carriageway. Both connect to the M25 and eventually London.
No To Mob patrols warn motorists of the presence of active council parking enforcement CCTV vans.
Local public transport is provided by two main bus companies, Arriva Southend (formerly the council-owned Southend Corporation Transport) and First Essex Buses (formerly NBC/ Eastern National/ Thamesway). Minor companies include Stephensons of Essex, and Regal Busways. Southend has a bus station in Chichester Road which was developed from a temporary facility added in the 1970s. Previously Southend Bus station had sat on the London Road and was run by Eastern National, but this was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a Sainsbury's Supermarket. Arriva Southend is the only bus company based in Southend, with their depot being located in Short Street (previously on the corner of London Road and Queensway and also a small facility in Tickfield Road). First Essex buses are based out of the depot in Hadleigh, but prior to the 1980s Eastern National had depots on the London Road (at the Bus Station) and Fairfax Drive.
London Southend Airport was developed from the military airfield at Rochford, opened as a civil airport in 1935, and now offers scheduled flights to destinations across Europe, corporate and recreational flights, aircraft maintenance and training for pilots and engineers. In 2008 the airport was purchased by Stobart Air, part of the Stobart Group. Developments since 2011 include an ATC control tower, a new railway station, a new terminal opened alongside the station, and the runway has been extended by 300 metres (980 ft). It is currently used by EasyJet, Flybe and Stobart Air. First Choice and Thomson also operate charter flights from the airport.
Southend-on-Sea has a typical British marine climate with summer highs of around 22 °C (72 °F) and winters highs being around 7.5 °C (45.5 °F). Summer temperatures are generally slightly cooler than those in London. Frosts are occasional. During the 1981–2010 period there was an average of 31.5 days of air frost. Rainfall was low by British standards and averaged 515 millimetres (20.3 in). Weather station data is available from Shoeburyness, which is adjacent to Southend in the eastern part of the urban area.
All mainstream secondary schools are mixed-sex comprehensives, including Belfairs Academy, Cecil Jones Academy, Chase High School, Futures Community College, Shoeburyness High School and The Eastwood Academy.
In 2004, Southend retained the grammar school system and has four such schools: Southend High School for Boys, Southend High School for Girls, Westcliff High School for Boys and Westcliff High School for Girls.
Additionally there are two single-sex schools assisted by the Roman Catholic Church: St Bernard's High School for Girls and St Thomas More High School for Boys. Both, while not grammar schools, contain a grammar stream; entrance is by the same exam as grammar schools.
The main higher education provider in Southend is the University of Essex. The University established a campus in Southend.
In addition, a number of secondary schools offer further education, but the largest provider is South Essex College, in a new building in the centre of town. Formerly known as South East Essex College, the college changed name in January 2010 following a merger with Thurrock and Basildon College. South Essex College offers 30-degree courses matriculated by the University of Essex, as well as a number of weekend and evening courses. The university's centre in the town is a single building on the High Street. The university has built its own centre in Southend, next to the college building on the site of the Odeon cinema. These buildings form the first two phases of the Southend Campus. Additionally, there is SEEVIC College. The East 15 Acting School, a drama school, has its second campus there. Also available is the Southend Adult Community College and Procat, based in Southchurch Road and Southend Airport.
Southend has two football teams, one of league stature, Southend United. The other, Southend Manor, play in the Essex Senior League. United will compete in Football League One in 2015-16 season after winning the playoff final at Wembley.
There are two rugby union clubs Southend RFC and Westcliff R.F.C., with Southend having the higher ranking team playing in National League 2 South. Southend was formerly home to the Essex Eels rugby league team. Southend was home to the Essex Pirates basketball team that played in the British Basketball League between 2009 and 2011.
Essex County Cricket Club play in Southend one week a season. Previously the festival was held at Chalkwell Park and most recently Southchurch Park, but it has now moved to Garons Park next to the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre. The only other cricket is local.
The Old Southendians Hockey Club is based at Warner's Bridge in Southend.
The eight-lane, floodlit, synthetic athletics track at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre is home to Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club. The facilities cover all track and field events. The centre has a 25m swimming pool and a world championship level diving pool with 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10m boards, plus springboards with the only 1.3m in the UK.
Southend-on-Sea is home to the world's longest pleasure pier, built in 1830 and stretching some 1.33 miles (2.14 km) 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 cafe at the end of the pier has been used by Jamie Oliver for his series Jimmy and Jamie's Friday Food Night. The British record shore-caught Norway haddock (Sebastes viviparus) was caught from Southend pier by F.Fawke in 1973.
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.
A short funicular railway, constructed in 1912, links the seafront to the High Street level of the town. The lift re-opened to the public in 2010, following a period of refurbishment.
An amusement park Adventure Island, formerly known as Peter Pan's Playground, straddles the pier entrance. Peter Pan's Playground was renamed Adventure Island, and has since grown into an amusement park with over 50 rides. The seafront houses the "Sea-Life Adventure" aquarium.
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. The bandstand has been removed and re-erected in Priory Park. Beaches include Three Shells and Jubilee Beach.
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. It is run by the South Eastern Vintage and Classic Vehicle Club 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.
An airshow, dubbed Festival of the Air in 2009, used to take place each May. Starting in 1986 – the first show starred a Concorde flypast whilst on a passenger charter flight – the show was one of Europe's largest free airshows and features high-speed military jets and sports aerobatic displays, which fly over the sea, parallel with the seafront. The RAF Falcons parachute display team and RAF Red Arrows jet aerobatics team were regular visitors to the show. The show has not been run since 2012 due to lack of sponsorship. An attempt to revive the show in September 2015 as the Southend Airshow and Military festival ultimately failed.
The Southend-on-Sea Film Festival is an annual event that began in 2009 and is run by The White Bus film and theatrical company based at the TAP (Temporary Arts Project) located inside a Victorian era Old Water Works plant. Ray Winstone attended the opening night gala in both 2010 and 2011, and has become the Festival Patron.
Since 2008 Chalkwell Park becomes home to The Village Green Art & Music Festival for a weekend every July.
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.
The High Street has hosted a market every Thursday since 2013, replacing a weekly market that had taken place in York Road.
Southend High Street runs from the top of Pier Hill in the South, to Victoria Circus in the north. It currently has two shopping centre's - The Victoria (built during the 1960s and a replacement for the old Talza Arcade, Victoria Arcade and Broadway Market) and The Royals (built late 1980s replacing bottom part of High Street, Grove Road, Ritz Cinema, Grand Pier Hotel). Southend High Street has many chain stores, with Debenhams, Primark and Boots in the Royals, and Next anchoring The Victoria.
This was not always the case with many independent stores closing in the 1970s and 1980s - Keddies (department store), J L Dixons (department store), Brightwells (department store), Garons (grocers, caterers and cinema), Owen Wallis (ironmongers and toys), Bermans (sports and toys), J Patience (photographic retailers) & R. A. Jones (jewellers) being the most notable. One of Southends most notable business, Schofield and Martin, was purchased by Waitrose in 1944 with the name being used until the 1960s. The Alexandra Street branch was the first Waitrose store in 1951 to be made self-service. Southend is currently home to the largest store in the Waitrose portfolio.
A Southend family business started in 1937 that was still going in 2014 was Dixons Retail. The oldest surviving independent retail business in Southend is Ravens, located just off the High Street in Southend and have existed since 1897.
The borough of Southend has shopping in other areas too. Leigh Broadway and Leigh Road in Leigh-on-Sea, Hamlet Court Road in Westcliff-on-Sea, Southchurch Road and London Road are where many of Southend's independent business now reside. Hamlet Court Road is still home to one of Southend's oldest business - Havens (department store) opened in 1901.
Focal Point Gallery is South Essex's gallery for contemporary visual art, promoting and commissioning major solo exhibitions, group and thematic shows, a programme of events including performances, film screenings and talks, as well as offsite projects and temporary public artworks. The organisation is funded by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Arts Council England.
Southend Museums Service, part of Southend on Sea Borough Council, operates a number of historic attractions, an art gallery and a museum in the town. These include: The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southchurch Hall, Prittlewell Priory and the Central Museum on Victoria Avenue.
Leigh Art Trail began in 1997, and each year local artists display their work at a variety of locations through Leigh Broadway and in Old Leigh.
Westcliff Art Trail began in 2008 and follows a similar format to the Leigh Art Trail, with local artists showcasing their work in Westcliff shops, cafes and bars.
The TAP Gallery operates in North Road, Westcliff in the former Victorian water works building. TAP stands for Temporary Arts Project and is a not for profit organisation formed in 2008. It holds art exhibitions, talks and workshops.
Southend has several small libraries located in Leigh, Westcliff, Kent Elms and Southchurch. The central library has moved from its traditional location on Victoria Avenue to The Forum in Elmer Approach, a new facility paid for by Southend Council, South Essex College and The University of Essex. It replaced the former Farringdon Multi Story Car Park. The old Central Library building has now become home to the Beecroft Gallery.
There are three theatres. The Cliffs Pavilion is a large building to host concerts and performances on ice. The Edwardian Palace Theatre is a grade II building built in 1912. It shows plays from professional troupes and repertory groups, as well as comedy acts. The theatre has two circles and the steepest rake in Britain. Part of the theatre was a smaller venue called The Dixon Studio. They are both owned by Southend Council and run by Southend Theatres Ltd.
The most recent theatre was the New Empire Theatre. It was, unlike the other two, privately owned. It was used more by amateur groups. The theatre was converted from the old ABC Cinema, which had previously been The Empire Theatre built in 1896. The New Empire theatre closed in 2009 after a dispute between the trust that run the theatre and its owners. The building was badily damaged by fire on Saturday 1 August 2015
Musical shows are also shown at the Plaza, a Christian community centre and concert hall based on Southchurch Road, which was formerly a cinema.
Southend currently has one cinema – the Odeon Multiplex at Victoria Circus which has 8 screens. The borough of Southend had at one time a total of 18 cinema theatres, with the most famous being the Odeon (formerly the Astoria Theatre), which as well as showing films hosted live entertainers including the Beatles and Laurel and Hardy. This building no longer stands having been replaced by the Southend Campus of the University of Essex. There are plans to build a new 10 screen cinema and entertainment facility on the site of the Seaway Car Park, which was earmarked to start in 2015 and be completed by 2017. However Cineworld pulled out in 2015 and planned to open a new multiscreen site at the planned Fossets Farm development, next to the new Southend United F.C. ground.
Southend has appeared in films over the years, with the New York New York arcade on Marine Parade being used in the British gangsta flick Essex Boys, and its airport being used for the filming of James Bond's Goldfinger.
Junk Club, at one time a centre of Southend's music scene, was predominantly held in the basement at The Royal Hotel during the period of 2001–06. Co-run by Oliver "Blitz" Abbott & Rhys Webb, of The Horrors, the underground club night played and eclectic mix from Post Punk to Acid House, 60's Psychedelia to Electro. It was noted as spearheading what became known as the Southend Scene and was featured in the NME, Dazed & Confused, ID, Rolling Stone, Guardian and Vogue. Bands associated with the scene included; The Horrors, These New Puritans, The Violets, Ipso Facto, Neils Children and The Errorplains. The independent record label DiscError Recordings was set up by local designer Discordo who put together artwork for many of the new wave of Southend bands.
Southend has three major venues; Chinnerys, The Riga Club (formerly at the Cricketers Pub London Road) at O'Neill's, and the Cliffs Pavilion. All have hosted appearances from artistes. The Railway Hotel is a live music pub, which features a variety of acts, as well as curating the Southend Pier Festival.
There have also been a number of popular music videos filmed in Southend, by such bands as Oasis, Morrissey, George Michael.
Other Bands and musicians originating from Southend include; Danielle Dax, The Kursaal Flyers, Scroobius Pip, Procol Harum, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Busted, Nothing But Thieves.
In 1981, Southend became the home of Essex Radio, which broadcast from studios below Clifftown Road. The station was formed by several local companies including Keddies, Garons & TOTS nightclub with David Keddie, owner of the Keddies department store in Southend becoming its chairman. In 2004, the renamed Essex FM, now Heart Essex moved to studios in Chelmsford.
On 28 March 2008, Southend got its own radio station for the first time which is also shared with Chelmsford Radio formerly known as Dream 107.7 FM and Chelmer FM before that, Southend Radio started broadcasting on 105.1FM from purpose built studios adjacent to the Adventure Island theme park.
Southend has appeared in several television shows and advertisements. It has been used on numerous occasions by the soap Eastenders with its most recent visit in 2013. Southend Pier was used by ITV show Minder for its end credits in season 8, 9 and 10, and since 2014 has been home to Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Feast. Advertisements have included Abbey National, CGU Pensions, National Lottery and most recently the 2015 Vauxhall Corsa adverts featuring Electric Avenue, a seafront arcade and for the promo for David Hasselhoff's new Dave programme Hoff the Record.
Southend is the seaside vacation place chosen by the John Knightley family in Emma by Jane Austen, published 1816. The family arrived by stage coach, and strongly preferred it to the choice of the Perry family, Cromer, which was 100 miles from London, compared to the easier distance of 40 miles from the London home of the John and Isabella Knightley, as discussed at length with Mr Woodhouse in the novel in Chapter XII of volume one.
There are churches in the borough catering to different Christian denominations. There are two synagogues, one for orthodox Jews, in Westcliff, and a reform synagogue in Chalkwell. Three mosques provide for the Muslim population; one run by the Bangladeshi community, where the sermon is given in Bengali as well as in English and the mandatory Arabic. The others, both run by the Pakistani community, provide sermons in Urdu and Arabic, and English and Arabic.
Demolition of the historic market began on 23 April 2010. The site became a car park. A temporary market was held there every Friday until 2012 after the closure of the former Southend market at the rear of the Odeon. As of 2013, a market is now held in the High Street every Thursday with over 30 stalls.