N & M Southend On Sea History
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A Brief History of Southend

Southend-on-Sea History.

The origins of Southend date back to the 7th Century, where a priory once stood in Prittlewell.

In 1760 Southend consisted of a few poor fishermen's huts and a settlement of farms. As it lay at the southern extremity of the lands of Prittlewell Priory, it was called South End. The earliest settlement was farmed by tenants of the Priory.

The main means of transporting their produce was by river and along the lane known as "Southend Lane". This was later known as "Old Southend Road". This led to a landing stage at Stratende.

By the early 18th Century oyster breeding grounds were found offshore and so the settlement expanded to the west. By 1770 the population had expanded to 13 cottages and one house and by 1800 there were 53 houses and cottages in Old Southend. To the west of Southend Lane there was a mixture of private houses, shops and public houses. At the eastern end beyond the lane was Prospect Place and eventually the theatre.

Initially the modest small resort catered mostly for local gentry but by the 1790's it was attracting people from London via new stagecoach services.

"New Southend" was the first concerted attempt to create a new fashionable resort on the cliff top overlooking the estuary. Daniel Scratton the main landowner in Prittlewell allocated 35 acres of fields and woodlands for development on either side of a new road which was to become the High Street. The area was roughly rectangular and extended from the shoreline to the Clifftown Road and from the west end of Royal Terrace to the foot of Pier Hill.

The area was sub-divided and leased in 1791 to 2 developers: Pratt, Watts and Lowden of Lambeth and John Sanderson, also of Lambeth. Within a year the former had assigned their lease to Thomas Holland and by 1793 Sanderson's lease had passed to Jeremiah Blakeman.

The Terrace and Grand Hotel were commenced in 1791. By 1794 nos. 1-15 Royal Terrace and the Royal Hotel were substantially complete. The shrubbery fronting the houses was laid out as an informal private garden for residents. Royal Mews to the rear of the houses provided stabling. An assembly room in the Royal Hotel and a library built opposite (on the site of the Royals Shopping Centre) provided social focus for the fledgling resort.

By 1796 development had effectively stopped and both Holland and Blakeman were made bankrupt.

Economic depression with the start of the Napoleonic war, the poor reputation of the Essex coast for health, difficult access from London by road and river and competition from Old Southend may all have contributed to "New Southend's" failure.

In approximately 1800 nos. 19 and 20 Royal Terrace were completed. Little further development took place in New Southend until the advent of the railways in 1856.

In contrast to this, Old Southend appears to have doubled in size in the 1790's.

The Terrace was named Royal following the visit by Princess Caroline and her daughter Princess Charlotte in 1804. Lady Hamilton also visited Southend and held a ball in the assembly room at the Royal Hotel in honour of Lord Nelson. The separation of Royal Terrace from Clifton Terrace and the shrubbery from the Alexandra Yacht Club reflect the original estate boundary and the exclusiveness of the Georgian development.

The Alexander Yacht Club was deemed unsafe in 2014 and was set on fire in suspicious circumstances. The Naval & Military Club (Southend-on-Sea) Ltd offered temporary respite to the Royal Alexander Yacht Club members. Some of these have now renewed their membership with the Naval & Military Club (Southend-on-Sea) Ltd.

The landowners, fishermen and other major residents led by Alderman William Heygate applied to parliament for permission to build a pier at Southend. Permission was granted and the foundation stone was laid in 1829 by the Lord Mayor of London. The first wooden pier was opened for use in June 1830 and was 600ft long. It was extended in 1833 to 1,500ft and completely replaced in 1899 with a steel and iron structure, designed by James Brunlee and costing in the region of £80,000.

Today the pier extends to approximately one and one third miles and is the longest pier in the country and the longest pleasure pier in the world. The pier has been cut in half 7 times during its life time.

Today Southend is the largest town in Essex and a vibrant seaside resort, with a population of over 180,000. and around 2.7 million visitors each year.

Southend produces 1,000 gallons of ice cream per day and 100 tons of cockles are cooked daily.

There are 76 parks and gardens in the town providing all kind of facilities.

Southend's biggest event of the year is the Southend Airshow, the biggest free Airshow in Europe. The airshow is currently under threat due to increased expenses associated with it.

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