In and Around Southend-on-Sea

has long been a favourite seaside resort, thanks to its close proximity to London. Southend is most famous for its pleasure pier and beaches, and the town has a range of attractions on offer, including the annual illuminations, carnival and airshow, boat trips, Adventure Island, the Golden Mile of arcades, the Kursaal bowling alley, a strong lineup of shops on the High Street, plus an assortment of restaurants, bars, cafes and night clubs.

This page contains information on some of the more well-known landmarks of Southend, and information on their past. As well as being of interest to locals, this information is intended to help visitors to the town.

Got a question on Southend? See our Questions page, or ask in our Southend

Southend Pier Southend PierAt one and a third miles, Southend’s most famous landmark is the world’s longest pleasure pier. The original opening was back in 1830, and in 1890 the first electric trains started running the length of the pier. Our pier page

The pier has had its share of problems, including:

  • 1959 – Fire destroying the land-end pavilion, which was to be replaced by a bowling alley some years later
  • 1976 – Fire at the pier-head
  • 1986 – A tanker, the MV Kingsabbey, crashed into the pier, creating a 70 foot gap
  • 1995 – Another fire at the pier, this time at the land end, destroying the bowling alley
  • 2005 – Another fire at the pier-head

More: What does the future hold for the pier? See our Pier Page

Kursaal Kursaal 2006 The Kursaal was formerly a ballroom and amusement complex, and now hosts Southend’s 20-lane ten-pin bowling alley (formerly on the pier until 1995’s fire).
The Kursaal ballroom opened in 1901, and expanded into an amusement complex in the 1930’s. Key to its appearance is the distinctive dome. The Kursaal closed in 1986, and before that, much of the site had been sold to make way for the Kursaal Estate. The Kursaal re-opened again in May of 1998. The Kursaal Flyer is a carnival float that makes a regular appearance at Southend’s annual August carnival.
Adventure Island Peter Pans Adventure Island
Owned by local entrepreneur Philip Miller,
Peter Pan’s Adventure Island is an amusement theme park straddling either side of Southend’s pier, in the Sunken Gardens. Rides include Barnstomer, Sky Drop, Mini Mini Mega and Green Scream. It’s open at weekends all year long, and weekdays during the summer. Admission to Adventure Island is free – to go on the rides, you’ll need a wristband. For opening hours and wristband prices, go to the Adventure Island website

  • The park started life in the 1920’s on reclaimed land, becoming known as Peter Pan’s Playground
  • You can find an impartial review at CoasterGrotto
Roots Hall Football Ground Roots HallSouthend United Football Club, nicknamed “The Shrimpers” was founded by a bunch of soccer enthusiasts that used to meet in the Blue Boar pub in 1906, playing in the Southern League. As of the start of 2006, Southend United tops League One. Website

  • Roots Hall’s original name was Roward’s Hall Fields, and SUFC played there until World War One, when the grounds were converted to allotments. After the war, the team played at the Kursaal site, before returning to its current home of Roots Hall in 1955
  • The ground holds around 12,000 fans
  • On Thursdays, there’s a large open-air market at the Roots Hall ground
Sealife Centre Southend Sealife CentreSouthend Sealife Centre opened its doors on Eastern Esplanade in June of 1993. The Aquarium is open all year round, and includes a café serving light snacks. The Sea-life centre hosts a collection of sealife from the Thames Estuary and makes for an educational and informative visit for the kids. Website

  • The Sealife Centre is owned by Stockvale, who also own Adventure Island.
South Essex College College's new buildingIn early 2010, South East Essex College with Basildon and Thurrock College, to form South Essex College.

In September 2004, South East Essex College’s new site opened in Luker Road, next to Southend Central station. The college is now in partnership with the University of Essex. Prior to this, the college’s main building was in Carnarvon Road, just off Victoria Avenue. The college runs a busy daytime curriculum, as well as weekend and evening classes. Website

  • Inside the new college building, you’ll find a big red blob. Known as “the pod”, this eyecatching part of the building is actually a 250 seater theatre / lecture hall.
Hotels Westcliff HotelAs you’d expect, there are several hotels in and around Southend.

In the centre of town is a cheap-and-cheerful Travelodge, there’s the historic Westcliff Hotel (pictured here), and overlooking the seafront, the newly-opened Park Inn Palace hotel.

For more details of available accommodation in the area, see our updated Southend Hotels section.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Southend, try going to Laterooms (for discounted late availability), or search at

Shopping Southend High StreetSouthend-on-Sea boasts an impressive range of shops on its main High Street, including Currys, WH
Tesco, Carphone Warehouse and Marks & Spencer.For a list of the stores on the High Street, see our Shopping Page The Royals – A shopping complex close to the seafront, including shops such as Boots, Debenhams, Choices, TK Maxx, and Toni & Guy.

  • The Royals was completed in March 1988

Vic Circus ShoppingVictoria Circus Shopping Centre – This is located at the other end of the High Street, close to the Odeon Cinema, Sainsburys and Southend Victoria Railway station. Stores in this older shopping centre include Argos, Wilkinsons and a number of specialist stores. One of the large pulls for the centre, C&A, ceased trading in the centre in the late 1990s.

  • This shopping centre started in the in 1940’s, and in 1964, the council accepted an offer for the site to be converted into a multi-level shopping centre with a multi-story car park and an office block (now used by HSBC for credit card operations)

The former Keddies siteKeddies – Southend’s most well-known department store had a history stretching back over 100 years, and closed its doors in the mid 1990s.

  • The Keddies building in Chichester Road was built on the site of one of Southend’s early picture houses. The building, Maitland House, is now home to a Travelodge hotel, Nat West, and a nightclub, Mayhem.
  • In 1981, owner David Keddie was instrumental in forming Essex Radio, and was the station’s Chairman for many years.
Cinemas Southend's OdeonThe only cinema in Southend is the 8-screen Odeon complex at the top of the High Street, which opened in 1996. The old Odeon site in the High Street, now forms part of the Southend College redevelopment. Odeon website

Some of the other picture houses, no longer with us, include:

  • Astoria, opened in 1935, built on the site of the Luker Brewery. Became the original Odeon in 1940.
  • Mascot Theatre on the London Road, Westcliff-Sea (1912-1964)
  • Plaza in Southchurch, on Southchurch Road
  • Cannon, in Southend. This is now the closed New Empire Theatre, in Alexandra Street. Cinema-wise it started life as the Rivoli cinema in 1920, then became the ABC in 1937. It became the Cannon in 1986.
  • Cannon, in Westcliff-on-Sea. This opened as the Metropole in 1939, became the Essoldo in 1954, then the Classic 1972. It became the Cannon in 1979, before finally closing in 1991. The site is now a Halfords branch
  • Strand, Southend. This opened in 1920 close to Warrior Square. It became the Essoldo in 1955, and closed in 1960, when the building became an extension of the Keddies department store
  • Corona in Leigh-on-Sea (opened in 1929 and now the Leigh Snooker Hall)

If you can get hold of it, look for Cinemas of Essex by Bob Grimward for more on local cinemas – try Amazon or for a copy. For some memories from a former Southend projectionist, see our Southend Memories page.

Theatres Palace Theatre – Opened its doors in 1912. In 2005, the Palace Theatre, on the London Road, Westcliff was forced to close, but is once again open and linked to the Cliffs Pavilion. Website

  • The Palace has closed and reopened a number of times, notably in 1969 and 2005.
  • Upstairs from the Palace, is the Dixon Studio – one time venue for local comedy group Scared Scriptless
  • There’s some useful info on the Palace Theatre here

New Empire TheatreNew Empire Theatre – This theatre, just off the High Street in Alexandra Road, was a self-funded theatre, run by volunteers, that was available to local theatrical groups and performers. The theatre had to close in November 2008. New Empire Theatre Info

  • The original Empire Theatre was opened in 1871, the building was converted to the Rivoli Picture House in the early 1920s, and from 1962 to 1998 was the ABC Cinema
Cliffs Pavilion Cliffs PavillionTheatre, conference call, four bars (including the Maritime Room and Admirals Room), and a restaurant. Website

  • Originally home of Frederic Ramuz, land owner and Mayor, it became ‘Shorefields Gardens’, an entertainment hall. Planning permission to build a pavilion on the site of Shorefields was granted in the 1930’s, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the Cliffs Pavilion opened its doors
Museum & Gallery Central Museum – Close to Southend Victoria Station, this building also houses the Planetarium. Open Tuesday to Saturday. Call 01702-434449.

  • Opened in 1981, the building was formerly Southend’s library

Southchurch Hall – 14th century manor house reflecting life in Tudor and Stuart times, set in the grounds of Southchurch Hall Park. Open Tuesday to Saturday Website

  • Became a museum in 1974. Licensed for wedding ceremonies

Prittlewell Priory – the site of the 12th century Cluniac Priory of St. Mary’s, founded in the early 12th century. The Priory is situated in Priory Park, Prittlewell. Technologists may be interested in the display of radio and gramophone equipment including a range of EKCO (E.K. Cole) equipment, which was produced at the factory originally sited in Priory Crescent. Website

  • Prittlewell Priory was presented to the town for use as a museum by Robert Arthur Jones. First opened in 1921

Beecroft Art Gallery – Sited opposite Westcliff’s Cliffs Pavilion is open to the public Tuesdays to Saturdays, with a permanent exhibition of work from local artists including the Thorpe Collection of paintings of Southend from the 1770s. Website

  • Opened in 1953, thanks to the generosity of local solicitor Walter G Beecroft. Built on the site of the Warwick Hotel
Railway Southend Central Railway StationSouthend is served by Southend Central and Southend East stations on the c2c line, and Southend Victoria on the one line. Both lines run into London. Timetables and ticket info can be found at TheTrainline, and you
can also get low-priced tickets at RailEasy.
July 2000, c2c Rail was known as LTS Rail (Standing for London, Tilbury and
Southend). In May 1996, LTS Rail entered the private sector. The LTS line
dates back to 1855. Southend Station (now Southend Central), opened in 1856
with a steam service to London via Tilbury. Regular commuters may find the c2c User website of interest
Library Southend Central LibrarySouthend Central library is located on Victoria Avenue, very close to Southend Museum and Southend Victoria railway station. The Central library contains information for those looking to research their family tree, or access Southend newspapers. The library is open Monday to Saturday. Phone 01702 534100 .

You’ll find more information, library links and access to their online collection on the Council’s Website

Radio House Radio House in 1981From 1981 to 2005, Radio House in Clifftown Road, was home to Essex Radio, which later became Essex FM. The building houses a soundproofed studio complex two floors below ground, with four broadcasting studios, and engineering department, a music library and a newsroom. Above ground were the sales and admin and production areas.

  • Before becoming home to the Southend-based radio station, the building at 19-20 Clifftown Road was the offices of the Southend Standard newspaper, established in 1873.
  • In 2005, the building is home to financial advisors Forrester-Hyde. One of the firms bidding for the 2006 Southend radio licence was hoping to broadcast once again from the subterranean studios.
  • We now understand the studios are being used by a media company, and for occasional Internet radio activity.


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