"Longest Pleasure pier in the world" Southend-on-Sea by PeterVancouver

Southend-on-Sea Travel Guide: 143 reviews and 276 photos

Southends famous pier

Probably the best known feature of Southend is its pier. The present iron pier was first opened in 1889 but only extended as far as what is now known as the Old Pier Head. The first extension was built to accommodate the increased number of steamboats visiting the Pier. This was opened in 1898 and is known as the New Pier Head. An upper deck was added and opened in 1908 and further extensions to this area were completed in 1927. The final addition to the length was opened in 1929. The Prince George Extension, as it is called, brought the length to 2360 yards (2158 metres) or 1.34 miles, the Longest Pleasure Pier in the World.

The Pier Railway

The electric tramway installed by Cromptons opened in 1890 with 1 car of the toast rack type operating on 0.75 miles of single track. By the following year the track had been extended to the full 1.25 miles and two further cars were added. More cars were added until four trains were operated with seven cars in each. A double track working did not start until 1930. In 1949 the rolling stock was replaced with four new trains similar in design to the London Underground stock. In 1978 the electric railway ceased operating due to the deterioration of the track and the high cost of essential repairs. Between 1984 and 1986 the Pier was repaired and a new track laid. Two new trains commenced operation in 1986 on a single track with a passing loop. Each train consists of a diesel-hydraulic locomotive at the southern end, five trailer coaches and at the northern end, a driver control unit with passenger space.


1959 ? A major fire destroyed the Pier Pavilion at the shore end of the Pier. This was replaced by a ten-pin bowling alley which opened in 1962.

1976 ? In July a fire destroyed most of the 1908 Pier Head. Despite this disaster and the later termination of the electric railway service, the Pier was not closed to the public.

1986 ? In June the MV Kingsabbey sliced through the Pier between the Old and the New Pier Heads severing the lifeboat slipway and causing irreparable damage to the boathouse.

1995 ? In June the Pier suffered another setback when the bowling alley was destroyed by fire. All services to the Pier Head were cut, access to the walkway was severed and 30 metres of railway track were damaged. However, services were reinstated and railway track repaired in time for the Pier to reopen to the public after only three weeks.

2005 In October yet another fire which destroyed much of the peir head yet again. the ironic thing this time was that there were problems in getting water to put the fire out.ie severed water mains and low tide !

Substantial investment has been injected into Southend Pier during 2000/2001. Illuminations installed along the Pier were switched on at a ceremony held at the Pier on 17th November 2000. The lights can be viewed every day of the year from dusk.

Mid-August 2001 saw the completion of the new RNLI funded Lifeboat Station and the Sundeck funded by Southend on Sea Borough Council.

In October 2001 the opening ceremony for the new Pier Sewerage Disposal System and the new Firemain took place. The Sewerage Disposal System installed will pump effluent ashore where it will be discharged into the onshore drainage system and treated at the normal Works in Eastern Avenue. The Pier?s fire-fighting facilities have also been substantially upgraded and powerful submersible pumps will now supply the new facilities with seawater.

Work started in early autumn 2002 to rebuild the remaining fire damaged area at the Pier Head. The area had remained damaged from the 1976 fire and will now be restored to its original size.

For those interested in the piers' history, there is a small museum at the land end, for which there is a nominal charge. or you can read on


Southend on Sea Constabulary WW1 Origins

Southend on Sea Constabulary was formed and became independent from Essex Police in 1914, which was the date that the Borough of Southend on Sea was evolved from the previous Essex County Council. At the time of inauguration, the borough force was made of 68 constables plus senior ranks

In those days, a constable was expected to work six, eight hour shifts for the sum of 26 shillings. ($2.00 per week) The beat officers were equipped with bull?s eye lanterns and the first general order issued by the Chief Constable directed them to supply themselves with the best coza oil for the lamps. An addendum states that electric torches could be used but no payment could be considered for this form of lighting!

During the first few months of the new force, they had no transport other than two horses which meant that the night Inspector had to walk over ten miles in all weathers to visit all the Sections, however, in the summer of 1914, the situation was relieved somewhat when the Chief Constable was permitted to purchase three pedal cycles, one being allocated to each police station in Southend, Westcliff and Leigh on sea. Beat officers were required to keep "conference points", so that they could be contacted by their senior officers who often chose the expedient way of boarding a tram or bus. In 1919 the chief constable issued an order instructing senior officers not to ride free on public transport, but the practice continued and became fairly common, indeed, right up to the 70's, it was fairly normal for a bus conductor not to collect the fare from someone who is clearly a police officer

At the outbreak of war in 1914, 52 officers were called to the colours and those remaining, had to take on additional work such as looking out for wireless masts and also reporting direct to the War Office any aircraft sighted, whether friendly or hostile. In addition, the police were responsible for licensing motor vehicles and to enforce the orders in relation to the maximum prices of foodstuffs and from time to time conduct a horse census.

The strain of these extra duties placed on the remain members of the force was relieved to some extent by the appointment of 120 special constables who were sworn in on 14 august 1914 and who at that time were called the Reserve Police

During WW1, six raids were made on Southend by German zeppelins which dropped both incendiary and high explosive bombs causing a number of deaths and injury which was compounded even further, by the defenders anti aircraft shells falling on the borough

Up to that time, the largest turn-out for the borough force was in 1921, when King George V came to the town to board his yacht at the pier head for the commencement of yachting week. Of 114 officers serving in the force in that year, no fewer than 95 in addition to the Chief Constable, were on duty that day in the high street or on the pier.

In 1965 Southend Constabulary celibrated its Golden Jubilee but just four years later was amalgamated back into Essex Police

New Southend Police HQ opened in 1962

A custom built Police Headquarters which, in its day, was the most modern in Europe, just seven years before the force amalgamated with Essex County Police

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A great town to grow up in
  • Cons:the "golden mile"
  • In a nutshell:A great diversity from Shoebury to Leigh
  • Intro Updated Apr 19, 2012
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PeterVancouver Used To Live Here!


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