Health Scare - Southend had a worrying outbreak of Cerebro-spinal meningitis (spotted fever) in the spring of 1917. With nine cases reported the town was being monitored to prevent a wider outbreak.
Empire Gets Some Magic - The Empire Theatre in Alexandra Street gained an unusual financial backer this year in the form of Albert Marchinsky (The Great Rameses). After years of touring the music halls he decided to plough some of his fortune into this theatre. The venture did not last and money poured out as fast as he was putting it in forcing him to go back on tour, to recoup some of his fortune. He later in 1930 returned to the town and underwent an operation at the Victoria Hospital in Warrior Square where he died at the age of 54.
Prittlewell Priory Sold - Mr R A Jones purchased from Capt Scratton, son of the late Mr Edward Scratton, Prittlewell Priory and 22 acres, and that he negotiated a further six acres. On completion he donated the lot to the town as a public park. It was only three years earlier that Mr Jones presented a recreation ground for school children, which cost him £9,000. Mr R A Jones at the time said " I think it is a sin for a man to die rich, it is a great privilege to me to be able to do this, for I believe strongly in facilities for recreation. There will now be no need for such an out of the way and costly park as Belfairs. Prittlewell, with its historic and old-world associations, its beautiful trees and lakes, and its nearness to the centre of town, is an ideal place. Part of the building would be suitable for a museum, and there would also be refreshment room accommodation, while the grounds would provide facilities for cricket, football, tennis, hockey and other sports. I propose that the name of the park should be Priory Park."
A condition of the purchase by RA Jones is that the bridge at the foot of Prittlewell Hill should be widened, as he thought this spot as a 'death-trap'. He also proposed to place massive iron gates at the entrance to the new park.
Gotha's Attack - Southend suffered the worst aerial bomb attack of the war on 12th August 1917. Gotha Bombers created massive damage to Central Southend causing the deaths of more than 30 people, and 46 injured. Read a detailed account here.
Milk Deliveries - As the war raged and so young men were deployed to battle, daily home routines needed to be taken up by those who remained behind, Howard Dairies based in London Road would distribute its milk with the aid of women and children running carts through the streets and dispensing the milk.
Property Prices Slump - With the war raging on and Southend being in the line of danger from attack by the German Zeppelins and Gothas. It was no surprise to see properties right across Southend and Westcliff were falling. Costing around £750 to build some now were being picked up by speculators for £500, basing there acumen on when peace arrives the property market will be more bouyant and people will want to return to the seaside to live. They didn't have too long to wait.
The Royal Visit - Southend was not only on the front line as far home land attacks, but also provided a vital service to our forces by providing hospitals. Commandeered hotels the Palace and Overcliff as well as the Glen on Southchurch Avenue provided excellent sizeable accommodation. The most prominent was the Queen Mary Military Hospital (Palace) which on 11th July 1917 would be honoured with a visit from HRH Princess Mary, her visit was entitled to receive gifts, but of course these would be passed on to the troops fighting on the front, or to assist the war effort generally. She came to Southend, via train from Liverpool Street, dressed in pale pink and blue, and toured the town by motor car, which in times of hardness was well turned out and all the roads on the tour decorated to welcome the Princess - Hamlet Court Road looked particularly good - her car also included the Duchess of Portland and the Mayor - a string of cars followed carry a variety of dignatories. Arriving at the Bandstand the Princess was presented with a bouquet by Winifred Robertson from Chalkwell School. Children representing the other schools were on hand to curtsey. The Royal party then toured the hospital the Princess going up the grand stairway and into the wards where her presence was warmly welcomed by paitients and staff. Afterwards a tea party in the grounds followed.