A hardly seen “landmark” that once “graced” Southend High Street that was used by millions of people who came out lighter than when they went in passed (literally) in to history without fanfare and without ceremony.
The “landmark” in question were the subterranean High Street toilets that had been in use for more than 110 years.
Originally constructed in 1894 as one of the first public engineering works of the fledgling council and costing £400 they has served Southenders and visitors well but had become less popular with people as the two sets (one male one female) only had one exit in and the same one out, they were also impossible for the disabled to access so replacements were needed.
However there was no space in the same location as the old toilets, thought was given to buying a shop and demolishing it to create a public square where the toilets could be situated however the cost and loss of income for a retail unit quickly put pay to the plan.
However a solution was found in the derelict land at Pitmans Close off Tylers Avenue just off the High Street. The Scandinavian firm Danfo was approached to design a set of public toilets to fit on to the land selected to house the new public toilets the loos, clad in wood, automatically dispense soap and water and will flush automatically if someone forget, this activates when the door opens.
The new toilets formed part of the Sshape scheme to relay the paving the entire length of the High Street and to installed new lighting and street furnishings. The new toilets officially opened on 6th April 2004, at the time they were the largest single block toilet unit that the manufacturers had constructed.
The entrance to the toilet can just been seen centre left in this photo
New signage was installed in the High Street directing people to the new toilets, however the aging underground toilets remained open for a few weeks whilst the new facility had a settling period, however the door to the old toilets were finally closed and locked on the old High Street toilets for the last time and they fell silent…
No decision had been taken on just what to do with the underground space left with the closure however a proposal in April 2004 to convert the old loos into an underground wine bar were announced however with no disabled access and no possible fire exit being installed the plans were never submitted.
Then in September 2004 the old toilets were finally filled in and paved over never to be seen again.
The Pitmans Close toilets were soon winning plaudits by scooping three stars on the national Loo of the year award and regarded as “Outstanding”
The new Pitmans Close toilets