What was to be Southend's first purpose built undercover shopping centre would be built with some controversy as it would result in much of "old" Southend being demolished to make way for what was at the time one of the largest singe developments ever to take place within the Borough.
The planning brief for the redevelopment said that the existing area comprising of the Talza Arcade, Broadway Market etc: were of a bad layout and were of obsolete development and was suffering decay and decline. Two-thirds of the proposed redevelopment site bounded by Victoria Avenue, Southchurch Road, Milton Street and Bradley Street was retail in some form, but was classed as low quality with little scope for expanding the retail opportunities within the then layout of the site.
The redevelopment of the area was to provide pedestrianized Victoria Circus with first floor pedestrian circulation connecting to the Civic Quarter incorporating the Library, Museum, Police Station, Court House and Civic Centre to the north of the site, a new residential and health care facility to the east, and the pedestrianized High Street to the south.
The retail tenants within the proposed redevelopment area were all offered alternative accommodation close to the site, this was in line with the planning brief that stated “One of the most important objectives will be to make fair and adequate provision for traders and other business interests displaced by the redevelopment scheme”
The scheme would also see the demolition of at least 22 houses along Prittlewell Path and Milton Street and 17 flats over shops along Broadway Market and elsewhere. The housing that had been lining the site had been added too over the years, with many houses being converted into ground floor shops with residential facilities above for either the shop owner or as rented homes. However by the time the proposed redevelopment was produced many were already vacant, those that has sitting tenants would need to be replaced with alternative accommodation of improved standards.
The development was also to provide adequate off road parking facilities, during the construction of any development access and the free flowing of pedestrians was to be maintained on Victoria Avenue, Southchurch Road and all other roads surrounding the site.
Up until the early 1900's most of the site had been in use as residential with a small section used as allotments with a number of vacant plots up for sale. These were gradually bought up and developed in to homes and shops.
The site was located at the top end of Southend High Street, it was a popular shopping area that was generally known at "Talza Arcade" however the Talza Arcade only took up a small part of the site that also included the Victoria Arcade (also known as Victoria market) these were a group of interconnecting covered alleyways lined with small unique shops selling a wide range of goods.
The Talmage Buildings were also located within the proposed redevelopment zone, as was the Garons building and clock tower which gave that junction of the High Street and Southchurch Road its nickname “Garons Corner” before that it had been known as Cobweb Corner as the sheer number of overhead cables for the trams & trolleybuses had created what looked like a giant cobweb, these had long gone so the Garons Corner name was used.
Many long standing and well know local family run shops and companies were all trading in the area due for re-development.
This diagram shows the layout of the site before any demolition took place. (C) Southend Timeline
Broadway Market could be found turning off Station Approach/Bradley Street running in an East to West direction to exit onto Victoria Avenue it featured small shops with living accommodation above.
The Broadway Market might never have been, at one point in the history of the site, a proposal was put forward in 1908 to rename a section of Victoria Avenue Broadway Market, this was rejected by the council however the name was applied to the road running along the Northern side of the site.
On the night of Sunday 12th August 1917 the drone of the German Gotha bombers was heard over head and then the bombing started, No16 took a direct hit ten year old James Grant was killed his father was injured.
2 Shop & living accommodation
3 Shop & Passageway at rear
4 Shop & living accommodation
5 Shop & Passageway at rear
6 Shop & living accommodation
7 Shop & Passageway at rear
8 Shop & living accommodation
9 Shop & Passageway at rear
10 Shop & living accommodation
11 Shop & Passageway at rear
12 Shop & living accommodation
14 Shop & living accommodation
16 Shop & living accommodation
18 Shop & living accommodation
20 Shop & living accommodation
24 Shop & living accommodation
26 Shop & living accommodation
28 Shop & living accommodation
30 Ground Floor Shop & Passageway at rear
30a First Floor Flat & Passageway at rear
32 Ground Floor Shop & Passageway at rear
34 Ground floor shop & Passageway at rear
34a First Floor Flat & Passageway at rear
36 Shop and passageway at rear
38 & 40 Two Grounbd Floor Shops & Passageway at rear
38a First Floor Flat (East) & Passageway at rear
38a First Floor Flat (West) & Passageway at rear
42 & 44 Two Ground Floor Shops & Passageway at rear
42a First Floor Flat & Passageway at rear
RIGHT: Sales Receipt from R.P Culley of the Broadway Market, dated 13th April 1949 (Southend Timeline Collection)
Bradley street was the Northern most point of the redevelopment zone, a relatively small street, the name would not last long after the development as the Southend by-pass later named Queensway gobbled it up.
1 & 2 Smith's Fruiterer's
3 Albert & Co Estate Agent
3 R.H. Nerney & Co Accountants
4 Moy Thomas Ltd Coal Merchant
5 J.W. Cox & Sons Coal Merhant
6 T.J.F Heap & Son Lts Coal Merchant
7 Private Tennant
8 Private Tennant
Prittlewell Path was located off Southchurch Road.
The night of the German air raid on Sunday 12th August 1917 saw a bomb fall strike No15 Prittlewell Path injuring Mr Arthur Hare.
8 Living accommodation and path to rear
10 Living accommodation and path to rear
11 Living accommodation and path to rear
12 Living accommodation and path to rear
13 Living accommodation and path to rear
15 Living accommodation and path to rear
17 Living accommodation and path to rear
19 Living accommodation and path to rear
21 Living accommodation and path to rear
23 Living accommodation and path to rear
25 Living accommodation and path to rear
27 Living accommodation and path to rear
29 Living accommodation and path to rear
31 Living accommodation and path to rear
Originally Milton Street ran from Southchurch Road straight past the development site and on past the railway sidings and coal yard, what would become the Royal mail sorting office and Short Street and on to Maldon Road just by what was the Greyhound/Football Stadium (now the Greyhound Retail Park a history of which can be found here: Greyhound Stadium)
The night of Sunday 12th August 1917 saw one of the largest air raids on Southend during the First World War saw two bombs fall on the street killing a total of nine people including Mr Charles Humphries aged 60 and 14 year old Florrie Mason.
Milton Street was dissected by the construction of the Southend By-pass re-named Queensway 1977.
The buildings that were demolished to make way for the Hammerson development included:
1 S.R. Banyard General Merchant
1 A. Wilfred Ranson Estate Agent
1 A. Wilfred Ranson Auction Rooms
1 Victoria Market Ltd
3 & 5 C Waters Shopkeeper/Gospel Mission
11 Victoria Cycle Works
13 Private Tennant
15 Private Tennant
17 Private Tennant
19 Private Tennant
21 Private Tennant
23 Private Tennant
23 Private Tennant
25 Private Tennant
27 Private Tennant
29 Private Tennant
31 & 33 Private Tennant
35 Private Tennant
37 Private Tennant
39 Private Tennant
Coming off the High Street, Southchurch Road takes traffic out from the heart of Southend towards Thorpe bay and Shoebury.
1 Garons Grocers
3 Garons Greengrocers
5 Garons Bakers
7 Garons Butchers
9 Garons Florist
15 Hy Bettell Greengrocers
15-21 Talmage Buildings
15-21 Talza Hall & Arcade
15-21 Alan Mitchell School of Dance
15-21 Flying Dragon Restaurant
15-21 C.H.J Talmage Contractor
15-21 Bulders Supply Company
15-21 Johnson Tile & Brick Merchant
21 K Gershlick confectoner
23a W.E. Hurt Teacher of Music
23a Madam Freda Parry Teacher of Music
23 & 25 Thomas Bros Drapers
27 St Anne's Manufacturing
31a Private Tennant
31b Private Tennant
31 & 35 Thomas Bros Drapers
37 Bata Shoes
37 Gilberts Pianos
37a Private Tennant
39 S Grey & Sons Radio Dealers
41 E Raggett Newsagent
ABOVE: Letter Head for CHJ Talmage of 1 Southchurch Road, dated 31st August 1908. (Southend Timeline Collection)
ABOVE: Sales Receipt from Thomas Bros of 23/25 Southchurch Road, dated 21st August 1933. (Southend Timeline Collection)
Opening in 1926 the Talza Arcade was to be found east of the Victoria Arcade with its entrance off Southchurch Road. It was one of the most popular parts within the re-development area and facing demolition. For decades it had provided Southenders with small unique family run stores supplying anything from fabric to toys to bricks and to food.
The Talza Arcade included such stores as:
1 & 2: Nina Kaye Drapes
3: Collectors Corner
4: Talza Cut Price
5 Talza Menswear
7: Regency Photographic Studio
8: The Pantiles, Antiques & Bric a Brack
9: Griffiths Carpets
10: Talza Trunk Stores
11: P.R Millidge Shoes
12: Victoria Gift Shop
13: Edna’s Haberdashers
14: C Jervis Household Goods
17: Mark Lane
19: Regency House Wig Centre
20 & 23: Lady’s Outfitters (Taza bargain Stores)
24: Pats Confectioners
25: Half Price Records
26: Talza Pet Stores
27: Oakley Nurseries
Few photos are to be found taken within the Talza Arcade, those that survive are a valuable insight into the history of Southend.
The two lane Victoria Arcade came about by converting back yards into retail units, this was found running behind the properties running along Victoria Avenue, the arcade was right within the heart of the development area the Victoria Arcade was home to a collection of independent retailers.
Victoria Arcade Hairdressing Salon
1/5 Wells The Bacon People
6/7 Victoria Toy Shores
9/10 Junior Bookshop Ltd
11 Bobins Bookshop
12 Bobins Newsagency
14/15 Technical Bookshop
16/17 R Habberley china
18/19 E.T. Potts Leather Goods
20/21 Britacies Lts Pharmacy
22/23 G.E. Bennett Fishmonger
24 Valada Childrens Outfitters
27 Regal Billiards & Southend Amateur Boxing Club
29/30 Laurence Mathews Art Stores
31 Handyman Stores
35/36 Mornaga Cafe
37 Wells The Bacon People
38/39 Hy Bettell Fruiter
40 & 41 Wells The Bacon People
42, 43 (& 51) Edward J Hare Butcher
44 K Masters tailor
45 Mrs E Sullivan Cafe
46 E.T. Potts Confectioner
47/48 Jean’s Pet Store
49/50 The Hobby Store
51 (42 & 43) Edward J Hare Butcher
52 Alwrights Surgical stores
53 & 54 Miss R.S.T. Berry clothing store
55/56 Hy Bettell Fruiter
57/61 Wells The Bacon People
H Garons Caterers
6 A Lewis & Co Tobaconists
6a C Goldhill Jeweller
6 Taylors Furnishing
8 & 10 Leslie Warner Shoes
14 The Essex Pharmacy
16 D Gorston Butcher
18 & 20 Taylors Furnishing
22 R Roberts Confectners
24 Jean Raymond Ladies Hairdressers
26 Blue Bird Snack Bar
26a H Strauss Secondhand Goods
26b H Strauss Tool Maker
30 & 32 Jn Maxwell Outfitter
34 & 36 T.F. Heath Ltd Cycle Repairs/Gramophones
38 Bartons Bakers
40 Davis & Harris Newsagent
Whilst not part of the re-development the Southend outer by-pass is included in this history as it passes right by the area that was sunder redevelopment.
The Southend Outer Bypass had been long in the planning and construction finally begun in 1966, this would see a major new roadway being constructed skirting the High Street.
The new road was in fact the joining of several roads and making the in to a duel carriageway, starting at London Road it incorporated Dowsett Avenue, up to its junction with Victoria Avenue, it would then carryon past the new Victoria Circus roundabout into Bradley Street, Bradley street would carry on to Porters Grange Avenue where it would run up to the railway bridge over the road, it would then become Bankside, then Corsham Road before ending in Darnley Road at the roundabout outside the Seaway car park.
The duel two-lane ring road was designed and built to enable widening to be carried out when the demand required, this would be achieved by reducing the width of the central reservation.
The duel carriageway made it harder for people to cross the road so an “overbridge” with shops was proposed for people to cross from a redeveloped Southend Victoria Railway Station leading to the first floor of the new shopping development. The planning application was submitted by City of London real Property Company & British Railway Board, this gained planning approval on 3rd March 1966, however whilst the walkway was constructed the redevelopment of the station never took place and it remains as it was built to this day.
The development of what would become Queensway was holding up the pedestrianizeation of the High Street, because of traffic reasons the section between Victoria Hotel and Warrior Square South had to wait until the first section of the Ring Road had been completed and opened.
The roads incorporated in the scheme all kept their own identities until Queen Elizabeth's 1977 Silver Jubilee when the entire length of the road was re-named Queensway, this also saw the opening of the £1million underpass section at the Southchurch Road/Sutton Road junction.
If you know where to look you can see a few small signs of the history of the roads that became Queensway.
One of the old road signs erected in 1977 when the name Dowsett Avenue was dropped in favour of Queensway
Showing it's age is one of the old road signs erected in 1977 when the name Bradley Street was dropped in favour of Queensway.
The last remaining fragment of Dowsett Avenue, the road no longer appears on maps it's name consigned to history, and soon the last the last vestiges of the old road will also soon disappear as the area is undergoing a makeover to create a "Pocket Park"
Talks between Southend Council and The Hammerson Group of Companies had been on-going with a view to redevelop the entire area, and in 1964 the Council accepted the offer of redevelopment, over the following years Hammersons begun the task of buying up the properties within the redevelopment area that had been agreed with the Council this area was:
Northern Boundary: Bradley Street (later renamed Queensway)
Southern Boundary: Southchurch Road
Western Boundary: Victoria Avenue
After a Public Inquiry in 1960 the Government rejected the Councils request for a Compulsory Purchase order on the site. However The Hammerson group then started to buy up the freeholds individually they were able to acquire 93% of the properties within the agreed footprint scheduled for redevelopment, Hammersons approached the Council to enact the provisions laid down in Section 4 of the Town and Country Act 1962, this would enable the Council to enforce compulsory purchase orders on the remaining properties who’s lease/freeholders had failed to agree to sell.
All businesses effected by the redevelopment were offered leases on units within the new shopping centre once it was completed.
Before the development After the development
Once the final property had been secured the site was sealed off and the wrecking crews moved in, demolition on the site was swift and once the last bricks fell work started on the construction of the new development commenced almost immediately.
The plans included a road linking the ring road at Victoria Avenue to Southchurch Road via an underpass actually going under the new shopping centre this would give access to the outer by-pass leading to the seafront or continuing on to Thorpe Bay & Shoebury.
The Underpass required 45ft deep excavations with a diaphragm retaining wall, part of the agreement for construction of this new road was that the Council would help fund the cost of its construction with the entire cost of the shopping centre being met by Hammersons, the Council ended up paying just over £250,000 towards the cost of the 1ft thick retaining walls, £27,000 of this was paid for by the Department of Transport through a Central Government grant. The underpass included a delivery pull off for the shopping centre as well as a small bus station with five bus stops, toilets and public phones.
To access the underpass two lifts were provided as well as a single up escalator and a single down escalator and stairs running along side the escalators.
The underpass was officially named after the author Warwick Deeping who was born on 28th May 1877 at Prospect House, that stood at the junction of Pier Hill and the High Street, he died on 20th April 1950 in Weybridge, Surrey aged 73, and is probably without doubt Southend's most celebrated author.
Because of the sheer size of the development it was built in two stages, the first section to open included:
Churchill Square (North Side)
213 Smokers World
214 J Curtis shoes
216/217 Hodges & Johnson Radios
222/225 Lipton Supermarket
228/230 Bata Shoes
231 Chadwicks & Co jewellers
232/233 Terela ladies outfitters
242 P King motor accessories
Churchill Square (South Side)
Chartwell West (North Side)
323 Come in cafe
328 Lewis of Westminster confectioners
341 Mark Lane Limited turf accountant
342 Jay Tailors Ltd
343 Benson & Johnsons opticians
344 Beejam Freezers
346 Marshall Fashions
347 Victory Bookshop
348 J W Higgs & Sons
349 Boy’s of Bond Street televisions
350 W R Williams Travel
353/356 China garden restaurant
357 Jane’s Florist
358 Laurence Matthews art shop
359 Hobby Stores
With the first stage complete and stores trading work continued to build up the second stage of the development, this was completed about a year or so later.
Whilst the early two level shopping centres in England and America had struggled to entice people to leave the ground floor shopping area and move up to the first floor, the Southend centre was unique as the main stream of pedestrians would need to cross the new ring road using the overbridge over the road, the plans did not include any other means of crossing the ring road at this point from North to south and vice versa.
LEFT: Curtis Shoes were one of the original stores to open in the first phase of the redevelopment this receipt is dated 4th November 1971.
However the new shopping was designed and built without a roof, the three open hexagonal floors having an open centre giving views down into the lower floor, this had the effect of the malls leading to the central area acting as a wind tunnel, quickly giving the concrete centre the nickname “Windy City”.
The centre had heavy footfall as a main thoroughfare to and from the High Street, the ground floor proving the most popular with traders and shoppers alike as the floor above acted as a balcony giving some protection from the rain, the lower floor housed a number of independent retailers alongside larger brands such as “House of Holland” later to become a Wilkinson’s, however the top floor proved to be the least popular with no protection from the wind and rain it was a quick short cut for people leaving Southend Victoria railway station to the High Street.
The clothing retailer C&A took on a store spread over the ground and first floors, Argos had a large unit on the ground floor inside the new development. Shops were also built fronting on to the High Street and Southchurch road. The new development had major changes to the road infrastructure in the area as it saw the creation of another Southend “landmark” in the shape of the Deeping Underpass a short road tunnel under the new centre, the Deeping gave the new development a place to create bus stops and toilets servicing the centre. Above the centre a multi-storey car park and office block were constructed.
Another popular aspect of the shopping centre was Zhivago's night club located on Chartwell Square of the centre.
One of the most popular parts of the new shopping centre was not a shop! In-fact it was not even for adults but for the youngsters, three kids play things were dotted around the centre, on the upper floor was a giant crab who’s mouth you could climb into, on the ground floor outside Argos were three interconnected seashells whilst on the same floor but located in Churchill West was a giant lobster that could be crawled through. These disappeared in the late 1980s.
Above: recollection impression of the seashells few photos survive of them.
The three floors were each given a different names:
The top floor was Chartwell Square it has two malls leading to the central area these were Chartwell North leading from Southend Victoria station via a bridge over what was then Bradley Street (now Queensway) the second mall was Chartwell West this led to and from the High Street via an escalator or whirly gig ramp. There was also a small exit leading to Queensway House and the Quantock flats.
The ground floor was named Churchill Square this also had two malls leading to the ggcentral area, the first of these leading off Southchurch Road was Churchill South home to one of the few original residence left “Victoria Shoes”, the other mall leading from the High Street housed the lower floor of C&A on its Northern side whilst the Post office was located on the Southern side next door to H Samuels jewellers. Another of the early residents based themselves on the Southern side of the inner area in the shape of the restaurant chain Wimpy.
The lower floor carried on the tradition of the Talza name, Talza Way was a pedestrian walkway leading off of Chichester Road to the lowest level of the shopping centre, another of the long term residents located themselves here in the form of the Cambella Cafe, next door to the cafe is Arcadia Newsagents is another of the long term residents.
Owners Sandfield Lynton sold the shopping centre in 1995 to the Burford group who paid £11.5million for the centre. Then in 1997 Bourne End Ltd brought the shopping centre as a package deal that cost £30million.
In January 1999 the then owners Bourne End Ltd announced plans to revamp the aging shopping, the scheme costing £1.5million included a new store alongside C&A, the closure of some walkways, refurbishment of others, introduce better lighting, balustrade and add new street furniture.
During millennium 2000 Catalyst Capital moved in to take on the management of the centre.
In July 2000 the owners Bourne End placed the shopping centre up for sale again, for the third time in five years the centre was looking for new owners.
The centre suffered a major setback when clothing retailer C&A announced that it was closing all its UK based stores, C&A had been one of the big name anchor retailers at the centre since it had opened, the store closed its doors at the end of January 2000.
With the shopping centre still on the market in October 2000 the owners Bourne End were still pressing ahead with the refurbishment the painting of handrails had been undertaken and new signage had been installed, the proposed new retail unit alongside the C&A store was still waiting to be built.
At the time the shopping centre had 100 stores of which 30 were vacant, this included the largest of which was the C&A store empty since January 2000, C&A had been operating the store since the centre was built opening it in 1972, the closure of the Southend store was part of the chains withdrawal from the UK retail market.
In September 2001 a Topnotch Temple of Exercise fitness centre was approved for part of the C&A store that had sat empty since January 2000 (21 months). It was proposed that the first floor of the C&A store along with a neighbouring store, the proposals included a bar and sports shop, a ladies' gym, an aerobics work-out area, a swimming pool and a health and beauty suite.
A former Pine Showroom, on the same floor was given permission for a change of use so that the empty unit could be used as an internet cafe.
In November 2003 negotiations were underway with the owners and US giant Walmart to lease a large part of the centre for use as an ASDA supermarket.
The centre was leased to BEP Southend who ran it for the owners, however by July 2004 the plans for an ASDA were scrapped as the centre finally found a buyer it was sold on to Delamare Estates, a specialist company in retail property refurbishment.
Over the years the centre has passed through five different owners each promising to reinvigorate the tired old shopping centre, none of these promises ever came to fruitarian that was until Bill Harkness CEO of Delamere Estates announced his company had bought the centre and were planning to bring the decaying shopping centre up to date with a major rebuilding program.
The Victoria Plaza as it was then know had low take up rates the upper floor had been all but abandoned by retailers, as the uncovered walkways gave no protection to shoppers in bad weather.
The Post Office had closed its office in the centre and a second in to relocate to a single office in the High Street.
The construction of the previously proposed two story extension had suffered from delays in securing a tenant to take on the unit until it could be filled it would not be built. The old C&A store had sat empty since it was vacated, whilst the adjoining unit that had sold furniture had seen various retailers come and go including Curio City, that saw a number of small independent traders set up within small units selling craft goods and collectables.
The shopping centre saw new owners arrive in 2004 when Delamere Estates, they immediately announced plans for a £1
LEFT: Victoria Plaza voucher book from 2004 complete without any of the vouchers ever used! (Southend Timeline Collection)
Shortly after announcing the car park works Delamere Estates unveiled plans for a £25million top to tail refurbishment of the entire shopping centre, the plans were passed in October 2005 with construction starting in 2006.
To help ease the difficult task of rebuilding the centre whilst still keeping it open to the public the Deeping had to be closed to the public in July 2005 so that the space could be used to store the large amounts of building materials needed to bring the centre up to date.
The rebuilding saw all the floors re-laid along with the re-tilling of the supports, the original toilets that were built in the Deeping were closed, they had net proven very popular being down in the cold dark bowels of the centre, the new toilets are state of the art toilets were relocated to the upper floor in a much warmer brighter location.
The escalators were all replaced and the lifts were completely rebuilt and extended to serve all the floors of both the shopping centre and the car park they had originally only served the ground and upper floor of the centre and three of the eight floor of the car park.
In June 2006 Plans were also investigated to make the Deeping underpass two way initial estimates for the scheme were put at £750,000, the first task would be to relocate the bus stops in the Deeping to the site of the taxi rank outside Southend Victoria railway station, with the taxis relocated to a section of the car park to the side of Southend Victoria railway station.
The Deeping bus stops had been part of the original design since the centre opened but during construction of the unit above the Deeping it had been closed to all traffic, with temporary bus stops located in Queensway. When the Deeping reopened it was only to lorries and cars and still as a one way road, as there was not sufficient clearance at the Victoria Avenue entrance/exit to permit two way traffic to safely operate.
Buses would instead use a dedicated bus lane in the formally one way Chichester Road, traffic was only heading North originally, the South running bus lane opened in April 2007 Thursday 15th August 2006 the “landmark” whirly-gig spiral walkway that led from the upper floor out over the Deeping and into the High Street, that had proven a popular meeting place for friends ever since the original shopping centre had opened was demolished so that the long awaited two level extension over the Deeping entrance could finally be built to provide extra the retail space required.
However in November 2006 during the construction of the extension a three-inch alteration to the European Union Height Regulations Law saw the base of the new extension become too low to permit the Deeping to be used, and what was going to be a six month closure of the Deeping turned in to one lasting over a year, as work to remedy the problem were worked out, the new unit which takes in the part of the old C&A unit was pre-let to fashion retailer New Look.
Once construction of the new store had been completed the Deeping was reopened, however it was permanently closed to through traffic on Sunday 21st February 2010 as work progressed on the Better Southend Vicroria Gateway scheme that saw the council looking at various major infrastructure changes within the borough and with Government funding available the plan to relocate the bus interchange was incorporated into the Better Southend scheme which saw the entire Victoria Circus road network rebuilt, with the removal of the roundabout and installation of a T junction controlled by smart traffic lights, the scheme also saw a new canopy built over the entrance of the centre opening in March 2011.
One of the biggest changes to the centre came with the closing off of the shopping centres internal open space in the middle of the ground floor, this provided a large floor area that could hold public events.
In October 2006 the vast open space at the heart of the centre finally saw the first signs of gaining the roof it had never had, the scaffolding and walkways erected to enable the builders to erect the roof looked like a giant spider had spun a giant steel web above people’s heads. The mostly glazed roof took almost a year to complete and made a remarkable transformation to the shopping area below keeping people warm and dry for the first time in 40years whilst they shopped at the centre.
Since the construction of the shopping centre all the malls leading to the central area had been classed as public right of ways and were open to the public 24hours a day 365 days a year as were all the floors in the shopping centre with such a major make over the owners applied for permission roof the open malls and to erect doors at every entrance/exit with them locked at night, this needed a special order from the council which was quickly granted.
Wilkinsons expanded their store almost doubling it in size with the grand opening being held on 8th September 2007.
At the end of June 2007 the long-time resident The Cork & Cheese public house closed its doors for the last time a major factor was the smoking ban that was to become law on the 1st July 2007, this forbid smoking within any indoor place that provided food or drink.
RIGHT: 2009 prize leaflet. (Southend Timeline Collection)
The Deeping underpass would close permantly to all traffic on Sunday, February 2010, the Chichester Road bus lane was opened to all traffic with the Victoria Gateway/Victoria Circus entrance being blocked up, the exit into Southchurch Avenue would be used as the entrance exit for all delivery viechles calling at the shopping centre.
May 2010 Plans were also announced to install a giant TV screen on the wall facing Victoria Circus square, it was proposed that the screen would operate from 6am until Midnight, displaying local information and paid for advertising by local firms, all broadcasts were to be silent.
Whilst not directly linked too the shopping centre, the supermarket giant Tesco announced a £150million scheme in 2007 to redevelop the disused Short Street B&Q retail warehouse that had sat empty since July 2007 in to a three-story supermarket, along with a complex of luxury apartments, affordable flats and housing also a replacement for the Council owned Focus Youth Centre. The store had been designed to be as carbon natural as possible with the inclusion of wind turbines on the roof and solar panels as well as a grass roof with rainwater capture. The proposed car park would have had space for 540 cars in a basement and ground level car park with cycle racks for 90 bikes.
A footbridge from the proposed store would be linked to the Victoria Shopping Centre over the busy Queensway road.
However proposals dragged on and with the recession hitting schemes for large scale supermarkets were being scrapped by their developers, the Tesco proposals however continued all be it in a scaled down format, the flats and housing were dropped and the size of the store was reduced, planning permission was granted in November 2011, however Tesco’s decided that it would rather develop more small “Express” stores and scrapped the Short Street scheme in June 2013. The building was taken over by The Range home furnishing store.
Since the rebuilding program has been completed there have been a number of new tenants move into the new look shopping centre.
The High Street chemist Boots relocated its High Street branch into the centre in 2010, High Street fashion retailer Next who took a large two floor unit opening to large crowds on Thursday 19th March 2009
The international shoe retailer Deichmann was also attracted to the shopping centre taking a large unit on the ground floor.
The Only Way Is Essex reality TV star Lucy Mecklenburgh opened Lucy’s Boutique on Saturday 12th October 2013.
The Southend Book & Arts Fair took place within the centre on Saturday 19th October 2013.
In June 2014 a planning application was lodged with Southend Council to change the use of the Chartwell House office block that looms over the shopping centre from office (B1a) use to residential (C3) use, the application is for a total of 71 flats with a mixture of one and two bedrooms over the 11 floors of the building.
Looking North over the much loved Whirligig Ramp in 2005 (C) Socksoupdog
New Look in more ways than one! (C) Southend Timeline
Looking East in 2005 towards Talza Way (Bottom level) (C) Socksoupdog
Looking East in 2014 new roof stair case gone and the middle filled in. (C) Southend Timeline.
Looking South down Churchill South (C) Socksoupdog
Churchill South in 2014, new floors brighter and doors! (C) Southend Timeline
The flower planters in Churchill Square in 2005 (C) Socksoupdog
New floors, new lighting, new everything 2014. (C) Southend Timeline
The Victoria Circus Shopping Centre 1995, the Odeon Multiplex under construction (C) Southend Timeline.
The Victoria Shopping Centre 2013.
The shopping centre had been given the unenviable nickname of “Windy City” after it opened, the name came from the cold winds that would whip round the open walkways, the changes implemented by Delamere Estates have finally killed off the Windy City, and in it's place stands a modern fresh clean shopping centre.