Southend Timeline

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Corporation Loading Pier


Southend’s first loading pier was made operational in 1834, this was to be found adjoining the east side of the wooden passenger pier then in use directly along side the site that would later house the present structure, this loading pier was little more than a timber and stone construction 234ft from the shore.

During the construction of the present day iron pier between 1889-1891 the loading pier was demolished and a replacement built opposite the Ship Public house & Hotel on Eastern Esplanade just west of the site which was later to become the present day loading pier.


It soon became evident that the new loading pier was inadequate to cope with the increased volume of traffic using Southend as an off-loading/loading stop.


Then in 1910 the local council elected to have a new loading pier built and asked for tenders to be submitted.

Construction on the Corporation Loading Pier began in 1912 it was constructed out of re-enforced concrete, it had been designed by Mr T W Pedrette of Enfield, London, construction lasted two years with the pier opening for loading and off loading in 23rd July 1914.  The pier had set the local authority back some £10,878, the shortness of the pier was due to the fact that the vast majority of trading vessels then operating in the Thames Estuary were bound for docks of London or the deep water docks & harbours located along the River Medway on the Kent side.


The pier’s short length kept its construction costs down as well as the maintenance costs, but it also meant that only flat bottomed sailing barges could use the pier on the high tide, as the tidal flow at along the shallow banks of the Thames Estuary has the sea recede over a mile out from the shore.


Later in 1914 a tram spur was opened on the pier, at the same time Glenshaw’s & Pier of Bolton

were commissioned to construct three coal powered cars (1A, 2A & 3A) for operating duties on the pier


This consisted of a drive unit and two tipper wagons for transporting coal to the tramways power stati


The trains remained in service until it was retired in 1931and scrapped the following year.



At the out-break of the Second World War the pier like all others the length and breadth of the country was taken over by the Admiralty,

this saw the warehouse gain a reinforced concrete machinegun post, this was positioned on the front roof of the warehouse.










Apart from the war years the pier proved to be a success, but with a down turn in the use of flat bottomed sailing barges in the Thames and the country as a whole in the late 1950’s early 1960’s the pier saw a large drop in the amount of freight it processed.  With this the council began wet leasing the pier to private company’s, the last official use of the pier was recorded in the early 1980’s when two station tugs were moored there.







There was also an incident in January 1983 when on a high tide the small coaster Macedonia (formally Manta) managed to get close enough to the pier to More up, with the crew believing it was secure they left it, as the tide turned the mooring ropes slipped with the coaster swinging away from the pier and grounding its stern on the beach along side.  The stranded vessel became a tourist attraction until it was able to be pulled off the beach by tugs on a high tide a few weeks later.



Plans to restore the old pier have been around since 1970, there have been eight different proposals for a marina incorporating the pier at a centrepiece.  In the early 1990’s the Rowallen Group who had just completed the restoration of Southend’s historic landmark Kursaal, were chosen as the preferred developer for not just the old pier but also the former gas works site opposite the pier.  The proposed plans included a Health & Fitness Centre, Hotel, Care Home and houses on the gas works site whilst the pier would be turned in to a restaurant.  The developers were given a five year exclusivity deal on the site, however no plans were formally submitted within the time frame set down by the council the site was re-advertised.


After a number of years of no interest in the site, a new developer came forward in 1998 and unveiled ambitious plans for the pier, the new developer proposed to convert the dilapidated pier into a hotel & restaurant.


Majestic Marine and Leisure proposed a major rebuilding of the structure so that it would have become a replica of the White Star Lines 1930’s RMS Majestic cruise liner. However the plans never made it past the planning stage after funding and planning and lease issues with the scheme collapsing in August 1999.


Since the piers last official residents had left no maintenance had been carried out on it, this has seen its condition deteriorate slowly over the years with and increase in the rate of dereliction in recent times.


With the failure of the 1998 proposals the council decided to undertake a last sale of the site no bidders came forward to buy the pier. A review of the structure in December 2000 by the council saw it decided that the derelict structure should be demolished once funding could be found.


After another study into the safety of the pier found that it would need a massive overhaul with the majority of the supports in poor condition the council announced that it was going to demolish the slowly dieing landmark in 2003.


Suddenly a resurgent of interest exploded in the pier with a number of proposals being announced in October 2003 a restaurant was planned then in January 2004 a Bistro was proposed, this would have seen the demolition of the warehouse building with a new two-tier glass building built in its place.


The plans were tied to the redevelopment of the old gasworks site, work on the gasworks soon commenced with a large number of new houses and flats being constructed to the front of the site a hotel was proposed. However planning issues delayed the hotel’s construction, with delays in the hotel proposal the pier remained quiet and unloved.



Yet another proposal was announced in January 2004 this time it was proposed to build a bistro style restaurant, Burlington style shopping arcade and housing on the rapidly deteriorating pier, however the proposals failed to meet deadlines set by the council and were not followed up.


Then in September 2007 a final decision on the fate of the pier was finally made, after a structural survey of the decaying landmark was carried out showing a marked deterioration in the fabric of the pier leaving it structurally unsound, an insurance report assessment carried out in 2006 made it clear that the council would risk a corporate manslaughter charge if anyone was killed on it so the final order was issued to demolish Southend’s ugly duckling pier.


With the demolition order sent out work soon began on removing the derelict pier from the Southend shoreline.  With the contractors moving on site on Thursday 13th September 2007 the pier set rapidly set about by the powerful crushing jaws of the JCB’s reducing the once workhorse pier in to a pile of smashed concrete and twisted metal.


The demolition process was estimated at six weeks because of the tides, soft sand at one side of the pier and the complex issue of how to demolish the pier in the quickest safest way possible.


A special method of demolishing the pier and removing the rubble was employed; the sand on the western side of the pier was too soft for the heavy plant machinery to operate without sinking whilst the structural instability of the pier prevented the machinery from rolling onto the pier and attacking from above.


The demolition started with the central decking closest to the shore being torn out, leaving the sides intact to act as a barrier to stop any large sections of debris being washed on to the beach, when the demolition team reached the warehouse building the Western (Southend Pier)side was removed to just before the World War Two Machine Gun Post, then the other side was demolished, the end section of the building was then demolished in one go.


With the major part of the demolition completed the remaining section of the deck soon disappeared leaving only a few piles sticking out of the mud like the mortal remains of some sort of pre-historic beast.  These too soon tumbled with just a few remnants left to remove the story of another of Southend lost piers comes to an end.










However that was not the end of the story in November 2009 planning approval was given to the proposals by the Robert Leonard Group for a two storey restaurant to be built with terracing.  The lower floor would house a cafe/bar with a restaurant one the first floor. 

 The company had originally submitted a planning application in 2005 whilst the old decrepit structure was still standing, however the company behind the plan said that the demolition would not stop the project as much of the original pier would have been demolished to make way for the new buildings.






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