Southend Timeline

Bringing Your Memories Back to Life

The Esplanades

During 1899 Alfred Fidler the Borough Surveyor had prepared an ambitious scheme for a continuous seawall and esplanade from the Halfway House in the east to Chalkwell in the west.

The works some of the largest ever to have been under taken in the Borough would need to overcome a few hurdles before work could start.

This article has been broken so that each section of the esplanade has its own section.

Chalkwell Esplanade: Chalkwell Station to Grosvenor Road.

Westcliff Esplanade: Grosvenor Road to the Piccadilly Steps (Holland Road).

Western Esplanade: Piccadilly Steps (Holland Road) to the Pier.

Marine Parade (Golden Mile): The Pier to Southchurch Avenue (The Kursaal).

Eastern Esplanade: Southchurch Avenue (The Kursaal) to Halfway House (built 1870)

Thorpe Esplanade: Halfway House to Thorpe Bay Corner.

Chalkwell Esplanade

The Chalkwell Hall Syndicate had recently bought the Chalkwell Hall Estate, in preparation for a high class residential building scheme, after protracted talks an agreement was signed in August 1901 that would see the syndicate sell Chalkwell Hall, and 26 acres of land to create a public park. 

In return the Borough Corporation would construct a seawall and esplanade with roadway with grass plots along the sea frontage of the estates frontage, to accommodate the new facilities the Syndicate would sign over the estates foreshore plus a strip of land up to 130ft wide from Grosvenor Road heading west 1050yards.

The syndicate also agreed to pay £8000 over a ten year period towards the cost and maintenance of the wall and esplanade.

The Chalkwell section started work in 1903 with it being completed to the cost of £22914 in March 1905.

At the same time as the Chalkwell plans were being processed the Westcliff section was also being prepared for widening.

RIGHT: Advert on the cover of a programme for the Vaudeville Theatre  in London extolling the benefits of the Chalkwell Hall Estate dated March 1914. (C) Southend Timeline




 LEFT: At the very start of Chalkwell Esplanade is a popular beach right by Chalkwell Railway Station. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015)




The area of beach immediately outside Chalkwell railway station was owned by the Midleand Railway Company, in 1909 a 20 year lease was signed with Mr Arther Joscelyne Sr, who erected tents and a stage for public entertainments, the lease was passed on through the family.  At some point the land passed to the ownership of Southend Council, who refused to renew the lease in 1948.


  A green space was laid down for picnicking and for fairs to be hosted, this site was made into a putting green in the mid-1990's but did not last long before it once again became a green space, today whilst a green space it is set aside for windsurfers to rig their boards and sails.


RIGHT: In the mid 1990's a putting green was laid on this green space, it is now an open green space that is the designated area for windsurfers to rig their boards. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015)


To give protection to people promenading a sun shelter was provided at the bottom of Chalkwell Avenue, the shelter is largely unchanged, however the rear wall has been moved halfway forward to provide public toilets.







 LEFT: The sun (and rain!) shelter, the rear wall was set further back, but public toilets were installed in 2010 after the closure of others further along after they were deemed too old and not very easy for disabled to use. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015) 





The beaches are a popular draw there are regular access points for people to get from the esplanade down to the lower beach, the access is via steps or a slope, however these were built at the same time as the esplanade was installed and at the time little thought was given to disabled access.

The slopes included at the time were mainly used by boat owners to drag their rowing boats or small sail boats out of the water and onto the promenade for winter maintenance.

However Southend Council have installed several disabled access points that include steps and a gentle sloping ramp with handrails on both sides, these lead down to a decked area.






 RIGHT: One of the disabled access points on Chalkwell Esplanade. The decked area has been covered by sand shifted by the tides. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015) 





 During 1925 the local Corporation (Council) laid down an 18 hole miniature golf course, the lumpy and bumpy course proved popular during the summer season and for 6d you were lent a ball and a putter, today the site is part of the rock garden.

BELOW: The site of the 1925 miniature golf course, the site is now a rock garden and a footpath has been laid across the top edge of it.


Many of the Edwardian and Victorian houses still line the far side of Chalkwell Esplanade, many of these had started off life as houses before being converted in to guest houses and as time changed reverted back to private family houses, many have had additions added and gained double glazing, other have been replaced by more modern houses whilst others have made way for much larger exclusive flats.


LEFT: Postcard view of Chalkwell Esplanade showing some of the Edwardian houses.

One of the most controversial developments is the Nirvana apartments

The first planning application for the Nirvana apartment block was submitted in 2003, after a lengthy planning process it was passed with construction of one of Southend’s most controversial apartment blocks begun in March 2007 when the excavation works were started by the piling of 500 concrete piles deep into the ground, the block then steadily rose up to ten stories high.

The initial build of the structure was rapid with a topping out ceremony in September 2008 three months earlier than originally predicted, whilst it is called a topping out this is a ceremony held when the last beam is placed at the top of a building, and not the competition of the entire build.

The construction was carried out by Allied Construction, of Rayleigh, who used only local contractors.

The towering block replaced the Grosvenor Care Home, it sits alongside the Admirals Place apartment block.

When the recession hit the UK in 2009 the construction of the apartment block slowed and stopped, with little movement on the retail estate market the site was locked up and left partly built until the country turned the corner and the economy picked up.

LEFT: The landmark Nirvana apartment block, housing some of the most expensive homes in Southend. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015).


After a year of being wrapped in scaffolding and sheet plastic with no work being undertaken work resumed in 2010 with a proposed completion date of spring 2011.

In August 2011 the scaffolding was finally removed, finally revealing the striking building beneath, the wood, white concrete and brightly painted balconies the Nirvana was the tallest building on the seafront.

The new 45 apartment development includes a range of two and three bed room flats, the block includes a communal decorative infinity pool and, in addition to spectacular sea views, the apartments have underfloor heating, kitchens installed by Hadleigh-based kitchen designer Paul Newman with Porcelanosa tiles on the floors and walls, a 54space underground car park, onsite fitness centre with private swimming pool.

The new apartments were set to go on the market for £400,000 to £1million.  With a rumoured £2.5million for the penthouse. 

However the new flats were soon to be dogged by further delays with issues over access.

In February 2013 a land owner pointed out that the access to the Nirvarna Apartments would need to cross a 100yard long six inch wide strip of land they between the Nirvarna and the neighbouring Bellway Court and that they had not given permission for any access to cross it.

All sales were put on hold until a solution could be found. 

In November 2013 nine months after the land issue started the flats had still not been put on the market,

In January 2015 it was announced that former tennis ace David Lloyd who was had moved into propriety development and leisure centres was reported to be in the process of buying the Nirvana, however the sale never happened instead the St Helier, Jersey based Nirvana Investments Limited were listed as the new owners.


Westcliff Esplanade

The Westcliff section stretched from Grosvenor Road to the Piccadilly Steps below Holland Road, this section was also known as The Leas, in recent years it has been merged into Western Esplanade.

In August 1901 the final plans included a seawall backfilled with rubble and soil, the rubble was bought down to Southend by Thames Barges from London,  once the infilling was complete it was proposed that the reclaimed land would be levelled off so that a road up to 70ft wide and a footpath could be laid for immediate use. 

Work started in May 1903, being completed in March 1905 at a cost of £12520, both the Chalkwell and Westcliff sections were treated to a ceremonial opening by the Mayor Alderman Arthur Loury on 2nd October 1905, a temporary gate for the opening procession to pass thorough was erected at the foot of Grosvenor Road.

A public toilet block was built, however over time these fell in to a state of disrepair and were prone to vandals and were used less family friendly activities.  They were eventually offered for lease and conversion to a café or restaurant with a stipulation that some form of public toilets were kept, a lease was signed that saw the site become the popular Toulouse Restaurant with public toilets at one end that are open during the summer season only



 LEFT: The Toulouse Restaurant with public toilets at one end that are open during the summer season.










The seawall has been maintained and has been repointed and the footpath and road resurfaced several times however a remarkable survivor from the day that was installed is still in situ, the original railings that top the stretch from the location of the old Westcliff Jetty to the first bastion remains. The railing originally stretched from the bastion to Chalkwell.







RIGHT: The old railings have been repainted countless times but remain as they were installed, this section marks the position that the long ago Westcliff Jetty was located. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015)












The Westcliff Jetty was a short wooden jetty that was a  popular fishing and diving place, it was demolished in the 1980's.





LEFT:  Photocard view of the Westcliff Jetty.










BELOW: The Westcliff Esplanade showing the road, cyclepath, footpath and seawall. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed 2015)  



Access to the beach is via the original steps, the groynes help cut down on long shore drift. They trap sand which helps build up the beach naturally from the sandbanks out in the estuary. This helps cut down the amount of beach management needed from the local authority, the naturally formed beach helps drawn people in boosting tourism giving the local economy a boost. However whilst they help in the area they are installed they do have the adverse effect of depriving other areas of the sand that would have been washed further down the shoreline, leaving those areas with smaller beaches, this can result in erosion to more susceptible areas or undermine defences as the tides wash sand away from the foundations of sea walls, these areas need to have their sand topped up, by either importing lorry loads in by road or as in Southend's case dredged from the Thames Estuary sandbanks and pumped ashore in an sand & water mix.

 BELOW: The steps and groynes on Westcliff Esplanade


BELOW: A Postcard view of The New Parade at Westcliff from June 1925.


The 1930's was an era when hoteliers would ban guests from staying in the hotel during the day, as this would be the time they would carry out cleaning and other works in the hotel it would also give them a break from the hustle and bustle of running the hotels.

With this in mind the Council undertook a building programme of improving the esplanades further, this saw the re-landscaping of the gardens and included the building of sun (and rain) shelters, one of these is the horseshoe shelter on Western Esplanade (below Clifton Drive).

The shelter is constructed from red brick with stone detailing and metal windows, as well as providing shelter the structure acts as a retaining wall to the cliffs behind. 

The shelter had proven popular with tourists but as time went on and the decline in British seaside holidays set in it slowly became a sad sorry shadow of its original glory, the windows had all been smashed and many of the seats had started to rot.

The shelter was mostly used by drunks and the homeless, with it decaying the Council elected to see if they could lease it out to a private developer as a café/restaurant as a way of restoring the structure and a way to generate an income from it.

The lease was signed and a £300,000 restoration commenced on the 10th November 2014.










 ABOVE & RIGHT: Photographed in 2012 the Horseshoe sun shelter looks to a brighter future on the horizon as a restoration into a café/restaurant. (C) Southend Timeline.






 LEFT: The restored sun shelter is now the Oyster Creek Kitchen a popular eating venue with amazing views of the Thames Estuary.













With the new esplanade taking shape the influential Westcliff Ratepayers Association raised complaints about the poor and deteriorating condition of Occupation Road (now known as Shorefield Road) leading off Station Road.

A new road linking the newly laid Western Esplanade to Shorefield Road was proposed, with would also provide a second access route to the recently built Palmeira Towers (built between 1902-1903).

The land immediately in front of the Palmeira Towers had a narrow road with a earth bank leading down to Western Esplanade, the reconstruction plans also included a new wider road to access Station Road, this would be supported by 17 arches under the road, it was proposed that the arches could be rented out at £211 per year for such uses as boat houses or shops with another converted into public toilets.

Work started in January 1905, with applications opening for lettings in May 1905, it was April 1906 when the first lettings were agreed, the newly built arches were given the name Palmeria Parade.


ABOVE: Two views of Westcliff Esplanade looking towards Shorefield Road, taken 92 years apart, the first in 1922 the second in 2014, many of the buildings have changes, there are more cars but the seawall and railing along the top remain unchanged. (C) Southend Timeline

BELOW: Postcard view of the then recently completed Esplanade and arches.














LEFT: Shorefield Road seen in 1950, the car is still to this very day struggling to get up the hill! (C) Southend Timeline.  


Western Esplanade

The plans to widen mile long stretch of Western Esplanade between Palmeria Parade and The Pier were originally submitted in December 1909, however amendments were ordered and the new plans were submitted for approval in April 1910.

 ABOVE: Palmeria Parade is better known now as "The Arches" the historic structure marks the start (or end) of Western Esplanade or is it the start or end of Westcliff Esplanade or both...! They are occupied by the popular Westcliff Cafes.


BELOW: Western Esplanade on 30th June 1922, boats are laid up on the edge of the road, whilst Shorefield Road is in the foreground, one of the bastions is to the centre left of the photo. (C) Southend Timeline


BELOW: The same boat as in the image seen above here in 1932 was part of the Westcliff Yacht Club. (C) Southend Timeline 


The amended plans were to provide a new seawall backfilled and levelled to provide a duel carriageway with promenading footpaths either side of the road, the opposite lanes of traffic were to be divided by a central reservation of lawns and flowerbeds.  The works were to be undertaken in stages of ¼mile the first being Palmeria Parade to the Nore Yacht Clubhouse, the tender for the work was signed on 20th December 1910 with work starting shortly after.  


 ABOVE: Postcard view of Western Esplanade before the widening, no cars just a space for promenading, boats pulled out of the water for maintenance, at the time of this depiction nude swimming was still popular but modesty was still paramount so the bathing machines were used to strip off in and wheeled into the sea so that you could slip into the water unseen and then climb back in to get dressed.


ABOVE: A Later shot with the widened promenade open to cars as well as walkers, the central reservation was originally full of trees and shrubs but as the town grew these were removed to enable boats to be taken out of the water during the winter months, eventually the area became the car parking we have today.





RIGHT: A 1959 view of Western Esplanade, at the time the photo was taken the car parking space had yet to be laid on the central reservation (C) Southend Timeline





 The proposals also included two seating platforms to be constructed; these would jut out from the new promenade so that the walkway could remain free of deckchairs.  The first of these platforms was built opposite Shorefield Road, it was constructed by building a right angle into the seawall, a new wall was erected leading 56ft out from the promenade before another 90degree turn to follow the promenade for 158ft before a third 90degree turn lead back to the promenade , these areas were then backfilled before being levelled off.  This Bastion has seen little in the way of development, the kiosk has been the most prominent feature built on it, the kiosk has been rebuilt a number of times.

RIGHT: The first Bastion is virtually opposite the Arches and is popular with deckchair users in the summer. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015).




BELOW: The first Bastion photographed from Shorefields Road, the two small patches of grass are original to the construction. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed August 2015)




The second was built about halfway between the first and the Pier, this one was built larger with it jutting 88ft out in to the Estuary stretching 333ft across, they became known as the Bastions.

 The larger of the two Bastions has developed much more than the other, it became the chosen site for an open air swimming pool in 1912 after the opening of the Warrior Square pool in October 1969 the site became a Dolphinarium, the venture did not last long and it was sold to the Brent Walker Group who built the Westcliff Leisure Centre, this later became the Westcliff Casino.

LEFT: The second of the Bastions has been much more developed today it is the Genting Club casino. (C) Southend Timeline. (Photographed January 2015)




EXTRA CONTENT:  For more on the Dolphinarium click here: 


Western Esplanade is lined by Palm Trees adding a Continental feel, the first twelve went in during April 2010 in total 100  line the seafront, the majority are to be found on Western Esplanade.


ABOVE: Palm trees add a flavour of hotter climes to Western Esplanade. (C) Southend Timeline (Photographed January 2015)


In 2010 there was a complete repainting of the Western Esplanade parking bays however the changes did not go quite according to plan...

They were originally at 90 degrees to the road, the parking bays were repainted so that they faced the oncoming traffic, so cars approaching an empty bay could pull straight in, however this resulted in complaints that all cars would have to reverse out into the flow of traffic increasing the risk of accidents.

The bays were repainted within a few months so that they faced away from the oncoming cars, so drivers would pass the bay they wanted and then reverse in so that they could just pull forward to leave the bay, again people complained that if a car was parked alongside they could not see past it to enable them to pull out into the flow of traffic.

The method of reversing into a parking bay fully conforms to Department of Transport guidelinesThere have been seawater pools dotted along the seafront from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoebury since the esplanades were built, some of these are still in use and have been maintained and rebuilt new ones have popped up whilst others have been demolished.


2015 should see a major new seawater lagoon built on Western Esplanade costing £850,000 it will feature a 120-metre wall, up to three metres above sea level built from sheet piles, rock-filled baskets and boulders, the incoming tide would top over the wall refreshing the captured water, giving children a safe place to paddle or swim even when the tide is out.

The chosen site is immediately outside the Three Shells café, it is expected that the lagoon will cover the area roughly the size of a football pitch.

ABOVE: The proposed site of the new lagoon is along side the Pier. (C) Southend Timeline


 The eastern end of Western Esplanade is at the Pie, along side is Pier Hill that has seen many changes over the years. You can read more on the history of Pier Hill be reading this article on the Southend Timeline: Pier Hill 

ABOVE: Postcard view of the area immediately outside the Pier Hill complex of 1898, the widening scheme had not reached this section yet.

ABOVE: Western Esplanade from the Pier, no crossings! (C) Southend Timeline



Marine Parade

Marine Parade on the Eastern side of the Pier was not widened until 1931,

this side developed in to the boating lake, Mr Thompsons Railway and after over a decade of dereliction it was connected to Adventure Island via a tunnel under the Pier to become part of the Theme Park.

 RIGHT: Postcard view of marine Parade before the land reclamation scheme was put in, this area would become home to the Golden Hind and Adventure Island in the decades to come.




Marine Parade was also some to the Golden Hind pirate ship attraction, a replica of Sir Francis Drakes famous ship, this was replaced by the Queen Anne's Revenge that too has now been replaced by a new indoor children's play area,

EXTRA CONTENT: Click for a detailed history of the Golden Hind.





 LEFT: Modern day view of the City Beach (Marine Parade) the new illumination towers, the Kursaal Dome and the pitched roofs of the Sealife Adventure can all clearly be seen. (C) Southend Timeline



Works on the seafront included removing the duel carriageway and replacing it with a single lane in each direction, this enabled the public footpaths to be greatly increased in size.  The underground public toilets were filled in and replaced with ground level cubicles.

 ABOVE: The new City Beach promenade enables alfresco dining on those sunny days. (C) Southend Timeline


A new raised public exhibition space was built on top of the former men toilets, the changes also included repaving of the entire stretch between the Pier and the Kursaal and a new fountain.

The removal of the duel carriageway to a single lane in each direction has opened up the promenade to events such as the popular Classic Vehicle Breakfast meets, the first of these was held on Sunday 30th march 2014.

ABOVE: Classic cars, sunny weather, breakfast with a sea view what more could you want. (C) Southend Timeline.


Eastern Esplanade

Eastern Esplanade had been widened between 1899-1901 the wider promenade ran along to Bryant Avenue.  It was proposed in February 1902 that further works to extend the wider promenade to the Halfway House should be put on hold so that all efforts could be concentrated on the works on the Western side of the Pier.

However in April 1908 it was decided that the tram network needed to be extended from its then terminus at Minerva Public House to the Halfway House.

RIGHT: Undated photo of Eastern Esplanade with the looking east towards Thorpe Bay the cars outnumber the trams! (C) Southend Timeline

The works to extend the tramway system could only go-ahead if the promenade was widened so work commenced on the works needed in July 1908, costing £5700.

However the works did not include a seawall protruding above the level of the footpath.

The ground works were completed by the autumn of 1909, with the tramway extension being opened to the public on 16th November 1909.







A further widening of Western Esplanade took place in 1925, with the construction of the Marine Gardens alongside the Western side of the Pier, the site would develop in to Peter Pans Playground  and then Adventure Island.

During the widening works a public toilet block was included at Darlows Green, these toilets still remain but have been closed for since the mid 1990's. 


LEFT: The old toilet block has been left locked up for several years plans to convert it into a bin store were rejected in 2014. (C) Southend Timeline





Eastern Esplanade did not have a sea wall above the height of the footpath, this was to prove disastrous in years to come.

The esplanade remained a peaceful and tranquil place to promenade but by 1939 the dark clouds of war were gathering on the horizon as they grew darker it was time for Southends beaches to become no go areas the esplanades were restricted and the open vista from the road was about to change.

The War Office had seen how flat the Southend foreshore was, the gentle slope to the beach leading up to a sloping seawall and then on to the footpath and onto the road, many roads coming off leading to the heart of Southend would have offered any invading force an easy way to encroach deep in land, setting up a beach head for further landing.

LEFT: The only two remaining blocks can be found on Eastern Esplanade opposite the old gasworks site that is now the Premier Inn hotel. (C) Southend Timeline

To slow any attack 1804 concrete anti-tank blocks were erected the entire length of the seafront on the edge of the esplanade, there had barbed wire strung between them with a few left open to enable access, the beach itself was lined with scaffolding intertwined with more barbwire.

Once war was over the scaffold and barbed wire was removed from the beach whilst all but two concrete blocks were demolished and the esplanade restored to its pre-war look, however just a few years later this would leave a lasting legacy of sorrow.

On the night of 31st January 1953, there was a Spring tide in the North Sea, this coupled with a deep Atlantic depression passing just north of Scotland took a sudden southeast into the North Sea. This coincided with a northerly gale on the western side of the depression, these combined to force large quantities of water south.

To make matters worse the storm was reaching its peek at the same time as high tide was due at towns all along the east coast of England, this caused a storm surge some 5.6meters (18ft) above normal sea levels.

Southend saw flooding at the Kursaal, Gasworks, Esplanades and roads adjoining the seafront, other towns suffered much worse with 59 people killed at Canvey.

A raised seawall was erected soon after the floods running from the sunken gardens on Marine Parade to Thorpe Bay Corner.

Like any beach Southend suffers from longshore drift, the groynes act as a barrier to slow the drift of the sand but over time the sand will still be washed from the beaches.

With the level of sand falling the foundations of the seawall were slowly being exposed.

To help boost the towns flood defences the entire beach from Adventure Island to Lynton Road, Thorpe Bay was replenished, work started in October 2001 on repairing and sections of the seawall that had been damaged, following the wall repairs the task of topping up the sands commenced.

Much of the sand was pumped ashore from the sandbanks that are dotted around the Thames Estuary.


LEFT: .: The seawall seen from the seawall, this 1981 view shows how low the sand had become over the decades of long shore drift, the replenishment of the beach has seen the level of the sand raised up to that of the bottom of the vertical seawall.  (C) Southend Timeline




The cost of the scheme was £6million of which £2.6million was paid for by a Central Government grant.

The works saw improved slipways being constructed for the launching of yachts.

A dredger was suck the sand up from the estuary and pump it ashore through a pipe up too two miles long in a sand/water mix, the sand being heavier would remain on the beach whilst the water would run away.

An extensive study lasting over a year in to the wildlife habitats helped designers design the lay of the new beach.

The Marine Parade section was to become known as City Beach

A large public sun shelter was built on Eastern Esplanade, it featured a large glazed frontage overlooking the sea with public toilets below.  As the draw of British seaside holidays declined the shelter was used less and less by holiday makers, many of the windows were broken and it was used as a place for homeless to bed down at night, with the cost of maintaining it increasing the council locked it up and offered it on a lease as a restaurant, it was soon acquired and a complete renovation was carried out resulting in the popular Ocean Beach café/bar/bistro


 LEFT & BELOW: The sun shelter on Eastern Esplanade before its renovation. (C) Southend Timeline























ABOVE: The Ocean Beach, creating jobs by giving a new lease of life to an old underused shelter. (C) Southend Timeline

Thorpe Esplanade

Thorpe Esplanade runs from Warwick Avenue to Thorpe Bay Corner/Ness Road, this was widened at the same time as the Western Esplanade works.

The tram network was also extended along Thorpe Esplanade  there was a double set of tracks laid down offset to the seaward side of the new front.

The tram network extended as far as Thorpe Hall Avenue, the trams would turn up and away from the seafront heading up towards Southchurch Road and loop back towards Southend.

The Thorpe Hall Boulevard (Thorpe Hall Avenue) section of the tramway network was one of the first in the country to make use of segregated reserved tracks, these were built on the central reservation of the up and coming area, threes and shrubbery were planted along the edge of the tramway to hide the trams from the new and expensive housing being built.

Thorpe Esplanade has the last "Tram Shelter" on it, there is a charity that is in the process of rising funds to completely rebuild the shelter so that it can accommodate a shelter specially designed to cater for the disabled.

RIGHT: The old Tram Stop Shelter is due to be demolished and rebuilt as a shelter for disabled people to visit the beach. 

Check out: for further details.


Thorpe Esplanade was used by the more discerning Lady and Gentleman, with it's large public greens and few entertainments it was the quite end of the much more boisterous Central Southend seafront.

ABOVE: One of the large open greens on Thorpe Esplanade now acts as the Thorpe Esplanade Car Park


BELOW: More formal seating on Thorpe Esplanade surrounding planted garden area.


Depending on what way you have/are going to be walking we finally or about to undertake many miles of walking, reach or depart the end/start of this look at the Esplanades of Southend.

Whilst there are still seafront paths past Thorpe Bay corner they are not officially part of the Esplanades, past this point are the old ranges and onto Shoebury East Beach.   

The Esplanades at War

As you have already read a series of 1804 concrete anti-tank blocks were erected the entire length of the seafront, the immense task saw the defence stretch 3 1/4 miles from Chalkwell Rail Station in the west to Thorpe Bay in the east, the 1804 re-enforced concrete blocks each 5ft square and upto 7ft tall weighed in at several tons, in between each block was strung barbed wire to repel troops on foot.

Road Defences

To further slow any invasion each and every road leading off the seafront excluding a few were completely blocked off, those that were not completely blocked were set up check points and in the event of a landing taking place a Socket Rail Defence could be locked in place, these type of defence was made from 90lbs off cuts of steel rails or RSJ's bent to create a "V" shape, they were given the nickname "hairpins" these were dropped into special sockets set into the road.

Further defences included concrete pimples and concrete pyramids both designed to stop or at least slow any tanks taking part in an invasion.

Chalkwell Esplanade

 Chalkwell Avenue Concrete Pimples
 Crowestone Road Concrete Pyramids & Socket Rail Defence




Western/Westcliff Esplanade

Grosvenor Road Concrete Pimples
Cobham Road Concrete Pimples
 Pembury Road Concrete Pimples
 Palmerston Road Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 Shorefields Road Concrete Pyramids & Socket Rail Defence




Eastern Esplanade

Hartington Road Concrete Pimples
Pleasant Road Concrete Pimples
Southchurch Road Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 Beach Road Concrete Pimples
 Burdett Road Concrete Pimples
 Victoria Road Concrete Pimples
 Camper Road Concrete Pimples
 Chester Avenue Concrete Pimples
 Chelsea Avenue Concrete Pimples
 Elizabeth Road Concrete Pimples
 Bryant Avenue Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 Lifstans Way Concrete Pimples
 Plas Newydd Concrete Pimples


Thorpe Esplanade

 Warwick Road Tubular Scaffolding
 Clievedon Road Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 Walton Road Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 Lynton Road Tubular Scaffolding
 Burges Terrace Concrete Pimples
 Thorpe Hall Avenue Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 The Broadway Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 St Augustines Avenue Anti-Tank Scaffolding






LEFT: The amazingly still existing remains of the Clievdon Road Socket Rail DefencesIGHT: The amazingly still existing remains of the Clievdon Road Socket Rail Defences.
















RIGHT The amazingly still existing remains of the Walton Road Socket Rail Defences.











As well as the roads leading to and from the seafront being blocked the esplanades were blocked at strategic spots with only one or two roads available for access, the barriers built up on the long sweeping seafront road were designed to slow any invasion force easily using the long sweeping seafront road as a way to establish a long beach head enabling following forces to spread their invasion forces along the length of the seafront forcing the defending troops to spread their lines thin in an attempt to fight off the attack.

Esplanade Defences

 Gasworks Jetty, Eastern Esplanade Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 160 Eastern Esplanade Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence
 50 yards east of the Halfway House Concrete Pimples
 50 yards east of St Augustines Avenue Concrete Cubes & Socket Rail Defence
 20 yards west of Shoebury Common Road Concrete Pimples
 Top of beach Thorpe Slipway to beach huts Concrete Pimples
 60 yards west of coastguard staton Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence






Throughout the borough more than 70 roads saw some kind of barrier erected, today visible evidence of these defences are hard to find, however two very rare surviving examples can be found.

The seaward (southern) ends of both Clievedon Road & Walton Road both still retain markings in the road surface that are left over from the Socket Rail Defences.



A number of pillboxes are also constructed along the length of the foreshore, these were mostly built on the beach.

 Chalkwell bowling green Hexagonal pillbox fitted with a six sided conical roof
 Chalkwell Crowstone Avenue Hexagonal pillbox fitted with a six sided conical roof
 Southend Corporation Loading Pier Bespoke design
 Southend Gas Works Bespoke design built behind boundary wall
 Slipway Thorpe Esplanade Hexagonal pillbox fitted with a six sided conical roof


Another survivor of those perilous times is the pillbox at the former Gasworks site, it is hidden behind a curving red brick wall, a single brick having been removed from the wall to permit a firing position.


ABOVE: Hidden behind the red brick wall, curving inwards is the last remaining World War 2 pillbox on the seafront.


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