Warrior Square Gardens
Southend-on-Sea
History of Warrior Square by Warwick Conway Historically, the farmland to east of the High Street was known as the Grove Fields or Grovefields, after the wooded area on the top of the cliffs above the old town (i.e. the top of Pier Hill). This land, stretched from the cliffs to the Southchurch Road (to north) and to Porters (to east). Until at least 1869 it was all owned by the Scratton family as part of their Priory Estate. Until then, others who are described as 'owners' were leasing the land from the Scrattons or tenant farmers thereof. We know of Grove Terrace, that Scratton distributed the leases to the land of Grovefields to various participants of the New Town (Royal Hotel and Terrace) project in 1793. Thomas Holland added to his own share of the land by buying some leases from others but he became bankrupt whereupon Daniel Scratton sold the leases again in 1800, the majority of which were purchased by James Heygate. The Heygate family then 'owned' all the land from the Royal Hotel to Porters farm. It is not clear whether the house at Porters was included but William Heygate was using it as his Southend residence when he was Lord Mayor of London in 1822. When Daniel Robert Scratton sold his lands in 1869, the Heygate family took the opportunity to buy their leased land outright and so owned all the land on the east side of the High Street. This gave them the ability to sell on the land if desired and following Elizabeth Heygate's death in about 1876, the Heygate family to sell their Grovefield lands whilst retaining Porters as their local, family residence. The resultant sale in 1880 of their properties on Grove Terrace, including the Pier Hotel and Grovefields to the north enabled the development of Heygate Avenue and York Road in the town. At this time, the High Street was still being developed to south of the station. The Luker Brewery and Middleton hotel stood on the west side of the High Street to north of the station but the land north of the station on the east side of the High Street was still farmland. The first plans for 3 houses on Warrior Square are dated 1876. Essex Records Office hold 4 sale catalogues for various numbers of plots of building land on the 'Warrior Square Estate' dated 1881 of which 2 are specifically dated in July and September of that year. These included plots on the High Street and one refers to a 'Warrior Square Road'. This gives us the date when we can say that Warrior Square was built. The building plans for the Victoria Hospital were dated 1887 and it is worth noting that the hospital resulted from public subscriptions. Two further sale catalogues are dated 1890 and there are plans for a house and offices in that year but most of the building plans date from 1891 and through to about 1906. Even so a 1897 map shows properties existing only on the south side of the square (between the High Street and the Victoria Hospital) so that side of the square was built first. That map was probably surveyed about 1895 and most of the square itself was probably built in the late 1890s to early 1900s. Such squares are typical of late Victorian residential developments near town centres. Prittlewell Square is another example. Land prices were high in areas close to the town centres yet the intention was to build quality housing for those making money in the town who needed accommodation nearby. The solution was to build on smaller plots so that houses were closer together and this left space only for each property to have a small yard rather than a garden. To make up for the lack of private gardens, the square in the middle of the houses was landscaped as a private, communal garden for the use of residents only. This also served the custom of the Victorian middle classes to take an evening or Sunday stroll, dressed in their finest clothes to show themselves and greet their neighbours. Thus, Warrior Square was originally a garden for the residents who lived there and who paid 1 guinea per year for the use thereof. The same was true for Prittlewell Square (with the bowling green providing allotments) and also the Shrubbery which, although not technically a 'square', provided a private garden for the residents of Royal Terrace. To some extent, the nature of the square has changed over the years in accordance with the public transport arrangements. From 1902 the trams that brought shoppers and others to the town centre, ran down the High Street to a terminus outside the Middleton Hotel. Warrior Square remained a relatively quiet residential area other than the building of a skating rink (1909) which became the Strand Cinema in 1911. An indoor shopping arcade (the Strand Arcade) was also built adjacent to the cinema on its south side. Although both buildings had their main entrances on Warrior Square they also had rear entrances on Leather Lane which could be accessed from the High Street via a passageway or from an exit at the back of the large Keddies store. The tram system at that time consisted of single tracks with occasional passing spaces. But as the trams became busier the tracks were gradually doubled (from 1907 to 1920) to allow more cars to run. The High Street trams were already becoming problematic for other traffic and so it was not doubled. Instead a tram track was built through Warrior Square connecting the Southchurch Road and High Street lines to form a loop that trams went around without needing to change direction. The main tram stop was then in Warrior Square and this eventually replaced the High Street terminus stop. Warrior Square then became a busy place. By 1942, as trackless vehicles replaced the tram route, trolley buses ran through Warrior Square. In the post-WW2 years and by the early 1950s the trolley bus routes had followed the tram routes in closing down. By then, buses were running down the High Street and the use of cars was increasing and so Warrior Square once again became a quiet place, where I can remember sitting for a packed lunch with my parents as a respite from the bustle of a Saturday High Street shop. In this period, many of the houses around the square were occupied by offices of professional services including solicitors, insurance brokers, building societies and dentists. This tranquil time lasted until December 1966 when the north end of the High Street was pedestrianised and all through traffic was diverted via Warrior Square. By 1970 a main bus stop was located at the entrance to the square itself and across the road outside what was then a rear entrance to the Keddies store extension. Warrior Square had again become a busy, noisy place. In later developments more of the High Street was pedestrianised and Warrior Square West was extend southwards to a new bus station as Chichester Road. You may ask the question “why is the area called Warrior Square.” No definitive answer could be found. I could find no historical feature of the land that suggested a reason for the name. Google searches showed that the name 'Warrior' was also used as a street name elsewhere in Victorian times, most notably a similar 'Warrior Square' in St Leonards. Some of these may be borrowed names and I note that many street and place names that I know from Southend also exist at other resorts. Even so, it seems that 'Warrior' represents an important part of Victorian iconography. The name 'Warrior Square' first appears in Essex Records in 1876 on the plans of 3 houses to be built there. However, you cannot be certain that the name or date was not a later revision of the record's reference. The square itself was built in 1881 and that happens to be the date when HMS Warrior was hauled to Scotland to be decommissioned (in 1883). The ship had been placed 'in reserve' from 1875. This was the second ship to bear that name and was famous for being the Royal Navy's first armour-plated, iron-hulled warship, so famous that she had undertaken a publicity tour of Great Britain in 1863. The naming of Warrior Square being coincident with the end of service of this great warship suggests the street name was intended as a legacy of HMS Warrior. That would be my best guess. Other than its involvement in the tram system and as the site of at least one air raid shelter in WW2, the primary historical features of Warrior Square were the cinema and the hospital (later clinic). Skating Rink/Cinema The original structure was built as a skating rink in Warrior Square in 1909. In 1911, it opened as the Kinemacolour Theatre (cinema). Shortly after opening, it became the first cinema to show colour films in the borough using a process introduced by Mr A. Simpson of Kensington Road, Southend. In 1914, the cinema was re-named the Warrior Square Picture Theatre and in 1920 it was re-named again, this time as the Strand. The cinema was destroyed by fire in 1926 and rebuilt. It was rebuilt as the New Strand cinema to open in 1928. In 1955 the cinema was taken over by the Essoldo circuit and had stereo sound installed. Locally, it was known as the Southend Essoldo to distinguish it from the cinema of the same name on London Road, Westcliff. The cinema finally closed in May 1960 to be purchased by Keddies for £35,000. It was then gutted and fitted out as the Supa-Save supermarket that opened in the early 1960s. It was later demolished (c1970) and rebuilt as an extension to the Keddies store, providing the store with an entrance on Warrior Square. [Source: "The Dream Palaces of Southend" by Roy Dilley] Victoria Hospital The Victoria Hospital located in far east extremity of Warrior Square was formally opened on 30th May 1888 by Mrs Carne Rasch wife of the local MP. For the size of the population of Southend and large numbers of visitors this 8 bed sanatorium was woefully inadequate, but at least it was a start, providing the town with more than it had before. The cost of building the hospital and equipping it out came under the planned budget of £2,500. At a time long before the NHS came along, the hospital needed to survive through fundrasing and pledges of those goodwilled citizens in the community. As the hospital established itself within the community it not only provided a 22 bed ward and a children's ward (in 1906) but also provided nursing services into the community. It was comforting to see that the hospital built on its starting budget, managed to secure funding in full to keep it going for many years. In 1900 during the Boer War three beds were put at the disposal of the Mayor for the use of wounded troops or those invalided out of the military, fortunately this offer was never taken up. It was quickly realised the Victoria Hospital would become a key bequeathment from beneficiaries of the hospital's services, as well as those that worked tirelessly within the facility. The building was considerably extended over the years. When Southend General Hospital opened in 1932 on the Prittlewell Chase site, the Victoria Hospital became the Municipal Health Centre although many will remember it as the Warrior Square Clinic and its notoriety as the location of the Schools' Dentist in the post war years. The hospital closed and was demolished in the 1970s.
The Warrior Square Gardens originally formed the centre piece of a 13 acre site located just off the High Street. In 1881 the site was sold off in plots for the development of shops and flats. The gardens located in the middle originally housed tennis courts a croquet lawn and a “tastefully” laid out garden area consisting of flowerbeds and shrubs. These gardens were built for the exclusive use of residents of the new development for the annual subscription fee of one guinea. Over time the private gardens became more open to the public, the tennis court and croquet lawn were removed and the whole park was given over to grass, trees and shrubs. The east side of the square was redeveloped some years later to include the Warrior Square swimming pool (closed 2010 and later demolished) and a car park, the gardens had become somewhat unloved and were not an inviting place. The now defunct redevelopment company Renaissance Southend made a successful bid for funding to undertake a complete restoration of the dilapidated gardens, with the funding coming from the Homes & Communities Agency. Once the funds were secured and a design for the makeover laid out the gardens gates were closed to the public with work beginning on 15th March 2010. The gardens remained closed to the public for over a year, finally, after a £1.8million make over the gardens reopened to the public on Saturday 28th May 2011. Work carried out included the removal of a small number of trees to bring more natural light in to the gardens, the removal of hedges and fences and the planting of a number of new trees. Also included in the restoration were a number of raised flowerbeds, new seating and for the first time the gardens were lit with its own lights. Further editions to the gardens included lime walk on line stone paving and a wooden decking pathway underneath a line of lime trees. A new café was also included featuring a unique folding roof that, looked like a flower, when the café was open the “petals” are open when the café closed the petals folded down.
1970 Warrior Square Swimming Pool
2021 View with Warrior Square Swimming Pool demolished, area now a car park
Late 1890s Victoria Hospital, site later to become part of the Warrior Square Swimming Pool site
1914 - 1920 Strand Cinema, originally the “Rinkeries” skating rink
1969 Times Furnishing Building. Trees in Warrior Square. Warrior Square Swimming Pool in the distance
2021 Warrior Square Garden
2021 Glasshouse Café Warrior Square
Warrior Square Swimming Pool April 1967: Work starts on the new pool, March 1969: Construction completed, 20th May 1969: Official opening. Official opening order of events: 11:00am: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent, accompanied by Miss Fiona Pilkington Lady-in-Waiting, will arrive at Southend Municipal Airport by helicopter and will be received by her Majesty’s Lieutenant of Essex Colonel Sir John A Ruggles-Brise. Her Majesty’s Lieutenant will ask leave to present: The Chief Constable of Essex & Southend-on-Sea Joint Constabulary Mr J. C. Nightingale. The Vice Sheriff of Essex The Honourable R. C. Butler & the Honourable Mrs Butler. The Vice Lieutenant of Essex Major G. N. Capel-Cure and Mrs Capel-Cure The Clerk to the Lieutenancy Mr J. S. Mills and Mrs Mills. Mrs J. C. Nightingale. Her Majesty’s Lieutenant will then present to Her Royal Highness: His Worship the Mayor of Southend-on-Sea Alderman F. G. Feather. The Mayoress of Southend-on-Sea Mrs Feather. The Recorder of Southend-on-Sea Mr M. J. Morris and Mrs Morris. The Town Clerk of Southend-on-Sea Mr Archibald Glen & Mrs Glen. The Airport Commandant Mr A. P. Cusworth. 11:04am: Her Royal Highness will drive in procession along the following route: Manners Way, Cuckoo Corner, Victoria Avenue, Ring Road, Southchurch Road, Warrior Square. In the event of inclement weather Her Royal Highness will journey by cat direct to the Swimming Pool (where the above mentioned presentations will take place). 11:15am: Her Royal Higness will arrive at the Swimming Pool, where His Worship the Mayor will ask leave to present: The Deputy Mayor of Southend-on-Sea Alderman T. O. Ewart-James. The Mayor Elect of Southend-on-Sea Alderman Mrs V. E. Smith. Sir Stephen McAdden CBE, MP. Mr Paul Channon MP. The Borough Architect Mr P. F. Burridge OBE. The Baths Manager Mr R. Sreenan. The Contractors Representative Mr P. H. Bates. 11:17am: Her Royal Highness will take coffee with the assembled guests. 11:30am: her Royal Highness will be escorted by his Worship the mayor into the dais and will be presented with a bouquet by Miss Celia Feather, younger daughter of the Mayor and Mayoress. His Worship the Mayor will welcome Her Royal Highness and invite her to declare open the Swimming Pool. 11:35am: Her Royal Highness will graciously respond to this invitation. 11:38am: His Worship the Mayor will call upon the Deputy Mayor Alderman T. O. Ewart-James to propose a vote of thanks to Her Royal Highness. 11:40pm: A short diving display will be given by Olympic and international divers, John Miles, Alan Rogers, Kevin O’Brian and Mike Cannon, of the Ilford Diving Display team. 11:50am: Her Royal Highness will be accompanied by His Worship the mayor and guests to the entrance foyer where he will invite her to unveil a commemorative plaque. 11:55am: Her Royal Highness will leave the Swimming Pool and proceed by car to the County Borough boundary by way of Warrior Square, High Street, Pier Hill, Western Esplanade, Chalkwell Avenue and London Road A13.
Warrior Square Swimming Pool Opening Booklet
24th June 2011 Pool building being demolished. Pictures by courtesy of Martin Clemesha
New lighting and seats make the gardens more inviting
New Paths and Decking

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