Seafront Defences
1939 saw dark clouds of war gathering on the horizon, Southend became the headquarters of the Thames and Medway Control. The Pier was taken over by the Royal Navy and named the HMS Leigh. Southend’s esplanades became areas of restricted access while the beaches had no access. 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. To combat this problem 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 up to 7ft tall weighed in at several tons, in between each block was strung barbed wire to repel troops on foot, the beach itself was lined with scaffolding intertwined with more barbed wire 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 as check points and in the event of a landing taking place a Socket Rail Defence could be locked in place, these type of defences were made from 90lbs off cuts of steel rails or RSJS 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. Once war was over, the esplanades and surrounding areas were gradually restored to their pre-war condition, two concrete blocks and one pillbox avoided demolition and are still visible today.

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Road Defences Chalkwell Esplanade Chalkwell Avenue Crowstone Road
Concrete Pimples Concrete Pyramids & Socket Rail Defence
Western/Westcliff Esplanade Cobham Road Grosvenor Road Palmerston Road Pembury Road Shorefields Road
Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples Concrete Pyramids & Socket Rail Defence
Eastern Esplanade Beach Road Bryant Avenue Burdett Road Camper Road Chelsea Avenue Chester Avenue Elizabeth Road Hartington Road Lifstans Way Plas Newydd Pleasant Road Southchurch Road Victoria Road
Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples
Thorpe Esplanade Broadway, The Burges Terrace Clieveden Road Lynton Road St Augustines Avenue Thorpe Hall Avenue Walton Road Warwick Road
Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Tubular Scaffolding Anti-Tank Scaffolding Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Tubular Scaffolding
Remains of the Clievden Road Socket Rail Defences
Remains of the Walton Road Socket Rail Defences
The roads leading to and from the seafront were blocked, the esplanades were also blocked at strategic points with only one or two roads available for access. The barriers built on the long sweeping seafront road were designed to slow any invasion force. The long sweeping seafront road would be used to establish a long beach head, enabling following forces to spread their invasion 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 160 Eastern Esplanade 50 yards east of the Halfway House 50 yards east of St Augustines Avenue 20 yards west of Shoebury Common Road Top of beach Thorpe Slipway to beach huts 60 yards west of coastguard station
Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples Concrete Cubes & Socket Rail Defence Concrete Pimples Concrete Pimples 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 Clieveden Road & Walton Road still retain markings in the road surface of the Socket Rail Defences.
Pillboxes A number of pillboxes were also constructed along the length of the foreshore, these were mostly built on the beach.
Chalkwell bowling green Chalkwell Crowstone Avenue Southend Corporation Loading Pier Southend Gas Works Slipway Thorpe Esplanade
Hexagonal pillbox fitted with a six sided conical roof Hexagonal pillbox fitted with a six sided conical roof Bespoke design Bespoke design built behind boundary wall Hexagonal pillbox fitted with a six sided conical roof
Apart from two concrete blocks, another survivor of perilous times is a pillbox which is located at the Premier Inn Hotel (formerly the site of the old gasworks), this hidden behind a curving red brick wall, a single brick having been removed from the wall to permit a firing position.
Hidden behind the red brick wall, curving inwards is the last remaining World War 2 pillbox on the seafront
The two remaining blocks on Eastern Esplanade opposite the Premier Inn Hotel (formerly the old gasworks)
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