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.

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Westcliff Esplanade Grosvenor Road to the Piccadilly Steps (Holland Road) 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 merged with Western Esplanade. In August 1901 the final plans included a seawall backfilled with rubble and soil, the rubble was brought 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, and 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 through, was erected at the foot of Grosvenor Road. A public toilet block was built, over time these fell in to a state of disrepair. The building was eventually offered for lease, conversion to a café or restaurant with a stipulation that some form of public toilets were kept. The lease was signed and saw the site become the popular Toulouse Restaurant, with public toilets at one end, the toilets are open during the summer season only. Over the years the seawall has been maintained, the footpath and road resurfaced several times, a survivor from the day is the original railings that top the seawall, the stretch from the old Westcliff Jetty to the first bastion remains. The railing originally stretched from the bastion to Chalkwell. This section marks the position where the Westcliff Jetty was located.
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. 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, cars approaching an empty bay could pull straight in, 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, 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 guidelines. There 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 saw a major new seawater lagoon built on Western Esplanade costing £850,000 it featured a 120-metre wall, with 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 was immediately outside the Three Shells café. At the eastern end of Western Esplanade is the Pier, along the side of the Pier is Adventure Island (formerly Peter Pans Playground and before that the Sunken Garden), opposite is Pier Hill, all have seen many changes over the years.
Marine Parade The Pier to Southchurch Avenue (The Kursaal) Marine Parade on the Eastern side of the Pier was not widened until 1931, this side developed in to the boating lake and Mr Thompsons Railway, after over a decade of dereliction it was connected to Adventure Island via a tunnel under the Pier to become part of Adventure Island.
Eastern Esplanade Southchurch Avenue (The Kursaal) to Halfway House (built 1870) Part of the Eastern Esplanade was 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. 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. The works to extend the tramway system could only go-ahead if the promenade was widened so work commenced in July 1908, costing £5700, 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 1900. 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 into Peter Pans Playground/Adventure Island. During the widening a public toilet block was included at Darlows Green, these toilets still remain but have been closed for since the mid 1990s. Eastern Esplanade did not have a sea wall above the height of the footpath, by 1939 the dark clouds of war were gathering on the horizon as they grew darker Southend’s beaches became no go areas with access to the esplanades restricted. 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, with many roads coming off leading to the heart of Southend, this would have offered any invading force an easy way to encroach deep in land, setting up a beach head for further landing. To slow any attack 1804 concrete anti-tank blocks were erected the entire length of the seafront on the edge of the esplanade, they had barbed wire strung between them with a few left open to enable access, the beach itself was lined with scaffolding intertwined with more barbed wire. 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 was restored to its pre-war condition, 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 south-east into the North Sea. This coincided with a northerly gale on the western side of the depression, these combined forced large quantities of water south. To make matters worse the storm was reaching its peak at the same time as high tide was due, at all the 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 long-shore 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, A dredger would suck the sand up from the estuary and pump it ashore through a pipe up to two miles long, the sand/water mix, the sand being heavier would remain on the beach whilst the water would run away. Much of the sand was pumped ashore from the sandbanks that are dotted around the Thames Estuary. The cost of the scheme was £6 million of which £2.6 million was paid for by a Central Government grant. Work started in October 2001 on repairing sections of the seawall that had been damaged also improved slipways were constructed for the launching of yachts. 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 became broken and homeless used it to bed down at night, with the cost of maintenance 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.
Thorpe Esplanade Halfway House to Thorpe Bay Corner 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, trams would turn up and away from the seafront 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, trees and shrubs 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. 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. 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.
Jan 2015 Start of Chalkwell Esplanade, beach by Chalkwell Railway Station
Jan 2015 Mid 1990s area where putting green was laid, now an open green space
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 the plans were passed and construction started in March 2007. When the excavation works started 500 concrete piles were piled 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. The term “topping out” is a ceremony held when the last beam is placed at the top of a building, and not the completion of the entire build. The construction was carried out by Allied Construction, of Rayleigh, who used local contractors. Nirvana apartments replaced the Grosvenor Care Home, the building is next door Admirals Place apartment block. When the recession hit the UK in 2009 the construction of the apartment block slowed and then stopped. 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 included 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 54 space underground car park, on-site 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 100 yard long six inch wide strip of land 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 property 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.
The sun (and rain!) shelter located at the bottom of Chalkwell Avenue. In 2010 the rear wall was moved forward to provide space for new public toilets, this was necessary because others further along the Esplanade were deemed too old and did not have easy disabled access.
The slopes were built at the same time as the Esplanade apart for gaining access to the beach from the promenade, these were also used by boat owners who dragged their rowing boats/small sailing boats out of the water and onto the promenade for winter maintenance. Disabled access was always a problem, Southend Council 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 on the beach.
During 1925 the local Corporation (Council) laid a green for bowls and an miniature golf course, the lumpy 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.
Jan 2015 The site of the 1925 miniature golf course, the now a rock garden with footpath
Many of the Edwardian and Victorian houses still exist on the north side of Chalkwell Esplanade, most of these started as houses before being converted into guest houses, with changing times reverted back to private dwellings, many have had additions and gained double glazing, some have been replaced by more modern houses, whilst others have made way for much larger exclusive developments.
1909 Chalkwell Esplanade & Gardens
1928 Chalkwell Bowls Green
Jan 2015 The landmark Nirvana apartment block
Jan 2015 The Toulouse Restaurant
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 Westcliff Esplanade to Shorefield Road was proposed, which 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 an 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 was given the name Palmeira Parade.
Jan 2015 Old railings
Postcard view of The Westcliff Jetty was a short wooden jetty, popular for fishing, demolished in the 1980s
2015 The Westcliff Esplanade
Access to the beach is via the original steps, the structures (groynes) built perpendicular to the shoreline 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, however, whilst they help the area they are installed they do have an adverse effect of depriving other areas of the sand, 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 in by road or as in Southend's case replacing sand dredged from the Thames Estuary sandbanks which is pumped ashore in a sand & water mix.
Jan 2015 The steps and groynes on Westcliff Esplanade
June 1925 Postcard view of the New Parade at Westcliff
The 1930s was an era when hoteliers would deter guests from staying in the hotel during the day, as this time would be used to carry out cleaning and other works in the hotel. With this in mind the Council undertook a building programme of improving the esplanades further, this saw the re-landscaping of the gardens, included the building of sun (and rain) shelters, one of these is the horseshoe shelter on Western Esplanade (below Clifton Drive). The shelter was 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 proved popular with tourists, but with the decline of British seaside holidays, the shelters became neglected. The Council elected to see if they could lease structure out to a private developer as a café/restaurant, this would work as a way of restoring the building and generate an income from it. The lease was signed and a £300,000 restoration commenced on the 10th November 2014.
The restored sun shelter now the Oyster Creek
2012 The Horseshoe sun shelter
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 changed
Postcard view of the then recently completed Esplanade and arches
Jan 2015 Shelter, bottom of Chalkwell Avenue
Jan 2015 One of the disabled access points on Chalkwell Esplanade
1928 Chalkwell Putting Green
Postcard view of Chalkwell Esplanade with period houses
Chalkwell Esplanade Chalkwell Station to Grosvenor Road 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. Work started on the Chalkwell section in 1903 and completed March 1905 at a cost of £22914. At the same time as the Chalkwell plans were being processed the Westcliff section was also being prepared for widening. The area of beach immediately outside Chalkwell railway station was owned by the Midland Railway Company, in 1909 a 20 year lease was signed with Mr Arthur Joscelyne Sr, who erected tents and a stage for public entertainments, the lease was passed on through the family. At some point the land ownership passed to Southend Council, who in 1948, refused to renew the lease. A green space was laid for picnicking and for fairs to be hosted, this site was made into a putting green in the mid-1990s 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.
Advert from the cover of a programme for the Vaudeville Theatre in London extolling the benefits of the Chalkwell Hall Estate March 1914
2012 Seating inside the Horseshoe sun shelter
Western Esplanade Piccadilly Steps (Holland Road) to the Pier The plans to widen mile long stretch of Western Esplanade between Palmeira Parade and the Pier were originally submitted in December 1909, amendments were ordered and the new plans were submitted for approval in April 1910.
Palmeira Parade is better known 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 Caf é s
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
The same boat as in the image seen above here in 1932 was part of the Westcliff Yacht Club
The amended plans were to provide a new seawall backfilled and levelled to provide a dual 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 Palmeira Parade to the Nore Yacht Clubhouse, the tender for the work was signed on 20th December 1910 with work starting shortly after.
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
A later postcard 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
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
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.
Jan 2015 The first Bastion is virtually opposite the Arches & was popular with deckchair users in the summer
Aug 2015 The first Bastion photographed from Shorefields Road, the two small patches of grass are original to the construction
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.
Jan 2015 The second of the Bastions is the Genting Club casino
Jan 2015 Palm trees add a flavour of hotter climes to Western Esplanade
Site before the new lagoon was built
Postcard view of the area immediately outside the Pier Hill complex of 1898, the widening scheme had not reached this section yet
Western Esplanade from the Pier, look, no crossings!
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
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
Marine Parade was also home 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. Works on the seafront included removing the dual 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. 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 City Beach promenade enables alfresco dining on those sunny days
Undated photo of Eastern Esplanade looking east towards Thorpe Bay
The old toilet block has been left locked up for several years plans to convert it into a bin store were rejected in 2014
The only two remaining blocks can be found on Eastern Esplanade opposite the old gas works site now the Premier Inn hotel
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
The old Tram Stop Shelter
One of the large open greens on Thorpe Esplanade now acts as the Thorpe Esplanade Car Park
More formal seating on Thorpe Esplanade surrounding planted garden area
The Promenade at Shoebury Common
The sun shelter on Eastern Esplanade before its renovation and after as Ocean Beach
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