The Central Museum is a museum in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. The Museum was originally built in 1905 as a free library, with £8000 of funding from Andrew Carnegie. The architect was Henry Thomas Hare. Displays reflect the story of Southend's growth as a major seaside destination and its rich natural history and fishing heritage. The Museum also features a collection of original Ekco radios, manufactured by E.K. Cole & Co. Ltd. (or 'Ekco') formerly based in Southend. In the 1930s, this company was one of Britain's largest radio manufacturers. The museum contains a planetarium constructed by astronomer Harry Ford in 1984, unfortunately there is no wheelchair access to the Planetarium floor. There is wheelchair access to the rest of the museum. On Friday afternoon's from 14:00 to 16:00 the museum has handling sessions dedicated to Pre-historic Britain where the visitor may handle a variety of replica and original tools from arrows to axes, scrapers to spears and discover that ‘prehistory’ does not equal ‘cave man’! Assistance dogs are welcome.
Southchurch Hall is a Grade I Listed Medieval moated house located in Southchurch, Southend-on-Sea. The Hall was home to farming families until the 1920s. In 1930 it was extensively restored and presented to the town of Southend by the Dowsett Family. The current hall was built c.1321 – 1364, and has a Tudor and a 1930s extension. The Great Hall is still presented in its 14th Century form. At this time, the Great Hall would have had a central fireplace and original smoke blackened timbers can still be seen in the roof (although much of the roof was replaced in the 1930s restoration). At the end of the Great Hall is the cross-wing, housing the North and South Solars. These rooms reflect changing fashions for more intimate rooms; the South Solar is a late 16th or early 17th Century extension. The hall probably stands on the site of a much earlier Saxon hall. The land on which it stands was given to the monks of Canterbury in 823 AD and the tenants of the hall subsequently inherited the family name "de Southchurch". This custom survived until the death of Peter de Southchurch in 1309.
In the 1930s extension to the hall, there is an exhibition of artefacts discovered during archaeological investigations of the site. The collections at Southchurch Hall include the oil painting Attack on Southchurch Hall during the Peasants' Revolt, 1381, by Alan Sorrell (1969). Interesting interiors are laid out in a series of period rooms including a great open hall reflecting life in the later middle ages, a Tudor kitchen with magnificent fireplace, and a solar wing displaying rooms in late Tudor and Stuart style. To avoid steep steps visitors must approach the Hall from the entrance located in Southchurch Hall Close, off Park Lane. There is limited disabled access to the Hall. On the lower ground floor there is access to the great hall, kitchen and the two solar rooms and may be reached via the entrance opposite the bridge. This entrance is not manned - please alert a member of staff to give assistance by telephoning 01702 467671 or going around the building to the courtyard area (the main entrance) and entering through the ground floor where the exhibition room, shop and welcome desk are located. There are no disabled toilets in the Hall and there is no access to the first floor bedroom. Disabled toilets are available near the lower level entrances to the park on Park Lane and Woodgrange. Assistance dogs are welcome.
In the early 19th century, Southend was growing as a seaside holiday resort. At the time, it was thought that spending time by the sea was good for one's health, and since it was close to the capital, many Londoners would come to Southend for this reason. However the coast at Southend consists of large mudflats, so the sea is never very deep even at full tide (between four and six metres), and recedes over a mile from the beach at low tide. Large boats were unable to stop at Southend near to the beach and no boats at all were able to stop at low tide. This meant that many potential visitors would go past Southend and on to Margate, or other resorts where docking facilities were better. To counter this trend local dignitaries pushed for a pier to be built. This would allow boats to reach Southend at all tides. The campaign was led by former Lord Mayor of the City of London Sir William Heygate, 1st Baronet, a resident of Southend.
On 14 May 1829 the first Pier Act received the Royal Assent. On 25 July the Lord Mayor of London Sir William Thompson laid the foundation stone of the first section of the pier. By June 1830 a 600-foot wooden pier was opened, based on oak piles. However this was still too short to be usable at low tide, so by 1833 it had been extended to three times its length and by 1848 was the longest pier in Europe at 7,000 feet (2,100 metres). It was sold by the original owners for £17,000 in 1846 after getting into financial difficulties. By the 1850s the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway had reached Southend, and with it a great influx of visitors from east London. The many visitors took their toll on the wooden pier and in 1873 it was sold to the Southend Local Board. In 1887 the board decided to replace the pier with a new iron pier. Part of the wooden structure of the old pier was used in the construction of a new mayoral chair in 1892. The pier was designed by James Brunlees, who had built the first iron pier at Southport in 1860. Work began in early 1887 and the new pier was opened to the public that summer, though it wasn't completed until 1889. It was an immediate success, so much so that demand outstripped the capabilities of the pier and a further extension was proposed. This extension was completed in November 1897 and formally opened the following January. An upper deck was added to the pierhead in 1907, and the pier was further extended in 1927. The construction work was undertaken by Peter Lind & Company that still trades today. The work was carried out to accommodate larger steamboats. It was formally opened on 8 July 1929 by Prince George, Duke of Kent. This new part of the pier was on the east side and was named the Prince George Extension; it was 326 feet. The work of doubling the electric railway, completed in 1931, cost £35,000.
On 27 June 1931 the Pier was the scene of a tragic accident. Ernest Turner fell from and was run over by one of the electric trams on the railway and was killed instantly. Turner, who was 38, was one of a party of over 500 workers and family members on the annual works outing from Ansell's brewery in Birmingham, where he worked as a brewer's drayman. The party had arrived at the pier having travelled down the River Thames from Tower Pier in London where it had arrived earlier that day. At the inquest, which was held two days later, the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. The Pier's centenary was celebrated on 23 July 1935 when Lord Richie of Dundee, chairman of the Port of London Authority unveiled a bronze plaque on the pier head. (Rather than 1930, as this date reflects the date when the Admiralty began to include Southend Pier on their navigation charts.) During World War II Southend Pier was taken over by the Royal Navy and was renamed HMS Leigh with surrounding areas being renamed HMS Westcliff. It was closed to the public on 9 September 1939. Its purpose in the war was twofold. Firstly it served as a mustering point for convoys. Over the course of the war 3,367 convoys, comprising 84,297 vessels departed from HMS Westcliff. Secondly, it was Naval Control for the Thames Estuary. Notable in its career was the accidental sinking of the Liberty ship SS Richard Montgomery which, still containing several thousand tons of explosives, is visible from the North Kent coast and Southend beach at low tide, and continues to pose a threat to navigation and the surrounding area to this day.
In 1945 the pier reopened for visitors. Visitor numbers exceeded pre-war levels, peaking at 5.75 million in 1949–1950. In the 1950s more attractions on the pier opened including the Dolphin Cafe, Sun Deck Theatre, the Solarium Cafe and a Hall of Mirrors. However, the success was not to last. In 1959 a fire destroyed the pavilion located at the shore end of the pier. Over 500 people were trapped on the other side of the fire and had to be rescued by boat. The pavilion was replaced by a ten-pin bowling alley in 1962, however, by then British holidaymakers were turning to package holidays abroad. The use of the pier slowly began to decline and with it the structure began to deteriorate. In 1971, after a child was injured on the pier, a survey was undertaken and over the course of the next decade repairs had to be made including much of the replacement of the pier walkway. In 1976 a fire destroyed much of the pier head. The massive blaze was battled by fire fighters working on the pier and from boats, and even using a crop-spraying light aircraft. The following year the bowling alley was damaged in another fire, and a year after that, the railway was deemed unsafe and had to be closed. In 1980 the council announced that the pier was to close. Protests led the council to allow the pier to remain open until a solution could be found. This happened in 1983 when the Historic Buildings Committee gave a grant to allow repairs to be made. The work commenced in 1984 and was completed eighteen months later, when Princess Anne named the two new pier trains (commissioned to replace trains scrapped in 1982) after Sir John Betjeman and Sir William Heygate.
On 20 June 1983, the MV Kingsabbey crashed into the pier, severing the new pier head from the rest of the pier, destroying the boathouse used by the lifeboat service and causing major structural damage due to the destruction of iron piles and supporting girders. This left a 70-foot gap in the pier. While this was temporarily bridged to restore access, full repairs were not completed until 1989. On 7 June 1995 the bowling alley burnt down. Fortunately the pier museum and railway station were not severely damaged and access to the pier was reinstated three weeks later, with all of the debris cleared in time for the summer of 1996. During the summer of 1999, the famous (former) pirate radio station Radio Caroline moored their radio ship Ross Revenge at the end of the pier for about a month and conducted a 28-day legalised broadcast under a Restricted Service Licence to the Southend-on-Sea and southeast Essex area. Whilst the ship was there, though, workmen working on the electrics at the pierhead end accidentally cut through electric cables, leaving the entire pierhead end without power. The Radio Caroline staff came to the rescue by hooking the electricity cabling up to the spare generator aboard their ship, enabling the cafe, shops and amusement arcade to run normally for a few days until the supply from the shore could be restored.
The pier head was extensively redeveloped in 2000 creating a new sun deck and, in partnership with the RNLI, a new lifeboat station was built. The new station is constructed in glass to give a strikingly modern style. It also houses the Southend Pier Museum and a gift shop relating to the history of the RNLI and lifeboats. The museum features exhibits about the pier's history, including a restored working pier signal box, a tram and train carriages, photos, period costumes, and a small collection of working old penny slot machines. In 2003 the shoreward end of the pier was redeveloped in a similar style to the pier head. The pier bridge was raised to enable taller vehicles to pass under it (a recurring problem had been double-decker buses getting stuck under the bridge) and a visitor centre/tourist information centre was built. This connected with the new Cliff Lift and redevelopment of Pier Hill that was constructed the following year. Assistance dogs are welcome and the museum is fully accesiible to wheelchair users.
Location : Central Museum, Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, Essex SS2 6EW
Location : Southchurch Hall Gardens, Park Lane, Southend on Sea SS1 2TE
Transport Central Museum: Southend Victoria (Greater Anglia Rail) then 2 minutes. Bus Routes : Victoria station bus hub is nearby.
Transport Southchurch Hall: Southend East (National Express) then 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 7, 8, 27, 407, 560 and B2 stop close by.
Transport Pier Museum: Southend Central (C2C) then 6 minutes. Bus Routes : 509 stops at pier entrance.
Opening Times Central Museum: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00
Opening Times Southchurch Hall: Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00
Opening Times Pier Museum: Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Bank Holidays 11:00 to 17:00
Free Admission to Central Museum and Southchurch Hall
Tickets Pier Museum: Adults £1.50; Children (5 - 13) £0.50
Tel: 01702 212345