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Secret Southend: 10 things you might not know about Southend
What don't you know about Southend? 10 hidden gems of the Essex seaside town revealed.
Southend author Dee Gordon's new book reveals there is so much more to the town than meets the eye. She digs into the history of the largest town in Essex to reveal eccentric inhabitants, secret passages, Roman burials and much more.
1. The Hope Hotel on Marine Parade pre-dates the more prominent Royal Hotel on Pier Hill by a number of years but started out at Southend's first coffee house. This was Capon's Coffee House (from 1791 or possibly earlier), later the Hope Tavern and then the Hope Hotel (c. 1798) an early coaching inn, extended over the centuries.
2. The now empty manor house on MoD land at Shoebury - Sutton House - was once owned by the Earl of Nottingham, who had built in 1681 when he married the daughter of the then Lord of the Manor, the Earl of Warwick. It was taken over by the military during the First World War.
3. In the early 1960s, one in five television sets purchased in Britain were made by EKCO in Southend.
4. The gentry and nobility from 1804 could bathe in Mr Ingram's Warm Baths on a rather ramshackle site below the Royal Hotel alongside the Shrubbery. The baths were demolished in 1897.
5. An enterprising vicar of Christ Church, on the junction of Colbert Avenue and Warwick Road, in Southchurch, wrote to P&O when the church bell was in poor condition and needed replacing asking if they had any former ship bells in store that were no longer serving a useful purpose. P&O responded with the offer of the bell from the RMS Orion. The bell is still in service today.
6. The Kursaal was the first such amusement park in the world. It opened in 1901 with an early appearance by the world's first lady lion tamer. The once huge park (now housing) included sideshows, roundabouts, rollercoasters, a water chute and the ballroom where Vera Lyn started her career.
Kursaal, Southend, soon after the outbreak of war in September 1939. Council park keepers are tarring over the pool at the base of the water-chute, prior to its use as an emergency reservoir
7. Trains were kept away from the seafront by the residents of Royal Terrace, who forced a clause through a parliamentary bill prior to 1866 insisting that 'no locomotive blows off steam within half a mile of Royal Terrace'. This explains the construction of the railway line which swerves away from the seafront just before it reaches Westcliff en route to Southend.
8. The iconic clock tower at the Shoebury Garrison entrance (built between 1860 and 1862) was needed partly because the noise of gunfire damaged the troops' and locals' pocket watches.
Got the time? Shoebury Garrison clock tower
9. The first thing you see when entering Southend Central museum in Victoria Avenue is an elaborate brick-built fireplace which was removed from a house called Reynolds in West Street, Prittlewell, in 1906 when the house was demolished to build an extension to the Blue Boar. The house dated back to the mid-fifteenth century.
10. When the first blood donors were enlisted for emergencies in 1939, the bottles for holding the blood were supplied by Howards Dairies in Leigh.
All extracts reproduced with thanks to author Dee Gordon. The Secret History of Southend-on-Sea is on sale now priced at £9.99 published by The History Press. It is available at Waterstones bookstores or by going to www.deegordon-writer.com
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