SOUTHEND gasworks and the old gas jetty, sometimes referred to ironically as “Southend Pier Jnr”, in January 1970.

The, now demolished, Gas Board building in the foreground had just been completed.

The gasworks, which began supplying the burgeoning town with gas from the site then at its eastern fringe in 1855, became a sprawling industrial development, stretching from Northumberland Road to the seafront, and from Victoria Road to Arnold Avenue and Burnaby Road.

The firm W J Holding, of Milton Street, Southend, built brick buildings and a furnace on the site in the 1890s.

Its gas holders would become a feature of the lower town’s skyline for the best part of a century.

But visitors weren’t drawn by the gasworks’ impressive scale – Edwardian holidaymakers sat on the beach opposite, where coal to produce the gas was unloaded on to the corporation pier, believing the mixture of coal tar vapour and sea air was good for their chests.

Small coal-carrying ships and sailing barges would tie up alongside the jetty, which jutted out into the river about 200 yards, and the coal would be unloaded on to a hopper.

From the coal hopper, small trucks would take the coal to the main furnace. Hot ashes would be brought back by the same method and tipped into the sea.

At low tide, the debris would be picked up and loaded into barges.

Coke, a by-product of the gas production, was also taken away on barges, but one would often see people waiting outside the works with wooden handcarts, because when the coke was cool enough, it could be bought cheaply.

Much of the gasworks was cleared by the Sixties, with the advent of North Sea gas making the process unnecessary.

However, Esplanade House was built at the southern end of the site, on Eastern Esplande, to house North Thames Gas Board staff.

Robert Leonard Estates agreed to tear down Esplande House as part of a deal with Premier Inn and a wrecking crew started demolition last November.