SOUTHEND Pier remains the greatest asset for our town and for many, its chequered history with a series of fires and even a boat crashing into it evokes so many memories.

Raiding the Echo’s archives, here are pictures from 1973 – three years before a fire destroyed much of the pierhead in 1976.

The fascinating pictures show the old bowling alley with the old ‘sun lounge’ at the top and the old pier entrance.


Others show the pier in all its glory sprawling 1.3-miles into the Thames Estuary.

The blaze in 1976 was battled by firefighters working on the pier and from boats, and even using a crop-spraying light aircraft.

A year after the 1976 blaze, another fire damaged the bowling alley.

But the 1970's fires were not the first. In 1959, a fire destroyed the historic pavilion at the shore end of the pier, leaving more than 500 people trapped on the other side of the fire who had to be rescued by boat.


And the fires continued.

On June 7, 1995 the AMF bowling alley burnt down as firefighters again mounted a huge operation to save the landmark. 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.


On October 9, 2005 a fire severely damaged much of the old pierhead including the railway station, the Jolly Fisherman pub, shell shop, snack bar and ice cream shop.


Much of the wooden planking was destroyed, but the main iron structure was largely undamaged. Heat from the fire was so intense that the Pier Railway tracks buckled and trains could only run to about 49 feet (15m) short of the old station.


The fire was thought to have started in the pub at around 10.45pm, but due to the location and the damage (several buildings collapsed into the water) the cause has never been formally determined, although it was treated as an accident and some suggested it may have been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette.