FANCY heading down to Thamesmouth seafront this weekend? How about a stroll along Thamesmouth Pier?

The name just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Southend does, but believe it or not there was once a concerted effort to change the name of the borough to ‘Thamesmouth’.

It began in 1907 when Southend jewellery store owner, businessman and philanthropist Robert Arthur Jones wrote an open letter to the people of Southend in a newspaper, suggesting the name change.

Having heard that the Westcliff Tradesmen’s Association had called for the borough to become officially known as “The borough of Southend and Westcliff-on-Sea,” Mr Jones suggested a more dramatic switch: “I should like to bring forward again the idea of giving a new name altogether to this growing district – a name embracing Southend, Westcliff Prittlewell, Southchurch, and, very probably, in the near future, Leigh and Shoeburyness,” he wrote.

“Why not choose a name which would embrace all – a name which would do away with all petty jealousies, and, above all, a name which fixes the place geographically, so that the veriest schoolboy would know where Southend is situated?

“I claim that the name ‘Thamesmouth’ would do all this. How many people know Southend? And, if they do know it how many of them are ashamed of the acquaintance?

“It has been so long associated as ‘Sarfend’ where the trippers go to eat cockles and shrimps.


Rolling back the years - Southend could have been renamed Thamesmouth

“It is a well-known fact that many people living in Southend put ‘Westcliff-on-Sea’ on their notepaper. Hotels situated on our Southend Cliffs advertise as being in Westcliff-on-Sea.

Even in our Corporation Band programme there was a view of the Bandstand, labelled ‘Westcliff-on-Sea’. This being so, why not get rid of the name and adopt a broader, a more important title?”

Mr Jones – who was backed up in his quest by a number of other business leaders – believed Southend’s good fortune at being located at the mouth of one of the most important rivers in the world should not be ignored, just as the people of Bournemouth, Yarmouth, Dartmouth and Plymouth had discovered.

“In our travels on the continent and in the north and west of England, we find that most of the people we meet are quite ignorant of any such place as Southend. They say ‘is it Southsea? ‘’No,’ we answer. ‘It is Southend.’ They enquire, ‘Southend of where?’ and we explain. ‘Southend of the parish of Prittlewell.’ ‘But where is it they say’ and at last we make them understand by saying ‘Right at the mouth of the Thames.’

Jones was adamant the name change would bring a certain gravitas to Southend – and would help draw in more tourists: “We should get a great many more visitors here, because, although it seems to be the custom for Londoners to sneer and make little of our grand River Thames – it is not so with people on the continent, or with the people of the north or midlands. And it is not so with the Americans. These people have a great veneration for old Father Thames and I maintain that if we called this district ‘Thamesmouth’ we should get Americans running down from London in shoals.”


Fun - we could have headed down to the Thamesmouth seafront had the name change been approved

The idea kept floating around and by the following year – 1908- a formal petition was doing the rounds to change Southend’s name.

There were growing concerns that if Southend didn’t snap up the name, Sheerness in Kent would. Several Southend businesses were already using the name at this time to attract more custom, such as the ‘Thamesmouth Palace Hotel’, which had originally been called the Metropole.

But as it seemed the name change was in danger of actually succeeding, a number of residents and businesses opposed to the plan managed to turn the tide.

Letters pages in the Southend Standard were filled with opinions almost daily calling for the whole idea to be scrapped. One concerned resident wrote: “What is in a name? Sunshine if the name is Southend- on- Sea. But if you alter the name to Thamesmouth there is nothing bright or refreshing about it. As most Londoners call their river the ‘murky Thames’, Thamesmouth would be classed with Gravesend and Tilbury.

“I am sure the great majority of ratepayers would prefer to stick to good old sunny Southend-on-sea and Thamesmouth should be allowed to fizzle out into the sea.”

And the whole idea did. ‘Thamesmouth-gate’ was resurrected in the late 1930s for a bit but the idea soon evaporated.