FOR many, the arrival of the El Galeon floating museum at Southend Pier has resulted in memories flooding back of the city’s original tall ship attraction - the Golden Hind.

The Spanish galleon - a huge hit with visitors - was due to leave the pier yesterday after making a pit stop in Southend. Its visit left many people hankering after the days when the Golden Hind was the main attraction on the seafront.

The lifesize replica of St Francis Drake’s famous galleon – the first ship to sail around the world in Elizabethan times - opened in June 1949. It offered a breath of fresh air to post-war Southend tourism, with crowds eager to scramble onboard and explore the ship’s chamber of horror waxworks display.

Echo: The Golden Hind on Southend seafront was illuminated at night during the 1950sThe Golden Hind on Southend seafront was illuminated at night during the 1950s (Image: Newsquest)

Permanently docked in the boating pool (the former water chute) adjoining Southend Pier, the attraction was built in the hope it would give the town a much-needed tourism boost in the economically gloomy post-war years.

It took Southend men - mostly former seamen - less than two years to build the wooden structure, using “3,000 fathoms” of rigging.

Onboard was a waxwork exhibition by Tussauds, showing how men lived and worked in the confined space of the real warship and how the guns were used in action. Some gory waxworks demonstrated the punishments meted out to mutineers as well as the bloody work of pirates.

There was also a popular waxwork sculpture of the knighting of Sir Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth I.

Echo: The damage to the waxworks of surveyed after the 1954 vandal attackThe damage to the waxworks of surveyed after the 1954 vandal attack (Image: Newsquest)

In the week before the attraction was officially opened to the public hundreds of Southend schoolchildren were invited to explore the vessel and to have the run of the ship for free.

Southend’s Golden Hind gave countless tourists pleasure over the years until its dwindling visitor numbers saw it sink in popularity.

It even became a target for vandals. In 1954, on St Patrick’s Day, the replica ship was wrecked by “marauders” who broke in and ran amok. Yobs forced their way into the ship and smashed the face of the waxwork model of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I – in an act of undignified mischief they even robbed both waxworks of their wigs.

Echo: The replica galleon is pictured in 1950, shortly after openingThe replica galleon is pictured in 1950, shortly after opening (Image: Newsquest)

Waxworks had been a popular feature on the front for many years. In fact in 1932 Henry Mosby was employed as a “human waxwork”, his job being to stand at the end of Southend Pier and conceal himself amongst an exhibition of dozens of wax figures.

Every day he’d stand as still and quiet as humanly possible to fool or scare visitors to the pierhead waxwork display, which had been sculpted and installed by Louis Tussaud - the great-grandson of the famous Madame Marie Tussaud, and the same people had produced the Golden Hind wax sculptures.

Mr Mosby was so gifted at posing motionless that visitors would rustle through their accompanying booklet to find out the name of this incredibly human-looking exhibit. He was constantly pinched by visitors and once even had someone sick pins in him to see if he was real.

As for the Golden Hind, as time and tide took its toll on the attraction and ideas about what constituted a fun family day out began to change, ever-increasing maintenance costs led to its closure 1997. It was replaced by a new ship attraction, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, but this never seem to have the gravitas of the Hind.

Interestingly, when Drake sailed off in his ship in 1577 it wasn’t called the Golden Hind but the “Pelican”. He renamed it mid-voyage in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden hind - a female red deer.