By the dome it was known for more than seven decades, but these photos show the end of days for the Kursaal in Southend - when the attraction finally reached the end of the line.

The images, taken in 1974, show the rides and amusement that brought joy to countless thousands of revellers, being unceremoniously broken up and left for scrap.

The Kursaal had opened on a dreary July day in 1901. VIP guest Lord Claud Hamilton was chosen to lead the official opening. It absolutely bucketed it down. Yet despite the threat of a drenching, crowds packed inside and out of the Kursaal to experience the deluxe entertainment.

Echo: The once-famous Bowl Slide and other rides are left to rotThe once-famous Bowl Slide and other rides are left to rot (Image: Newsquest)

The amusement park went from strength to strength for decades. But by the 1970s the glory days were well and truly over, and for some time visitor numbers had been dwindling.

However, when stall and ride owners were given the news that the Kursaal gardens were to close for good - only a few weeks before the start of the summer season of 1974 - they were shocked beyond belief.

Many had been there for years, operating some of the Kursaal’s most popular rides. They had hoped they would be able to ride out the recent lull in daytrippers and that the venue would once again become a Mecca for visitors to Southend.

Echo: These look like bumper cars piled up ready to be scrappedThese look like bumper cars piled up ready to be scrapped (Image: Newsquest)

But it wasn’t to be. Les Goodrich was one of the stunned ride owners. He owned the Caterpillar ride and was left with a 50-foot steel crater pillar that he was told by letter had to be removed from the amusement park.

Les, 29, said at the time: “It will take me three weeks to dismantle the Caterpillar and move the ride from the gardens!

“But what do I do then? How can I sell a thing like that anywhere in the country with only weeks to go before the seasons starts?”

Les was one of four members of the Goodrich family with rides and stalls at the Kursaal. His brother Denis ran the Wild Mouse ride, while his parents Alf and Kathleen had operated stalls and sideshows - including the famous House of Fun - for 22 years.

Directors of the Kursaal had decided to close the garden section of the attraction, and only keep a smaller undercover area where the arcades were situated open as well as the skating rink.

Echo: Signs and equipment are left abandonedSigns and equipment are left abandoned (Image: Newsquest)

Other business owners nearby were also reeling at the news. Manny Devito, who owned the Minerva pub next to the Kursaal, said: “Closing the Kursaal gardens will make a big difference to me and the rest of the Golden Mile.

“It’s is a big attraction and the crowds who come from the Kursaal into my pub are obviously a big asset.

“We get Beanos and the weekend trippers who come to the Kursaal for the rides and a bit of fun.

“I think it’s a bad move to close the Kursaal as we are gradually losing out to places like Margate.”

Southend councillor Miriam Pavey wasn’t happy either. She was fighting to keep as much of the Kursaal open as possible.


“It would be difficult to imagine Southend without the Kursaal,” she said. “It is as much a part of the town as the pier.”

By this time in 1974 most of the rides had become derelict planks to wood with peeling paint and gaudy trimmings The mirrors had disappeared from the Hall of Mirrors, and the brightly coloured horses from the carousel - 48 of them in total - were now stacked up gathering dust in a nearby tea shop.

The Wall of Death, once a place of screaming enthralment and thrilling entertainment, now stood in empty silence. Another ride-owner, Jean Grecourt, had seen the brakes put on his rides.

Echo: The Super Jets ride is broken up in the Kursaal Gardens in March of 1974The Super Jets ride is broken up in the Kursaal Gardens in March of 1974 (Image: Newsquest)

Jean, originally from France and a former member of the wartime French Resistance, was also given notice at the last moment that his livelihood was over.

Together, he and his family owned three rides for which they paid a total of £6,000 in rent. They ran the Air Sport, the Whoopee and the Mont Blanc. More sections of the Kursaal, including the ballroom would close in 1977 and the entire building would succumb in 1986.

In 1998 a multi-million pound development breathed new life into the building but that too was to come to an end and today it stands pretty much empty, with its future the subject of much debate.