The iconic dome has been a symbol of Southend for many years and now a new book is helping to keep the Kursaal’s history alive.

The amusement park once lit up the seafront in the town’s heyday. Now that proud history has been recorded thanks to a special community project.

The memories of those who lived, laughed and loved at the Kursaal have been painstakingly collected into a new book, called By the Dome it’s Home, compiled by the Circles voluntary project using a £29,000 Heritage Lottery grant.

Rachel Wood, the community development officer who led the project, said: “There have been some excellent publications by local historians looking at the rich history of the Kursaal.

“But this will be the first opportunity for many of the people now living on the site to record their memories and preserve them for their children, grandchildren and future generations.

“The real stars of the book are undoubtedly the residents of the Woodgrange Drive estate.”

Supported by Estuary Housing Association, which owns and manages the estate, the Circles project aims to offer help, support and education to residents. It came up with the idea through a memory book project working with sheltered housing residents.

Rachel said: “As part of this early project we interviewed and recorded the voices of those taking part, which turned out to be a highly enjoyable process for both those being interviewed and those doing the interviewing.

“This gave us the idea of expanding the project to the whole Woodgrange Drive Community.”

The Kursaal began life at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901, and by the Thirties had become one of the world’s first amusement parks, drawing visitors from far and wide.

Featuring rides such as the Uneven Caterpillar and the Waterchute, the park also pushed the boundaries of risk and thrill with attractions such as the Wall of Death.

But as the town’s population grew, and the lure of foreign getaways distracted holidaymakers from coming to Southend, the Kursaal slipped into decline.

By the Seventies plans for the current housing estate were well-established, and the iconic attraction closed its doors for the last time in the mid-Eighties However, the presence of the amusement park is still in evidence everywhere, from the physical reminders of building names such as Candy Steps and Swingboat Terrace, to the memories of the estate’s residents.

Rachel said: “We wanted to link the life stories to Kursaal, on whose land the estate is now based, and to capture the memories of those residents who went there and enjoyed the amusements.

“However, we also felt that it was important to bring the story up to date and capture the feelings and aspirations of the families living on the estate today.”

By The Dome it’s Home is available from Centre Place Family Centre, in Prospect Close, or by telephoning Rachel Wood on 01702 445306.

It is also listed on Amazon for a suggested donation of £9.99. The ISBN number is 978-1-907211-27-0.