Southend's famous seafront illuminations literally lit the way for many displays that have since become renowned across the country.

The light show, which dazzled daytrippers on the Golden Mile, was at one point even estimated to draw more than three million visitors per year.

They were set up in the 1930s, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

Superseded by Blackpool’s famous lights (even though it was initially based second-hand bulbs from Southend sent up to Lancashire), darkness fell on the seafront in 2007, both literally and metaphorically.

And for some traders on Southend seafront, they believe trade has declined on the town’s famous seafront since the switch was pulled in eight years ago.

Southend Council installed several illuminating lighting structures on the seafront as part of the City Beach revamp in 2011, that its head of planning Peter Geraghty described as “iconic”

But it is unlikely to bring back the historic illuminations, having said it didn’t have the cash for them in 2007.

And if the authority didn’t have the money for them in 2007, it isn’t going to have the money for them in 2015.

It has largely fallen to the owners of Adventure Island to brighten up the seafront with its stunning array of colourful lights.

Weekend fireworks have also been paid for by Southend Business Improvement District. But should the illumninations make a comeback?

Chris Petris, owner of the Rose Restaurant, on Marine Parade, said: “They were such a big attraction to the seafront. They were brilliant and at the forefront of light shows.

“Even our castoffs went to Blackpool.

“Seafront traders are crying out for business and trade has been going downhill, but everything the council has done recently on the seafront has been detrimental to it.

“There is no chance the illuminations would come back. The council stopped the majority of the funding and told the traders to pay for it. We paid in £500 a year for them.”

Southend’s illuminations were started in the 1930s, and at one point, were once judged third best in the world after Coney Island and Atlantic City’s displays across the Atlantic.

But in the 21st century, would they look dated?

And certainly, whatever your opinion of the design of the structures on City Beach, they are colourful, as is some of Adventure Island’s attractions in the dark.

But for some people that believe Southend should stick to what originally made it a successful seaside resort, the lack of illuminations on the seafront is just another example of the town losing its character.

Martin Richardson, owner of the Happidrome, in Marine Parade, said: “The seafront is in desperate need of the illuminations.

“Coaches came to Southend just for the lights, and kids used to wait around on the seafront until they were switched on. Now, people just go to Blackpool instead as Southend doesn’t offer it any more.

“We’ve said we will pay for them to come back on.”

But another seafront trader, whose business has been based on Marine Parade for almost half a century, says the lights would look tacky compared to the modernisation of City Beach.

George Zinonos, who runs Ye Old Chippy, said: “I remember when they were on, and by the end of it, they weren’t driving too many people down here.

“About 20 per cent of them were always off, too. I would not want them the way they were, I don’t think they’re something that will look good in the 21st century.

“I think they would look out of place next to what has been done with City Beach and the fireworks.”

Little demand for illuminations?

A senior councillor has suggested there is little demand to bring back the old illuminations.

Labour’s Ian Gilbert, who is deputy leader of Southend Council, has said the town has ramped up its Autumn season attractions on the seafront, with the Business Improvement District laying on fireworks for six weeks until mid-November.

He said: ““Southend Council is an active member of the BID and collectively the marketing and delivery of a range of events from Purple Flag through to this week’s Christmas lights switch on is bringing thousands to the resort.

“Some traders are reporting the best Autumn results for years during the last few weeks. On this evidence there would not seem to be much demand for the old illuminations to be reintroduced.”