Southend: The World’s Longest Pleasure Pier

This weekend I visited Southend-on-Sea, and took a walk along the world’s longest pleasure pier. I was the most excited boy in town. Southend pier was built by the Arrol Bros. company from Glasgow and officially opened in 1890. The pier was the first pier to feature a single track electric railway to take visitors from one end to the other. Due to the exceptional length of 7080ft, the pier has suffered numerous collisions with ships over the years, with many of these resulting in the pier being completely sliced into two sections.

The pier played little par in the effort of the First World War, but during the Second World War it became strategically important as the Royal Navy essentially took it over, and named it HMS Leigh. Southend and its pier became one of the most heavily defended areas in Essex. Following the war, the pier re-opened to the public on 27th March 1945, and by 1949 visitors averaged 3 million per year. Sadly, in 1959 arsonists put end to the life of the Pavillion, and by 1960 steamer boats put an end to their Southern service, leaving the landing stage somewhat redundant. Following this, the next two decades bought more bad luck, with a succession of fires, drastic falls in visitor numbers and the removal of the rail track in 1982 due to safety reasons.  The local council made moves to close the pier and remove it, but luckily Locorne Amusements came to the rescue, and began to operate the pier on a trial basis, even going so far as to implement a diesel railway system.

In October 2005, another disastrous fire hit the pier, destroying many of the major historical facilities such as the railway station, the original pier-head and the arcade. On top of this, 130 feet of the pier was destroyed, with 65 feet collapsing into the sea. Amazingly, the pier was restored and re-opened on 1st December 2005.

Below I have shown some images of the pier through the years, along with some photographs that I took this weekend.

An Edwardian view of the pier.

An aerial photograph of the shore end, 1950.

A splendid 1950’s view of the length.

The pier today.


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