Pier Hill

Sea of Change Southend-on-Sea

Pier Hill Southend-on-Sea

Pier Hill Buildings

The

land

lying

between

the

Pier

and

the

Shrubbery

was

utilised

for

a

new

building

in

the

1890s,

up

till

now

little

development

had

been

undertaken,

the

site

consisted

of

a

few

old

wooden

built

huts,

including

a

few

shops,

a

café

and

Ingram’s

hot

baths.

With

increasing

visitors

and

the

construction

of

the

new

iron

Pier

the

Southend

Corporation

Pier

Committee

announced

a

competition

(The

Pier

Hill

Improvement

Scheme

Competition)

companies

were

asked

to

submit

ideas

on

what

should

be

built.

Mr

Thompson

(of

the

firm

of

Thompson

and

Greenhalgh,

a

well

known

firm

of

local

architects)

competed

in

the

competition,

and

his

scheme

was

selected.

The

winning

design

boasted,

Baths,

Promenades,

Shelters,

Arcade,

Bandstand,

Reading

Rooms

and

Clock

Tower

at

a

cost

of

£18,710.

In

1896

the

stone

laying

ceremony

was

performed

by

Mrs

A.

Prevost

and

finally

opened

in

1898.

The

sea

baths

became

famous

throughout

the

country.

Several

of

the

leading

professional

London

football

clubs

sent

their

teams

there

when

preparing

for

their

more

important

cup

matches.

Additions

to

the

sea

baths

and

other

parts

were

provided

later

at

a

cost

of

£12,150.

In

the

1930s

the

Bandstand

with

clock

tower

was

removed

and

moved to Chalkwell Park.

Over the years the use of the building changed, it became a tourist information centre and the Pier Foreshore offices, the arcade opened as an aquarium in the 1960s. In the early 1970s the building closed and was demolished in 1977 to make way for the Pier Hill green.

2020 Statue of Queen Victoria Clifftown Parade

The History of a Seaside Town

Sea of Change Southend-on-Sea © 2010 - 2021 P. J. Wren. All Rights Reserved.

HISTORY
GALLERIES 1
GALLERIES 2
AUTHORS/PHOTOGRAPHY
WEBSITE INFO
SOUTHEND WATER CO
MISCELLANEOUS
HISTORY cont

The

statue

of

Queen

Victoria

was

presented

to

the

town

to

mark

the

Queen’s

Diamond

Jubilee in 1897.

The

Memorial

of

Her

Majesty’s

glorious

Reign

was

a

gift

from

the

Ex-Mayor,

Mr

Bernard

Wilshire

Tolhurst,

which

was

executed

by

J.

M.

Swynnerton

at

his

studios

in

Rome.

The

memorial

statue,

pedestal

and

steps

was

made

of

Carrara

Marble,

the

whole

work

standing

something

over

twenty

feet

in

height.

The

Queen

is

seated

in

a

chair

holding

in

her

left

hand

a

sceptre

and

pointing

with

her

right

over

the

sea.

The

original

position

selected

was

at

the

end

of

the

High

Street

facing

the

mouth

of

the

Thames

so

as

to

command

the

view

of

passing

vessels.

The

pedestal

and

chair

are

Gothic

in

design

-

Tudor period - the drawings were made by Mr. Edward Goldie, F.S.B.A.

In

1962

the

statue

was

moved

from

Pier

Hill

to

a

new

location

in

Clifftown

Parade

where

Her

Royal

Highness

is

still

today,

facing

the

Thames

pointing

out

over

the

sea.

On

23rd

August

1974

the

statue

was

put

onto

the

national

listed

buildings

register

by

the

English

Heritage

organisation.

In

1989

the

Council

of

Southend

received

an

offer

from

the

city

of

Victoria

in

British

Columbia,

Canada

to

purchase

and

ship

the

statue

to

a

new

location

outside

their

Provincial

Government

offices

but

the

request

was

rejected.

In

March

2011

there

was

a

proposal

to

move

the

statue

to

the

newly

updated

Victoria

Circus

(Victoria

Gateway), this was also rejected.

Unfortunately

the

statue

has

been

subject

to

vandalism

over

the

years

mostly

with

her

pointing

hand,

her

finger

and

hand

has

been

broken

off

many

times.

In

October

2008

Southend

based

Bedini

&

Sons

sculptures

carved

a

new

hand

from

Carrara

Marble,

only

for

her

finger

to

be

broken

off

again.

The

statue

was

professionally

cleaned

in

2016.

1898 Statue of Queen Victoria Pier Hill

Royal Hotel In 1791, under the promotion of Thomas Holland, the Grand Terrace, Grand Hotel and Library were built on a prominent ridge to the west of the ‘Old Town’. The scheme also included Assembly and Coffee Rooms. The Terrace and Hotel was completed in 1793 and opened on the evening of the 8th July with a ball attended by 170 distinguished guest. Although the resort soon began to attract residents and visitors progress was slow, Thomas Holland, who had the Hotel and nine of the houses adjacent, was carrying a heavy financial responsibility. It was the period of the French wars when there was constant fear of a landing on these coast by the enemy. in May and June 1797 during the period of mutiny at the Nore the Ship Hotel was one of the Headquarters of the leaders of the mutiny. It was recorded that no depredation whatever was committed at South End by the sailors, but that the town had received few visitors during the spring owing to the fear of disturbances. The summer of 1797 Holland was unable to meet his commitments. A sale was held of “all the effects at the Hotel, Tavern, Assembly Room, and nine large dwellings Houses, on the Terrace, at New South End, Late the property of Thomas Holland”. In June 1800, the buildings and estate of New South End were sold by auction in London, described as A Leasehold Estate the sale consisted of the Capital Hotel and Assembly Room with all it’s appurtenances, and fifteen substantial well built convenient houses, with gardens, enclosed by brick walls, coach house and stables; delightfully situated on a noble Promenade (enclosed with post and chain). Also sold “a Gothic Building, intended for a Public Library; a range of coach houses in the High Street; and eight houses in Market Street”. The bulk of the estate passed into the possession of Mr. James Heygate, whose son, Sir William Heygate was mainly responsible for the passing of the Southend Pier Bill thirty years later, Other purchasers of houses on the Terrace were Sir T. M Wilson, Bart, Lady Langham, Mr. J.T. Hope, and other families, some of whom resided at South End for the greater part of the year. The Terrace, and the Hotel which was also called the “Capital” was renamed “Royal” following the visit to the Upper Town, of Princess Caroline. The Royal Terrace and Royal Hotel are still standing and in use today avoiding demolition and the redevelopment.

The Statue of Queen Victoria

The Shrubbery

The

area

called

“The

Shrubbery”

is

an

piece

of

land

in

front

of

the

Royal

Terrace

which

runs

down

to

Western

Esplanade

west

of

Pier

Hill.

It

was

an

area

of

beauty

and

well

kept

grounds

with

its

entrance

from

the

promenade.

There

was

an

admission

fee

to

enter,

in

1898

the

cost

was

3d,

each

person,

but

weekly

family

tickets

could

be

obtained

for

1s.

This

area

was

later

to

become

the

site

for

Never

Never

Land

which

opened

in

1935,

it’s

most

busiest

period

being

in

the

1950s,

in

1972

it

closed

and

Never

Never

Land

was

removed,

the

area

returned

to

as

it

was

before

but

this

time

it

was

free

to

enter.

In

1987

a

new

look

Never

Never

Land

came

back

to

the

shrubbery

at

a

cost

of

£250,000,

by

2001

dwindling

visitors,

vandalism

and

high

costs

of

running

the

site,

Never

Never

Land

closed

on

Tuesday

16th

January

2001.

In

2019

The

council

installed

the

sleeping

giant,

a

huge

grass

figure

growing

out

of

the

ground

which

is

hoping

to

draw

people

into

the

magic

that

is

the

memory

of

so

many

from

their childhood and will be future memories for new residents and visitors.

1976 Pier Foreshore Offices

1874 Royal Hotel

c1905 Royal Hotel

1890s New Pier Hill Buildings

Pier Hill Bandstand

Early view in the Shrubbery

Advert Promoting the Shrubbery

GALLERIES 1 cont
Ritz Cinema Ritz cinema was built in 1934 - 1935 on the corner of Grove Road and Church Road, at the top of Pier Hill, and was owned by County Cinemas, designed by Robert Cromie and built by Messrs. E.D. Winn and Co., of Knightsbridge. The cinema was built in six months by a labour force of four hundred. The auditorium had a seating capacity of 2,250 and was 115 feet long, 85 feet wide, the proscenium opening was 50 feet which at the time was the largest in Essex. This was classed as a super cinema built with modern air conditioning, a complicated, but modern electric system, a large Conacher organ with phantom piano, latest projectors with wide range sound apparatus. The Ritz opened on Thursday 14th February 1935 by the Mayor, Councillor A.T. Edwards, in the presents of a large gathering of representatives of all branches of activity in the life of the Borough. County Cinemas were merged into Oscar Deutch’s Odeon circuit in 1939, which was taken over by J. Arthur Rank in June 1940, on the early tragic demise of Oscar Deutch. The Ritz closed September 1940 because of wartime conditions and did not reopen until May 1942, a full schedule did not start until 26 July 1945 with the Saturday morning Boys and Girls Club. In 1956 the Ritz underwent refurbishment and geared up to become the replacement picture house for the Gaumont which had closed that same year. Many of the staff from the Gaumont transferred to the Ritz. Later the café at the Ritz became a ballroom, then subsequently became disused. The organ was removed and went to the Odeon, Blackpool. In 1968, the building received a further facelift, costing £6,000. Sadly on 8th March 1972 the Ritz as a cinema closed. The Ritz had been steadily losing money since the twin Odeon cinemas opened. Next, at a cost of £100,000 the Ritz was converted into the Top Rank Bingo Club, later being leased to Invictor Bingo. In 1978 the building closed and became derelict. Finally, amid a great outcry from conservationists, theatre and film enthusiast, The Ritz was demolished in January 1981. The car park of the Royals Shopping Centre now stands on the site of the Ritz.
Hotel Metropole This landmark large hotel opened in 1904, shortly afterwards it was renamed the Palace Hotel. The hotel was advertised as the only 5-star hotel on the South East coast. The hotel offered 200 bedrooms, Private suites, Hot and cold running water, Central heating and gas fires, Sun lounge, Palm court, 2 Masonic rooms, Suites for official and wedding receptions, banquets etc., Squash courts, Cocktail bar, Winter garden, Ballroom, and billiards etc., this was indeed comfortable accommodation for the visitors to Southend. The hotel served as a military hospital in both world wars. The comedy duo Laurel and Hardy stayed here in 1952 whilst appearing in a variety show at the Odeon in the High Street. In the latter years the building began to look tired and uncared-for until a full refurbishment took place and the new Park Inn Palace Hotel opened on 1st March 2010.

1961 The Ritz

1971 The Ritz

1977 The Ritz

c1905 Hotel Metropole

1939 Advert for the Ritz

Early view of the Shrubbery

The Lion Hotel The Lion Hotel was built b1840, In 1863 John Chignell is listed as the proprietor. The Pier Hotel opened on this site sometime around the ‘Lion’ closing and it being demolished. In about 1898 a portion of the Pier Hotel was rebuilt, it was advertised at the time as, ‘The Hotel which has been rebuilt is situated five minutes’ walk from the London Tilbury and Southend Railway, and about ten minutes from the Great Eastern. The Royal Stables are at the rear of the Hotel, and conveyances of every description can be obtained form the Proprietor at a few moment’s notice; in fact, nothing need be wanted to make to make life on your holidays happy. The management seem to anticipate your every wish, and strive their utmost to make you feel that you are at home away from home.’ The Proprietor was H. Choppin. Later further improvements took place under the ownership of Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co., Ltd., and opened as the Grand Pier Hotel under the proprietorship of Mr. Steve Slinger, the main building contractors were Messers. Jas Flaxman and Sons Ltd., 114 Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea. Mr. and Mrs. Steve Slinger were both well known, for five years he had been the host of the Spread Eagle Hotel, Witham, previously residing in Chelmsford, where they were prominently identified with the entertainment of the public. At the Empire Theatre there variety shows were on par with the best London entertainments. Mr. and Mrs. Slinger were also associated for some time with the control of the Select Kinema. The Grand Pier Hotel was demolished in the early 1980s to make way for the new Royals Shopping Centre development.

Pier Hill with the Lion Hotel arrowed

1977 Grand Pier Hotel

The Pier Hotel

Pier Restaurant The Pier Restaurant (previously Chignells owned by William Joseph Chignell who was a linen Draper) was next door to the Lion Hotel/Pier Hotel. The proprietor in the 1890s was Mr. A.W. Bates. Noted fish suppers served every evening 7 to 11. Hot dinners from 12:30 to 3pm cut from the joint with 2 vegetables, from 1/-. Teas, cup of good tea. Coffee or Cocoa 2d. Plain Tea 6d, with shrimps and watercress 9d, or with Ham, egg, or cold meat 1s. Beanfeasts and small parties catered for, accommodation for cyclist. The Pier Restaurant closed and did not relocate when this building was demolished.
Southend Picture Palace The Southend Picture Palace owned by Mr. R. Arnold was built next door to the Grand Pier Hotel and opened in June 1909. by 1913 ownership had changed to Mr. F.F. Ramuz who also owned the Gem Electric Theatre, Victoria Avenue, the name was also changed to the Grove Picture Theatre. In 1914, the name changed again to the Pier Hill Cinema, Mr Burgh was now the new owner having purchased the cinema from Mr Goldberg. The building had a short life as a bioscope, closing in 1919. For a time after it was used as a Billiards Hall, later being developed into part of a coach station, the building next door the other part, and used by Westcliff Motor Services. In 1981 the site of the former cinema was demolished for the Royals Shopping Centre.

Pier Hill with the Pier Restaurant arrowed

Pier Hill with the cinema arrowed

Pier Restaurant

Sea of Change Southend-on-Sea
The promoters of the scheme to develop a fashionable sea bathing centre on the Essex Coast had in mind the attractions that Brighton and Margate could offer, no attempt was made to re-fashion the village (Old or Lower Town), which had already won some small repute as a place for sea bathing. Instead of building or rebuilding in the old town of South End, what would be created was a new town or New South End (Upper Town). The area for development would be its western edge on the higher land above the cliffs, on what had been a barren plain, or woodland waste. The site was covered by a grove consisting mostly of ash trees, which extended along the Cliffs to the top of what later became Pier Hill. This would be a prominent position for buildings, a great advert for the resort to those who passed up and down the Thames, with extensive views over the Estuary, with tree covered Cliff paths leading down to the bathing place. By the year 1791 progress had been made in the building of the Terrace (Royal Terrace) and the Grand Hotel (Royal Hotel) by Thomas Holland. Mr. John Thomas Hope, who owned a house on the Royal Terrace. He had known Southend since 1791 and could speak of the condition of Pier Hill from many years‘ knowledge. The road leading from The Royal Hotel to the lower part of Southend, he said, was formerly nothing more than a transverse line down a slope of the cliff. It was then very steep and not more than breadth enough for a single cart. There was a gate in the middle of the road and the land on each side had fallen away so much that there was only room for the single vehicle. The road went from the beach up to the top of the Cliff was, Mr. Hope believed, to be Major Scratton’s private property and nobody else had a right to it. A footpath, however, formerly went along it the whole way. Major Scratton, he said covenanted by his lease to grant to the lessees up above a right of way down the hill. They contended that the Major was bound to find not only a road, but a good road. The work was done by himself or the shopkeepers. The trouble arose from the nature of the soil. The clay was of a brittle nature and when exposed to the atmosphere it crumbled. They often Wanted Major Scratton to use his influence with the parish to get them to take it over as a public road, but he would not do so. Before the road was made there was only one means of communication, a road down to the seashore that was MR. Vandervord’s house up to Prittlewell (Old Southend Road).
Prospect House Prospect House situated at the top of Pier Hill opposite the Royal Hotel was the home of William Warwick who had been the Doctor in residence since the 1840s. George Deeping a physician who had begun his medical career at Guys Hospital met and married one of Warwick’s daughters, he then joined her father’s practice. In 1877 their first child George Warwick Deeping was born at Prospect House, he later became a famous writer. The building would later become Goings, a popular fishing tackle shop. Prospect House was demolished for the Royals Shopping centre. The underpass constructed in Southend in the late 1960s early 1970s was named “The Deeping” after George Warwick Deeping.
Royal Library The Royal Library situated opposite the Royal Hotel was a part of the new Southend, it had good reading rooms and was popular especially in the evenings owing to the raffles and other similar amusements. In 1890 Charles and Zillah Bullock took over, Charles began to sell stationary and cigars as well as providing newspapers. In 1901 a Receiving Order was made against Zillah Bullock. In 1913 the Royal Library with joining land was sold at auction to Frederick Ramuz for £4,000. Later the building would be utilised for different business adventures until it was demolished for the Royals Shopping Centre.
Royal Stores The Royal Stores (Rod and Reel) was situated at the top of Pier Hill. Consisting of a Tavern, restaurant with seating for 200 people, smoking room and billiards hall. The Royal Stores had a long colourful life serving visitors and locals. The building was demolished to make way for the Royals Shopping Centre.
Pier Hill Fairground c1889 a fairground had been established on Pier Hill. The fairground lasted until the building of the Hotel Metropole in c1900. The ‘Roly-Poly’ ride secured all joys of complete seasickness, without leaving dry land.

1977 Royal Stores

Pier Hill with the fairground arrowed

1977 Prospect House

1897 Royal Library