Southend-on-Sea, or Southend as it is more commonly known, is a coastal resort in Essex, home to the longest leisure pier in the world. It is a popular weekend break destination for Londoners seeking some sea air, having been boosted by a visit from Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the wife of King George IV, decades ago. In recent years, Southend has undergone a bit of a makeover, with much of the town having been redeveloped for commerce and retail whilst still being able to retain its seaside charm. Seafront attractions include the Southend Cliff Railway, the Kursaal amusement arcade and Adventure Island, which houses the Sea Life centre. The Southend-On-Sea Film Festival takes place each year (its patron is Ray Winstone), while the London to Southend classic car run features classic cars lining the seafront in the summertime.
There are regular vintage fairs and markets in Southend, held at a variety of locations, as well as a popular record fair. Plus, for those who place culture at the top of their list, there are a number of theatres, a cinema, three major music venues and an impressive gallery scene. Focal Point Gallery is South Essex’s gallery for contemporary visual art, promoting and commissioning solo exhibitions and thematic shows, as well as offsite projects and temporary public artworks. In addition, there’s the smaller Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend Pier Museum and the Central Museum on Victoria Avenue. Plus, The Old Waterworks art centre operates from a former Victorian water works building, hosting a wide range of art exhibitions, talks and workshops.
When the town experienced a decline as a holiday destination from the 1960s onwards, it re-emerged as the home of the Access credit card, due to it having one of the UK’s first electronic telephone exchanges. It has also seen a rise in industrial parks more recently, and companies that have bases in the town include Olympus Keymed, Hi-Tec Sports, MK Electric and Royal Bank of Scotland. A lot of the working population also commutes to London on a daily basis, as the town is within easy reach of the capital.
Two A-roads connect Southend with London and the rest of the country – the A127 and the A13 – while the town is served by two National Rail lines. Besides its main railway services, there are also two local bus companies in operation, together with Southend Airport, which runs scheduled flights to a host of destinations across Europe.
All mainstream secondary schools in Southend are mixed-sex comprehensives. These include Belfairs Academy, Cecil Jones Academy, Chase High School, Southchurch High School, Shoeburyness High School and The Eastwood Academy. In addition, there are four grammar schools and two single-sex schools assisted by the Roman Catholic Church, St Bernard’s High School for Girls and St Thomas More High School for Boys. The main higher education provider is South Essex College, while the University of Essex has a campus on the site of the former Odeon cinema.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Southend is one of the most expensive places to live in Britain. Most property sales in the last year were flats, which sold for on average £187,108, while the overall average house price was around £286,644.