City of Southend-on-Sea
Clockwise from top left: Southend Civic Centre, St Marys Church Parish Church, Southend Pier, Southend-on-Sea City aerial view, and the Crowstone
Clockwise from top left: Southend Civic Centre, St Marys Church Parish Church, Southend Pier, Southend-on-Sea City aerial view, and the Crowstone
Official logo of Southend-on-Sea
Per Mare Per Ecclesiam
(By Sea, By Church)
Shown within Essex
Shown within Essex
Coordinates: 51°33′N 0°43′E / 51.55°N 0.71°E / 51.55; 0.71
CountryUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionEast of England
Ceremonial countyEssex
Admin HQSouthend-on-Sea
Areas of the city
 • TypeUnitary authority
 • LeadershipLeader & Cabinet (Labour)
 • Governing BodySouthend-on-Sea City Council
 • ExecutiveConservative (council NOC)
 • MPsAnna Firth (C)
James Duddridge (C)
 • Total16.12 sq mi (41.76 km2)
 • TotalRanked 115th
 • Density11,230/sq mi (4,334/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (British Summer Time)
Post town
Dialling code01702
Grid referenceTQ883856
ONS code00KF (ONS)
E06000033 (GSS)

Southend-on-Sea (/ˌsθɛndɒnˈs/ ), commonly referred to as Southend (/sˈθɛnd/), is a coastal city and unitary authority area with borough status in southeastern Essex, England. It lies on the north side of the Thames Estuary, 40 miles (64 km) east of central London. It is bordered to the north by Rochford and to the west by Castle Point. It is home to the longest pleasure pier in the world, Southend Pier.[2] London Southend Airport is located north of the city centre.

Southend-on-Sea originally consisted of a few poor fishermen's huts and farms at the southern end of the village of Prittlewell. In the 1790s, the first buildings around what was to become the High Street of Southend were completed. In the 19th century, Southend's status as a seaside resort grew after a visit from Princess Caroline of Brunswick, and Southend Pier was constructed. From the 1960s onwards, the city declined as a holiday destination. Southend redeveloped itself as the home of the Access credit card, due to its having one of the UK's first electronic telephone exchanges. After the 1960s, much of the city centre was developed for commerce and retail, and many original structures were lost to redevelopment. An annual seafront airshow, which started in 1986 and featured a flypast by Concorde, used to take place each May until 2012.

On 18 October 2021, it was announced that Southend would be granted city status, as a memorial to the Conservative Member of Parliament for Southend West, Sir David Amess, a long-time supporter of city status for the borough, who was murdered on 15 October 2021.[3][4] Southend was granted city status by letters patent dated 26 January 2022. On 1 March 2022, the letters patent were presented to Southend Borough Council by Charles, Prince of Wales.[5][6]


Originally the "south end" of the village of Prittlewell, Southend was home to a few poor fishermen's huts and farms at the southern extremity of Prittlewell Priory land. In the 1790s, landowner Daniel Scratton sold off land on either side of what was to become the High Street. The Grand Hotel (now Royal Hotel) and Grove Terrace (now Royal Terrace) were completed by 1794, and stagecoaches from London made it accessible.[7] Due to the bad transportation links between Southend and London, there was not rapid development during the Georgian Era as there was in Brighton, although Southend is mentioned in Jane Austen's novel Emma of 1815. However, after the coming of the railways in the 19th century and the visit of Princess Caroline of Brunswick, Southend's status as a seaside resort grew. During the 19th century, Southend's pier was first constructed and the Clifftown development built,[8] attracting many summer tourists to its seven miles of beaches and sea bathing. Good rail connections and proximity to London mean that much of the economy has been based on tourism and that Southend has been a dormitory town for city workers ever since. Southend Pier is the world's longest pleasure pier at 1.34 mi (2.16 km).[2] It has suffered fires and ship collisions, most recently in October 2005,[9] but the basic pier structure has been repaired each time.

As a holiday destination, Southend declined from the 1960s onwards, as holidaying abroad became more affordable. Southend became the home of the Access credit card, as it had one of the UK's first electronic telephone exchanges (it is still home to RBS Card Services – one of the former members of Access), with offices based in the former EKCO factory, Maitland House (Keddies), Victoria Circus and Southchurch Road.[10] Since then, much of the city centre has been developed for commerce and retail, and during the 1960s many original structures were lost to redevelopment – such as the Talza Arcade and Victoria Market (replaced by what is now known as The Victoria Shopping Centre) and Southend Technical College (on the site of the ODEON Cinema, now a campus of South Essex College).[11] However, about 6.4 million tourists still visit Southend per year, generating estimated revenues of £200 million a year. H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC), (formerly H.M. Customs and Excise), were major employers in the city, and the central offices for the collection of VAT were located at Alexander House on Victoria Avenue. Staff were finally relocated to Stratford in December 2022.[12]

An annual seafront airshow, started in 1986 when it featured a flypast by Concorde whilst on a passenger charter flight, used to take place each May and became one of Europe's largest free airshows. The aircraft flew parallel to the seafront, offset over the sea. The RAF Falcons parachute display team and RAF Red Arrows aerobatics team were regular visitors to the show. The last show was held in 2012; an attempt to revive the show for September 2015, as the Southend Airshow and Military Festival, failed.[13]

On 15 October 2021, the Member of Parliament for Southend West, Sir David Amess, was fatally stabbed during a constituency meeting in Leigh-on-Sea. On 18 October 2021, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the Queen had agreed to grant Southend-on-Sea with city status as a memorial to Amess, who had long campaigned for this status to be granted.[3] Preparations, led by Amess, for Southend to enter a competition for city status in 2022 as part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee were underway at the time of his death.[14][15] A "City Week" was held throughout the town between 13 and 20 February 2022,[16] beginning with the inaugural "He Built This City" concert named in honour of Amess.[17][18] The concert was held at the Cliffs Pavilion and included performers such as Digby Fairweather, Lee Mead, and Leanne Jarvis.[19] Other events such as a city ceremony and the Southend LuminoCity Festival of Light were held during the week. Sam Duckworth, who knew Amess personally, performed at some of the events.[18] On 1 March, Southend Borough Council was presented letters patent from the Queen, by Charles, Prince of Wales, officially granting the borough city status.[5] Southend became the second city in the ceremonial county of Essex, after Chelmsford, which was granted city status in 2012.[20]


Main article: Southend-on-Sea City Council

There is just one tier of local government covering Southend. The city council performs the functions of both a county and district council, being a unitary authority. There is one civil parish within the city at Leigh-on-Sea; the rest of the city is an unparished area.[21][22]

Administrative history

Southend's first elected council was a local board, which held its first meeting on 29 August 1866.[23] Prior to that the town was administered by the vestry for the wider parish of Prittlewell. The local board district was enlarged in 1877 to cover the whole parish of Prittlewell.[24]

The town was made a municipal borough in 1892. In 1897 the borough was enlarged to also include the neighbouring parish of Southchurch.[25] The borough was enlarged again in 1913 to take in the former Leigh on Sea Urban District. In 1914 the enlarged Southend became a county borough making it independent from Essex County Council and a single-tier of local government. The county borough was enlarged in 1933 by the former area of Shoeburyness Urban District and part of Rochford Rural District.

On 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, Southend became a district of Essex, with the county council once more providing county-level services to the town. However, in 1998 it again became the single tier of local government when it became a unitary authority.[26]

Upon receiving city status on 1 March 2022, the council voted to rename itself 'Southend-on-Sea City Council'.[5]

Southend Civic Centre, autumn 2007

The Latin motto, 'Per Mare Per Ecclesiam', emblazoned on the municipal coat of arms, translates as 'By [the] Sea, By [the] Church', reflecting Southend's position between the church at Prittlewell and the sea as in the Thames estuary. The city has been twinned with the resort of Sopot in Poland since 1999[27] and has been developing three-way associations with Lake Worth Beach, Florida.

Southend Civic Centre was designed by borough architect, Patrick Burridge, and officially opened by the Queen Mother on 31 October 1967.[28]

Members of Parliament

Main articles: Rochford and Southend East (UK Parliament constituency) and Southend West (UK Parliament constituency)

Southend is represented by two Members of Parliament (MPs) at Westminster.

The MP for Southend West was Sir David Amess (Conservative), who served from 1997 until his murder in 2021. Anna Firth has served as the MP for the constituency since the following 2022 Southend West by-election.

Since 2005 the MP for Rochford and Southend East has been James Duddridge (Conservative), who replaced Sir Teddy Taylor. Despite its name the majority of the constituency is in Southend, including the centre of the city; Rochford makes up only a small part and the majority of Rochford District Council is represented in the Rayleigh constituency.


Map of the Southend Urban Area with subdivisions

Southend is the seventh most densely populated area in the United Kingdom outside of the London Boroughs, with 38.8 people per hectare compared to a national average of 3.77. By 2006, the majority, or 52% of the Southend population were between the ages of 16–54, 18% were below age 15, 18% were above age 65 and the middle age populace between 55 and 64 accounted for the remaining 12%.[29]

Save the Children's research data shows that for 2008–09, Southend had 4,000 children living in poverty, a rate of 12%, the same as Thurrock, but above the 11% child poverty rate of Essex as a whole.[30]

The Department for Communities and Local Government's 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation Deprivation Indices data showed that Southend is one of Essex's most deprived areas. Out of 32,482 Lower Super Output Areas in England, area 014D in the Kursaal ward is 99th, area 015B in Milton ward is 108th, area 010A in Victoria ward is 542nd, and area 009D in Southchurch ward is 995th, as well as an additional 5 areas all within the top 10% most deprived areas in England (with the most deprived area having a rank of 1 and the least deprived a rank of 32,482).[31] Victoria and Milton wards have the highest proportion of ethnic minority residents – at the 2011 Census these figures were 24.2% and 26.5% respectively. Southend has the highest percentage of residents receiving housing benefits (19%) and the third highest percentage of residents receiving council tax benefits in Essex.

The urban area of Southend spills outside of the borough boundaries into the neighbouring Castle Point and Rochford districts, including the towns of Hadleigh, Benfleet, Rayleigh and Rochford, as well as the villages of Hockley and Hullbridge. According to the 2011 census, it had a population of 295,310,[32] making it the largest urban area solely within the East of England.[33]


This is a chart of the trend of regional gross value added of Southend-on-Sea at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added[34] Agriculture[35] Industry[36] Services[37]
1995 1,373 2 305 1,066
2000 1,821 1 375 1,445
2003 2,083 418 1,665

In 2006, travel insurance company InsureandGo relocated its offices from Braintree to Maitland House in Southend-on-Sea. The company brought 120 existing jobs from Braintree and announced the intention to create more in the future.[38] However the business announced the plan to relocate to Bristol in 2016.[39] The building is now home to Ventrica, a customer service outsourcing company.[40][41]

Southend has industrial parks located at Progress Road, Comet and Aviation Ways in Eastwood and Stock Road in Sutton. Firms located in Southend include Olympus Keymed, Hi-Tec Sports and MK Electric. Southend has declined as a centre for credit card management with only Royal Bank of Scotland card services (now branded NatWest) still operating in the city.[42]

A fifth of the working population commutes to London daily. Wages for jobs based in Southend were the second lowest among UK cities in 2015. It also has the fourth-highest proportion of people aged over 65. This creates considerable pressure on the housing market. It is the 11th most expensive place to live in Britain.[43]

Southend-on-Sea County Borough Corporation has provided the borough with electricity since the early twentieth century from the Southend power station. Upon nationalisation of the electricity industry in 1948 ownership passed to the British Electricity Authority and later to the Central Electricity Generating Board. Electricity connections to the national grid rendered the 5.75 megawatt (MW) power station redundant. Electricity was generated by diesel engines and by steam obtained from the exhaust gases. The power station closed in 1966; in its final year of operation, it delivered 2,720 MWh of electricity to the borough.[44]



Main article: London Southend Airport

Southend Airport, prior to the runway extension

London Southend Airport was developed from the military airfield at Rochford; it was opened as a civil airport in 1935. It now offers scheduled flights to destinations across Europe, corporate and recreational flights, aircraft maintenance and training for pilots and engineers. It is served by Southend Airport railway station, on the Shenfield–Southend line, part of the Great Eastern Main Line.


An Arriva Southend bus

Local bus services are provided by two main companies. Arriva Southend was formerly the council-owned Southend Corporation Transport and First Essex Buses was formerly Eastern National/Thamesway. Smaller providers include Stephensons of Essex.

Southend has a bus station on Chichester Road, which was developed from a temporary facility added in the 1970s; the previous bus station was located on London Road and was run by Eastern National, but it was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a Sainsbury's supermarket.[45] Arriva Southend is the only bus company based in Southend, with their depot located in Short Street; it was previously sited on the corner of London Road and Queensway and also a small facility in Tickfield Road.[46] First Essex's buses in the Southend area are based out of the depot in Hadleigh but, prior to the 1980s, Eastern National had depots on London Road (at the bus station) and Fairfax Drive.[47]


Southend is served by two lines on the National Rail network:

From 1910 to 1939, the London Underground's District line's eastbound service ran as far as Southend and Shoeburyness.[48]

Besides its main line railway connections, Southend is also the home of two smaller railways. The Southend Pier Railway provides transport along the length of Southend Pier, whilst the nearby Southend Cliff Railway provides a connection from the promenade to the cliff top above.[49]


A127 Kent Elms looking west

Two A-roads connect Southend with London and the rest of the country: the A127 (Southend Arterial Road), via Basildon and Romford, and the A13, via Thurrock and London Docklands. Both are major routes; however, within the borough, the A13 is now a single carriageway local single-carriageway route, whereas the A127 is an entirely dual-carriageway. Both connect to the M25 and eventually London.


Seals off Southend

Southend-on-Sea is one of the driest places in the UK. It has a marine climate with summer highs of around 22 °C (72 °F) and winters highs being around 7.8 °C (46.0 °F).[50] Summer temperatures are generally slightly cooler than those in London. Frosts are occasional. During the 1991–2020 period there was an average of 29.6 days of air frost. Rainfall averaged 527 millimetres (20.7 in). Weather station data is available from Shoeburyness,[50] which is adjacent to Southend in the eastern part of the urban area.

Climate data for Shoeburyness, in eastern part of Southend Urban Area, 2m asl, 1991–2020
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 7.8
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 2.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 43.0
Average rainy days 9.5 8.3 7.8 7.5 7.5 7.8 7.3 7.1 7.5 10.2 10.6 10.7 101.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 70.5 88.9 136.8 200.4 241.2 243.3 257.0 212.2 162.4 130.0 84.7 56.9 1,884.3
Source: Met Office[51]


See also: List of schools in Southend-on-Sea

Secondary schools

All mainstream secondary schools are mixed-sex comprehensives, including Belfairs Academy; Cecil Jones Academy; Chase High School; Southchurch High School; Shoeburyness High School and The Eastwood Academy.

In 2004, Southend retained the grammar school system and has four such schools: Southend High School for Boys; Southend High School for Girls; Westcliff High School for Boys and Westcliff High School for Girls.

Additionally, there are two single-sex schools assisted by the Roman Catholic Church: St Bernard's High School (girls) and St Thomas More High School (boys). Both, while not grammar schools, contain a grammar stream; entrance is by the same exam as grammar schools.

Further and higher education

The main higher education provider in Southend is the University of Essex which has a campus in Elmer Approach on the site of the former Odeon cinema. It also operates the East 15 Acting School Southend campus at the Clifftown Theatre.[52]

In addition to a number of secondary schools that offer further education, the largest provider is South Essex College in a purpose-built building in the centre of town. Formerly known as South East Essex College, (and previously Southend Municipal College) the college changed name in January 2010 following a merger with Thurrock and Basildon College.[53]

Additionally there is PROCAT that is based at Progress Road, while learners can travel to USP College (formerly SEEVIC College) in Thundersley. The East 15 Acting School, a drama school has its second campus in Southend, while the Southend Adult Community College is in Ambleside Drive. Southend United Futsal & Football Education Scholarship, located at Southend United's stadium Roots Hall, provides education for sports scholarships.


Southend – Leisure and Tennis Centre

Southend has two football teams, one of professional stature, Southend United. United currently competes in the Vanarama National League. The other, Southend Manor, plays in the Essex Senior League.

There are two rugby union clubs Southend RFC which play in London 1 North and Westcliff R.F.C. who play in London & South East Premier. Southend was formerly home to the Essex Eels rugby league team. Southend was home to the Essex Pirates basketball team that played in the British Basketball League between 2009 and 2011.

Essex County Cricket Club plays in Southend one week a season. Previously the festival was held at Chalkwell Park and most recently Southchurch Park, but it has now moved to Garons Park next to the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre. The only other cricket is local.

The Old Southendians Hockey Club is based at Warner's Bridge in Southend.

The eight-lane, floodlit, synthetic athletics track at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre is home to Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club. The facilities cover all track and field events.[54] The centre has a 25m swimming pool and a world championship level diving pool with 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10m boards, plus springboards with the only 1.3m in the UK.[55]

Entertainment and culture

Southend Pleasure Pier

Main article: Southend Pier

Southend on Sea from one mile out along the pier, the world's longest pleasure pier

Southend-on-Sea is home to the world's longest pleasure pier, built in 1830 and stretching some 1.34 miles (2.16 km) from shore.[56]


Main article: Kursaal (amusement park)

The Kursaal was one of the earliest theme parks, built at the start of the 20th century. It closed in the 1970s and much of the land was developed as housing. The entrance hall, a listed building, used to house a bowling alley arcade operated by Megabowl and casino, however the bowling alley closed in 2019 and the casino closed in 2020. The building currently stands unused.

The Kursaal

Southend Carnival

Southend Carnival has been an annual event since 1906, where it was part of the annual regatta, and was set up to raise funds for the Southend Victoria Cottage Hospital. In 1926, a carnival association was formed, and by 1930, they were raising funds for the building of the new General Hospital with a range of events, including a fete in Chalkwell Park.[57][58] The parades, which included a daylight and torchlight parades were cut down to just a torchlight parade during the 1990s.

Cliff Lift

Main article: Southend Cliff Railway

A short funicular railway, constructed in 1912, links the seafront to the High Street level of the town. The lift re-opened to the public in 2010, following a period of refurbishment.[59]

Other seafront attractions

The sunset in Southend, a view of Adventure Island in 2007

An amusement park Adventure Island, formerly known as Peter Pan's Playground, straddles the pier entrance. The seafront houses the "Sea-Life Adventure" aquarium.

The cliff gardens, which included Never Never Land and a Victorian bandstand were an attraction until slippage in 2003 made parts of the cliffs unstable. The bandstand has been removed and re-erected in Priory Park. Beaches include Three Shells and Jubilee Beach.

A modern vertical lift links the base of the High Street with the seafront and the new pier entrance. The older Southend Cliff Railway, a short funicular, is a few hundred metres away.

The London to Southend Classic Car Run takes place each summer. It is run by the South Eastern Vintage and Classic Vehicle Club and features classic cars which line the seafront.[60]

The Southend Shakedown, organised by Ace Cafe, is an annual event featuring motorbikes and scooters. There are other scooter runs throughout the year, including the Great London Rideout, which arrives at Southend seafront each year.[61]

Festival events

The Southend-on-Sea Film Festival is an annual event that began in 2009 and is run by the White Bus film and theatrical company based at The Old Waterworks Arts Center located inside a Victorian era Old Water Works plant. Ray Winstone attended the opening night gala in both 2010 and 2011, and has become the Festival Patron.[62]

Since 2021, the city has hosted a Halloween parade in October, while the Leigh Art Trail runs during July. Two events that started in 2022 was Southend City Jam, a street art festival, and LuminoCity, a light festival,[63] however LuminoCity was announced to be cancelled for 2024 due to budget cuts at Southend City Council.[64] The Old Leigh Regatta takes place every September,[65] while Leigh Folk Festival has run since 1992, though will be taking a break in 2024.[66] The Southend Jazz Festival has been run since 2020.[67]

Between 2008 and 2019, Chalkwell Park became home to the Village Green Art & Music Festival for a weekend every July,[68] but has not run since 2019 due to covid.


High Street, looking North

Southend High Street runs from the top of Pier Hill in the South, to Victoria Circus in the north. It currently has two shopping centres – the Victoria (built during the 1960s and a replacement for the old Talza Arcade, Victoria Arcade and Broadway Market)[69] and The Royals Shopping Centre (built late 1980s and opened in March 1988 by actor Jason Donovan, replacing the bottom part of High Street, Grove Road, Ritz Cinema and Grand Pier Hotel).[70] Southend High Street has many chain stores, with Boots in the Royals, and Next anchoring the Victoria.[71]

This was not always the case with many independent stores closing in the 1970s and 1980s – Keddies (department store), J F Dixons (department store), Brightwells (department store), Garons (grocers, caterers and cinema),[72][73] Owen Wallis (ironmongers and toys),[74] Bermans (sports and toys),[75] J Patience (photographic retailers)[76] & R. A. Jones (jewellers) being the most notable. One of Southend's most notable business, Schofield and Martin, was purchased by Waitrose in 1944 with the name being used until the 1960s. The Alexandra Street branch was the first Waitrose store in 1951 to be made self-service.[77] Southend is home to the largest store in the Waitrose portfolio.

The longest surviving independent retail business in Southend was Ravens which operated from 1897 to 2017.[78] A Southend business that started in 1937 and is still active in 2022 is Dixons Retail.[79][80][81]

The city of Southend has shopping in other areas. Leigh Broadway and Leigh Road in Leigh-on-Sea, Hamlet Court Road in Westcliff-on-Sea, Southchurch Road and London Road are where many of Southend's independent businesses now reside.[82] Hamlet Court Road was home to one of Southend's longest-standing business, Havens, which opened in 1901. In May 2017, the store announced they would be closing their store to concentrate as an online retailer.[83]

There are regular vintage fairs and markets in Southend, held at a variety of locations including the Leigh Community Centre and Garon Park.[84] A record fair is frequently held at West Leigh Schools in Leigh on Sea.[85]


Southend is home to many recreation grounds. Its first formal park to open was Prittlewell Square in the 19th century. Since then Priory Park and Victory Sports Grounds were donated by the town benefactor R A Jones, who also has the sports ground Jones Corner Recreation Ground named after his wife. Other formal parks that have opened since are Chalkwell Park and Southchurch Hall along with Southchurch Park, Garon Park and Gunners Park.

Conservation areas

Southend has various Conservation areas across the borough, with the first being designated in 1968.

Art, galleries, museums and libraries

Focal Point Gallery, based in The Forum, is South Essex's gallery for contemporary visual art, promoting and commissioning major solo exhibitions, group and thematic shows, a programme of events including performances, film screenings and talks, as well as offsite projects and temporary public artworks. The organisation is funded by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Arts Council England.[63]

Southend Museums Service, part of Southend on Sea City Council, operates a number of historic attractions, an art gallery and a museum in the city. These include: Beecroft Art Gallery, Southchurch Hall, Prittlewell Priory, Southend Pier Museum and the Central Museum on Victoria Avenue.[86] The Jazz Centre UK, a jazz cultural centre, has operated out of the Beecroft Art Gallery since 2017.[87][88]

The Old Waterworks Arts Center operates on North Road, Westcliff in the former Victorian water works building. It holds art exhibitions, talks and workshops.[89]

Metal, the art organisation set up by Jude Kelly OBE has been based in Chalkwell Hall since 2006.[90] The organisation offers residency space for artists and also organises the Village Green Art & Music Festival.[91] The park is also home to NetPark, which claims to be the world's first digital art park.[63]

Southend has several small libraries located in Leigh, Westcliff, Kent Elms and Southchurch. The central library has moved from its traditional location on Victoria Avenue to The Forum in Elmer Approach, a new facility paid for by Southend Council, South Essex College and The University of Essex. It replaced the former Farringdon Multistorey Car Park. The old Central Library building (built 1974) has become home to the Beecroft Gallery and the Jazz Centre UK.[63] This building had replaced the former Carnegie funded free library which is now home to the Southend Central Museum.


There are a number of theatres. The Edwardian Palace Theatre is a Grade II listed building dating from 1912. It shows plays by professional troupes and repertory groups, as well as comedy acts. The theatre has two circles and the steepest rake in Britain. Part of the theatre is a smaller venue called The Dixon Studio. The Cliffs Pavilion is a large building that hosts concerts and performances on ice, as well as pantomimes at Christmas opening in 1964. They are both owned by Southend Council and run by Southend Theatres Ltd.

The most recent closed theatre was the New Empire Theatre. It was, unlike the other two, privately owned. It was used more by amateur groups. The theatre was converted from the old ABC Cinema, which had been the Empire Theatre built in 1896. The New Empire Theatre closed in 2009 after a dispute between the trust that ran the theatre and its owners. The building was badly damaged by fire on Saturday 1 August 2015[92] and was demolished in 2017.[93]

The Clifftown Theatre is located in the former Clifftown United Reformed Church and as well as regular performances is part of the East 15 Acting School campus.[94]


Southend has one cinema – the Odeon Multiplex at Victoria Circus which has eight screens. The borough of Southend had at one time a total of 18 cinema theatres,[95] with the most famous being the Odeon (formerly the Astoria Theatre), which as well as showing films hosted live entertainers including the Beatles and Laurel and Hardy.[96] This building no longer stands having been replaced by the Southend Campus of the University of Essex. There are plans to build a new 10 screen cinema and entertainment facility on the site of the Seaway Car Park.[97][98]

Southend has appeared in films over the years, with the New York New York arcade on Marine Parade being used in the British gangsta flick Essex Boys, the premiere of which took place at the Southend Odeon.[99] Southend Airport was used for the filming of the James Bond film Goldfinger.[100] Part of the 1989 black comedy film Killing Dad was set and filmed in Southend.[101]

Southend and the surrounding areas were heavily used and featured in the Viral Marketing[102] for the Universal Pictures 2022 American science fiction action film sequel Jurassic World Dominion, with a number of the featured videos on the DinoTracker website filmed in the Southend area[103] doubling for locations around the world. This is due to the fact that local resident and Jurassic World Franchise marketer Samuel Phillips utilised the area for both videos and imagery.[104]


The Plaza Centre

Southend has three major venues; Chinnerys, the Riga Club (formerly at the Cricketers Pub London Road) at The Dickens, and the Cliffs Pavilion.

Concerts are also shown at the Plaza, a Christian community centre and concert hall based on Southchurch Road,[105] which was formerly a cinema.[106]

Junk Club, at one time a centre of Southend's music scene, was predominantly held in the basement at the Royal Hotel during the period of 2001–06. Co-run by Oliver "Blitz" Abbott & Rhys Webb, of The Horrors, the underground club night played an eclectic mix from Post Punk to Acid House, 1960s Psychedelia to Electro. It was noted as spearheading what became known as the Southend Scene and was featured in the NME, Dazed & Confused, ID, Rolling Stone, Guardian and Vogue.[107] Acts associated with the scene included: The Horrors; These New Puritans; The Violets; Ipso Facto; Neils Children and The Errorplains.

There have also been a number of popular music videos filmed in Southend,[108] by such music artists as Oasis; Morrissey and George Michael.

Bands and musicians originating from Southend include Busted; Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly; Danielle Dax; Eddie and the Hot Rods; Eight Rounds Rapid; The Horrors; The Kursaal Flyers; Nothing But Thieves; Procol Harum; Scroobius Pip; These New Puritans and Tonight.[citation needed]

Southend is mentioned in a number of songs including as the end destination in Billy Bragg's "A13, Trunk Road to the sea" where the final line of the chorus is "Southend's the end".[109]


In 1981, Southend became the home of Essex Radio, which broadcast from studios below Clifftown Road. The station was formed by several local companies, including Keddies, Garons & TOTS nightclub, with David Keddie, owner of the Keddies department store in Southend, becoming its chairman.[110] In 2004, the renamed Essex FM, then Heart Essex moved to studios in Chelmsford. It is now part of Heart East.

The BBC Local Radio station that broadcast to Southend is BBC Essex on 95.3 FM from the South Benfleet transmitter.[111]

On 28 March 2008, Southend got its own radio station for the first time which is also shared with Chelmsford Radio (formerly known as Dream 107.7 FM and Chelmer FM before that), Southend Radio started broadcasting on 105.1FM from purpose-built studios adjacent to the Adventure Island theme park.[112] The station merged with Chelmsford Radio in 2015 and became Radio Essex.


Southend is served by London and East Anglia regional variations of the BBC and ITV. Television signals are received from either Crystal Palace or Sudbury TV transmitters.[113][114] The area can also pick up BBC South East and ITV Meridian from the Bluebell Hill TV transmitter.[115]

Southend has appeared in several television shows and advertisements.[116] It has been used on numerous occasions by the soap EastEnders with its most recent visit in 2022.[117][118] Southend Pier was used by ITV show Minder for its end credits in season 8, 9 and 10,[119] and since 2014 has been home to Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Feast. Advertisements have included Abbey National, CGU Pensions, National Lottery, the 2015 Vauxhall Corsa adverts featuring Electric Avenue, a seafront arcade[120] the 2018 Guide Dogs for the Blind campaign[121] and for the promo for David Hasselhoff's Dave programme Hoff the Record.[122]

In fiction

Southend is the seaside vacation place chosen by the John Knightley family in Emma by Jane Austen, published 1816.[123] The family arrived by stage coach, and strongly preferred it to the choice of the Perry family, Cromer, which was 100 miles from London, compared to the easier distance of 40 miles from the London home of the John and Isabella Knightley, as discussed at length with Mr. Woodhouse in the novel in Chapter XII of volume one.

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, after being saved from death in the vacuum of space, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect find themselves in a distorted version of Southend (a consequence of the starship Heart of Gold's Infinite Improbability Drive). Dent briefly feared that both he and Prefect did in fact die, based on a childhood nightmare where his friends went to either Heaven or Hell but he went to Southend.

Dance on My Grave, a book by Aidan Chambers, is set in Southend.[124] Chambers had worked as a teacher in the city's Westcliff High School for Boys for three years.[125]

In the novel Starter for Ten by David Nicholls, the main character Brian Jackson comes from Southend-on-Sea.[126] The book was adapted into a 2006 film directed by Tom Vaughan.

Places of worship

There are churches in the borough catering to different Christian denominations, such as Our Lady Help of Christians and St Helen's Church for the Roman Catholic community. There are two synagogues; one for orthodox Jews, in Westcliff, and a reform synagogue in Chalkwell. Three mosques provide for the Muslim population; one run by the Bangladeshi community,[127] and the others run by the Pakistani community.[128][129] There are two Hindu Temples, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir[130] and Southend Meenatshe Suntharasar Temple,[131] while there is one Buddhist temple, Amita Buddha Centre.[132]

York Road Market

Demolition of the historic covered market began on 23 April 2010.[133] The site became a car park. A temporary market was held there every Friday until 2012 after the closure of the former Southend market at the rear of the Odeon.[134] As of 2013, a market is now held in the High Street every Thursday with over 30 stalls.[135][needs update]

Twin town

Southend-on-Sea is twinned with:

Notable people

Freedom of the City

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the City of Southend-on-Sea.

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2023)


Military Units


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