John William Burrows.

Southend-on-Sea and district: historical notes .. online

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(Editor of the " Swtbend Standard." )

SontbcnI>=on=Sc3 :



;-. NKT.
Copyright. Entered at Stationers' Hall.





On page 135 read " Josias " for "William"

On page 6 the old boundaries of Milton
included land lying to the west of High Street,
and Milton Road was not the eastern boundary,
as stated. See Benton, page 642, vol. 2.

On page 144 (lease of Technical School to
County Committee) read " 1910," and not
" 1911."

After the book went to press, Councillor
W. R. King was elected Mayor of the Borough
for the year 1909-10.

i >t pi acniin^ u muvry uj inn ivzun ana nunarea, no
matter how short, there are two authorities whom it is essential
to consult CM r. T. 'Benton s " History of the ^ochford
Hundred" and {Mr. H. IV. King's IMS. Volumes and other
contributions, now in the custody of the Sssex Archaeological
Society. IMr. %ing has rarely before been laid under contribution,
and then only scantily. It has been the Author's privilege to
have unrestricted access to these papers. Valuable information has





These Historical S^otes have been gradually collected and
written over a period of years. The primary intention in
presenting them to the public in boo/^ form is to counter the
too prevalent and erroneous impression that Southend and district
possess little or nothing of interest relating to the past. This
impression is probably due to the absence of any book which
gives in readable form, at a popular price, a sketch of the
history of the Thorough and neighbourhood. The Author hopes
in this Volume that need will, to some extent, be met,
and result in a growing appreciation of the unique and valuable
tradition of service which comes down to us from bye gone days.
Many of the episodes have not been treated as exhaustively
as they deserved, the aim in this respect having been to
indicate the lines upon which historical research should be
undertaken. Particularly is this so in connection with the
water traffic of the Bstuary, which has nowhere been discussed
.as fully as its importance demands.

In presenting a history of this town and Hundred, no
matter how short, there are two authorities whom it is essential
to consult {Mr. T. Henton's " History of the Upchford
Hundred" and {Mr. H. W. King's {MS. Volumes and other
contributions, now in the custody of the Sssex Archaeological
Society. {Mr. K^ng has rarely before been laid under contribution,
and then only scantily. It has been the Author's privilege to
have unrestricted access to these papers. Valuable information has


4 I'kKK,U 1

a/so been afforded in the two Volumes which hare been published
of the " Victoria History of Essex."

Thanhs are expre.ed t {Mr. J. II. 'liurrcws, J.P., C.A.,
whose extensive knowledge of heal government has hern placed
ttngrwtgingly at disposal ; \Ir. 'J^o/anJ 'Burrows, L/.D.,
liarruttr-at-Latc, by whose assistance much new and important
matter relating to this district is published for the first time ;
{Mr. H. H. 'Burrows for his advice in printing and
producing the book^; the Essex .Jrcha-ological Society; {Mr.
./. (j. H'right, Curator of Colchester {Museum; the late {Mr.
6. Z\L 'Boirajo, of the guildhall Library ; SMr. 1(. Thilipson,
Secretary of the Tort of London .-futhority ; fMr. -1. 'D. O 7 'V,
Librarian at the War Office; Mr. ./. .////?;/, Secretary of the
Royal ?\umismatic Society ; the 'Director of (^rccn-.cich Hospital ;
the {Manager of the " (^hbe " newspaper ; the Manager of
the "Illustrated London AV-/,-" Messrs. Spink and Son; the
late and present 'Town Qlerkj of Southeiid ; the 'Borough

untant ({Mr. . 8. Tweedale) ; tfe f/r/'/t to the
Justices ('Mr. ./. J. -Irthy) the 'Principal of the
Secondary 'Day School ({Mr. J. Hitchcock^) ; the Manager of
Southend H'atei works Qompany ({Mr. . S. ( Bilham) ; the
Secretary of Southend (jas Company ({Mr. J. T. T(andall) ;
Councillor ^ 7. Osborne, Mr. Val. Mason, -"Mr. If. T.
Took, and {Mr. . //. ole ; and, lastly, to the Author's wife,
but for rthose kjnd/y interest and unwearying readiness to assist,
this )ror could not have been published.

'. HfM>-<>N-SKA,

A : ember, 1909.




SOUTHEND-ON-SEA is in the Rochford Hundred of
Essex and is situated on the north bank of the estuary
of the Thames. Although its development as a watering
place has largely occurred during the last thirty years, writers
for a century past have sounded its praises as a resort for those
needing restoration to health or a change of air. An early
Nineteenth Century author thus describes Southend's rise to
importance : " On the establishment of the recent prevailing
custom of sea bathing, its convenient distance from the Metro-
polis, the excellent state of the roads to it, the salubrity of its
air, and the favourable advantage of the tides flowing immedi-
ately to it from the open channel of the sea, numerous visitors
for health and pleasure were induced to this inviting spot, com-
modious inns and lodging houses were quickly raised, the passages
of the shore became convenient, bathing machines were pro-
vided, and many of the first families successively used its baths."
In 1 794, with odd pomposity of style, " T. C." wrote in the


"Gentlemen's Magazine" that at Southcnd "Grandeur,
ccomptnied In Convenience, had chosen their scats, silently
inviting the summer loungers to hilarity and contentment.'*
He predicted that "South End" in a few summers would be
the rage, since, " even in its infancy, nobility had deigned there
to join in the mystic dance, and the loveliest of England's pride
to grace the promenade on the terrace." The fashion column
of the London "Globe" used regularly to contain a list of
the principal visitors. In a " Guide to Southcnd," published
in 1824, high medical testimony was given as to its recupera-
tive powers ; eminent medical men of the day regularly
visiting the town with their families. Dr. Granvillc, writing
of the " Spas of England "in 1 841, asserted that the " Cockney,
who, during the summer, stops short at Gravcsend in his
excursion down the Thames, and is in ecstacies over that
commonplace sort of retreat, can form no idea of the beauties
he would enjoy were he to extend his steaming trip down the
river as far as Southend and stop on the north instead of the
south bank of the Thames."

Cfje Cxtent of tfje JSorougf).

The area which modern Southcnd covers embraces at
least two parishes and there is evidence that possibly there
were three viz., Prittlewcll, the mother parish ; Southchurch,
incorporated into the Borough in 1898 ; and Milton. The
latter at one time was a not unimportant maritime station.
Milton included roughly all the land lying west of Milton
Road and south of Leigh Road to the Leigh boundary ; the
old name being preserved in Milton Road. The controversy
as to whether or not Milton formed part of the parish was a
very old one. In 1678, a vestry meeting at Prittlewcll sup-
ported Josias Unthank in obtaining an order to compel the
inhabitants of Milton to pay for the building of a new bridge
over the brook in North Street. Milton Hamlet had a separate
overseer in 1707, surveyors from 1697, and a constable from
1720. As a result of further dispute, counsel was consulted in


1813 as to whether or no the Hamlet and Prittlewell were
one. The struggle between the two parties evidently continued
with vigour, for in 1815 surveyors for the former were appointed
by the Justices under an order of the High Court. On the
passing of the Poor Law Act they were amalgamated for relief
purposes and subsequently the two places were bound together
for local government under a Local Board, the predecessor of
the present- Municipal Corporation. Tradition points to
Milton having once had its own church, which was engulfed
by the encroaching sea, but we have found no documentary
evidence to support it. Holman, writing early in the
Eighteenth Century, reported that " ancient men " of that
day could remember seeing the foundations at low water.

rtgm of iboutfjenb.

Southend, as the word implies, was originally used to
denote the south end of Prittlewell parish. In ancient maps no
indication is given of its existence and in later charts it is always
spelt with two words, South-End. The name "Southende"
was first mentioned in an official document in the reign of
Henry VIII (1509-47), and the records of Prittlewell Priory
show that about the same time land was let adjacent
" Southend." An officer of customs, of Leigh, reported to
the Navy Commissioners in 1 666 that a topmast and three
small boats had come ashore at Southend from a wrecked
warship. Southend was mentioned in the parish minute book
in 1668 and it was rated as such in 1698. In 1758, what
was known as Southend comprised Thames Farm and Arthur's
Land, so named after its owner. The latter property was
rated in one assessment and is said to have included the site
now occupied by the Ship Hotel, Old Brewery, Pleasant
Row and Marine Parade. Old Southend was thus bounded
by Southchurch on the east, Porter's Estate on the north, and
the high ridge of land on the west subsequently to be crowned
by Royal Terrace and Hotel. Its development and subsequent


absorption of the mother village of Prittlcwell, of Milton, and
of Southchurch is recent history.

Jfaboureb fap &opaltp.

Princess Charlotte of Wales, when five years of age, was
in 1 80 1 ordered to Southend for sea bathing, and stayed at
Southchurch Lawn. Two years later, Princess Caroline of
Wales, the unfortunate wife of the Prince Regent, occupied
a couple of houses in Royal Terrace. In 1874 Prince
Imperial of France (who met his death in Zululand shortly
after) stayed at the Royal Hotel whilst on an artillery
course at Shoeburyness, and ran with a pack of foot beagles,
being in at the death at Shopland, where he was presented
with the " pad." Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, twice
visited the Borough. In earlier days (1834) the Earl of
Beaconsfield (then Mr. Benjamin Disraeli) sojourned at Porter's
Grange, and is generally credited with having described
Southend as the Riviera of Essex.

Jlotablr bent.

At the close of the Eighteenth Century, the Ship Hotel
was one of the headquarters of the leaders of the great Mutiny
at the Nore ; the line of revolted ships stretching across the
river from the Kent to the Essex side. It was at the naval port
of Sheerness immediately opposite that the battleship touched
which conveyed the remains of Nelson to England after his
victory of Trafalgar. From off Southend, in 1863, the flag
captain to the Commander-in-chief at the Nore had the
honour in the " Formidable " of firing a salute to Princess
Alexandra on the occasion of her first arrival in English
waters on board the Danish royal yacht. In 1904 the
cruiser " Essex " lay off Southend to receive the service of
plate, presented by the Countess of Warwick on behalf of a
large body of subscribers, in honour of the County name being
given to one of the vessels of the Royal Navy. The constitu-
tion of the Nore Division of the Home Fleet in 1906 again


drew attention to the importance of the Thames Estuary as a
naval base. The Dreadnought was the first flagship.

&eStDents( ano "tTtstttorg of

These incidents and others to be mentioned in the
sketch of events which follows are sufficient to remind visitors
that this neighbourhood is possessed of real historic interest
beside being a modern health resort. The town has appealed
kindly to literary men. Sir Edwin Arnold, author of the
" Light of Asia," resided for a time at Hamlet Court, Hamlet
Court Road ; Robert Buchanan, the poet, also stayed there,
and lived, at a later period of his life, in a house upon the
Cliffs ; at last, in 1901, finding a resting place beside his wife
in St. John Baptist Churchyard. There a monument, erected
by friends and admirers, marks his grave. Thackeray's wife for
long years resided in retirement at Leigh-on-Sea. There have
also stayed with us a host of minor writers whose work has
gained the recognition of publishers and the eulogy of critics.
Douglas Jerrold, most noted of early Victorian humorists,
was connected with a theatre at Southend in the first
years of the I9th Century. In the crypt of the church
attached to Nazareth House, London Road, rest the remains
of Clement Scott, dramatic critic and author of " The Garden
of Sleep," and Bishop Bellord, a Catholic Army chaplain, who
had seen service in many parts of the Empire. It was in
Southend that Rosina Brandram died, one of the best known
Savoy artistes of the closing years of the Nineteenth Century.
The Rev. Benjamin Waugh, founder of the N.S.P.C.C.,
also died here, after a lingering illness, and he was buried
in the Borough Cemetery, Sutton Road. Whymper, one
of the greatest of mountain climbers, has constantly stayed
here, and George R. Sims' love for the place is known
throughout London. Constable has painted two well-known
pictures of Hadleigh Castle. Wyllie, the marine painter,
has tried his luminous brush upon a sketch of the beach



at Westcliff, and that eminent master of colour, Turner,
was attracted to the town by reason of its brilliant sunsets. It
is said that a stranger criticized one of these local canvases and
observed "One never sees a sunset like that," to which the
painter snapped out in reply, "Don't you wish you could r"



v^ *&

e^L eft


IN order to give a complete glimpse of the history of this
locality, it is necessary to take the reader farther than the
borders of Prittlewell parish, for in years past the village of
Prittlewell played only a subordinate part in the life of the
Hundred, which comprises twenty-six parishes ; bordered on the
south by the estuary of the Thames, on the east by the North
Sea, and on the north by the River Crouch. Two of the
parishes on the western border (Thundersley and South Ben-
fteet) formed part of the Barstable Hundred, but now being
included in Rochford Poor Law Union, they are popularly
reckoned as part of Rochford Hundred. Canvey Island became
a separate parish comparatively recently. The centres of
government were, at different periods, either at Rayleigh,
where, in the days of the Norman Conquest, Sweyn, the
greatest landowner for miles around, established a castle ;
at Hadleigh, where in the reign of King Henry III,
Hubert de Burgh built a fortress, frequently the dower of


Queens ; or at Rochford, where from Tudor times until well
into the Eighteenth Century the great family of Rich, Earls
of Warwick, possessed a residence (Rochford Hall) rivalling in
size and magnificence the greatest houses in the land ; the
remains now existing giving but a feeble idea of its extent.

3m JJrrlnstonr DIPS.

Ages ago, Kent joined the Continent of Europe. Most
of the southern part of the North Sea was low, flat, dry land,
through which a great river ran straight to the North, draining
mid-Europe. Near its point of discharge it received a
western tributary, a kind of ancient Thames. At the spot
now occupied by the estuary, the old river took a sharp N.E.
bend and quite possibly formed a sort of delta amid the low-
lying marshy ground of that period. As time rolled on there
was a gradual subsidence of the North Sea land, the waters of
the North Atlantic poured in, the North Sea came into being,
and the modern Thames was born.

The district has proved rich in prehistoric remains, and
numerous paleolithic implements, neolithic celts, bronze
weapons, etc., have been discovered at Southend, Southchurch,
Shoebury, Rochford, Great Wakering, Thundersley and
Hullbridge ; giving evidence that it has been peopled from
remotest ages. At Southchurch, several examples of celtic pottery
have been unearthed, and at Shoebury there was a discovery in
1891 of a hoard (now on exhibition at the British Museum)
consisting of socketed celts, a palstave, part of a sword blade, etc.
At the same place was also found part of the box of a chariot
wheel, together with three bronze nails, probably used for
holding the tyre. Quite recently Great Wakering was excited
by the discovery, during trenching operations, of a portion
of the limb of some prehistoric animal ; the weight of the
fragment being z61bs.

Uocal Carttjtoorfea.

Tucked away from public observation on the northern
boundary of Prittlewcll parish lies a small field with a well-


wooded fringe, forming part of Fossett's Farm. Coming upon
it after traversing the field which separates it from the road-
way, one notices what is apparently a rampart of earth covered
with grass, and investigation discloses the fact that this is the
outer edge of what was once an extensive system of entrench-
ments, capable of. affording protection to a considerable number
of people. These earthworks cover an area of eight acres, and
at the eastern end rises a mound, presumably the key to the
system of defence. The probable date of this earthwork has-
not been determined, but it most likely had to do with the
series of fortifications constructed during the Danish invasion,,
alluded to under the heading of " The Battle of Benfleet."

Benton, in 1886, referred to a mound on the Chalkwell
Hall Estate, lying to the east of the house, and in the north-
west corner of a field called Fishponds, which he was of
opinion was Celtic in origin. It was first opened somewhere
about 1860, when some bones, a few coins and a piece of chain
were discovered. Eight feet of earth have since been removed
from the summit and a quantity of bones unearthed. The
mound was in 1 88 1 still about four feet above the surrounding
soil, and the author of the History of the Rochford Hundred
thought it would repay further research.

There are many other traces of earthworks in the
Hundred, notably at Benfleet, Shoebury and Canewdon, to-
which we shall refer later.

&oman Orruyarion.

At the time of the landing of Cassar in Kent, the tract of
land later on to be known as Essex was inhabited by the
Celtic tribe of Trinobantes. One of their chieftains, Cassivel-
aunus, was in command of the East Anglian army assembled
to oppose Caesar's second expedition, which, like his first,
did not result in permanent occupation. It was not until
a century afterwards, about A. D. 43, that four legions
three of which had been serving in Germany and one in
Hungary under Aulus Plautius were ordered to invade


Britain. Plautius quickly made himself master of Kent, but
in the Thames marshes met with an obstinate resistance. The
Emperor Claudius travelled from Rome with reinforcements
{which included, it is said, a number of elephants), sailing
from Ostea to Marseilles. He then came chiefly by way of
the great rivers of Gaul to Britain, commanded the crossing
of the Thames and took Colchester (the key of the resistance
in south-eastern England), where he was saluted by his soldiers
as Imperator. For this exploit Claudius received the appella-
tion of Britannicu from the Roman Senate. From this time
forward until their departure the Romans (save for Boadicea's
revolt) were in possession of the territory hereabouts. That
they actually had some settlements in Southend and the neigh-
bourhood is proved by the discovery of Roman pottery during
building operations in Hastings Road and adjoining thorough-
fares, and the unearthing of Roman remains at North and
South Shoebury and Great Wakcring. At the latter places the
digging for brick earth revealed the existence of a peculiar
system of trenching, stated to be indications of the boundaries
of fields laid out according to a well-known Roman method.
Prittlewell Church contains a very early arch constructed with
Roman bricks, and there are traces of similar building material
in the walls of Hadlcigh Castle. In those days, when no houses
hid the Thames from sight, the rising ground at Southend must
have afforded a commanding view of the entrance of the
Thames, an important artery of commerce to the Romans. It
may be that the district was occupied because of its strategic
value, or it may also be that even at that time, the invaders,
great lovers of oysters, had found the long, sandy foreshore
favourable to the cultivation of this dainty.

3nalo SM.xon 3inlusion.

The great struggle for possession which the Anglo-Saxons
waged with the Britons on the decay of Roman power an
incessant warfare for three centuries found the southern part of
Essex (the county inherits its name from having once been the


kingdom of the East Saxons) largely undisturbed. Green, in
his " Making of England," remarks " that in the utter lack of
any written record of the struggle in this quarter, we can only
collect stray glimpses of its story from the geographical features
of this district and from its local names. From both sets of
facts we are drawn to the conclusion that it was not from the
Thames that this district was mainly attacked. In that
quarter there was little to tempt an invader. The clay-flats
which stretch along the southern coast of Essex were then but
a fringe of fever-smitten, desolate fens, while the meadows that
extend from them to the west were part of a forest tract that
extended to the marshes of the Lea. The whole region,
indeed, beyond the coast was thick with woodland." To the
northward, towards the Stour, the country became clearer and
the enemy poured in its attacks from the estuary of that river.
In 530, tradition says, the Saxons founded a city at Shoebury-
ness called Scoebirig, which was afterwards destroyed by a
great inundation of the sea. A place of interment has been
discovered there, and also at Leigh, whilst other remains have
been unearthed at Great Wakering.

3 Centre of tije JSamsf) Attack.

When in turn the attacks of the Danes became a serious
menace to Saxon dominion, this locality was much more
developed ; the growth of the people, doubtless, driving them
to establish new settlements. In Rochford Hundred was
fought the deciding battle between the Saxons and their fierce
rivals, and events enacted hereabouts had considerable influence
upon national affairs.

ftfje Jgattle of Jgenfleet

In 894, after a time of comparative peace, there were two
simultaneous Danish invasions, one in Kent (defeated by
Alfred's son Edward) and the other under Hasting, a raider
with a reputation for hard fighting. The latter landed first at
Sheppey and then at South Benfleet. He established


earthworks in the neighbourhood of where the church now
stands, and forthwith commenced to harry the district.
Eadred, Earl of the Mercians, sailed or marched from London
with his army and a company of citizens to rout the invader.
The fight which followed, conducted in the absence of Hast-
ing, culminated in a brilliant and thrilling feat of arms, for the
fort was carried by storm. Great spoil was taken, together
with a large number of women and children. The treasure
was conveyed to London. Some of the ships were also carried
to London or to Rochester, whilst others were burnt. Their
remains were uncovered during the construction of the railway
line in the Fifties. The chivalrous nature of Alfred bade him
return to Hasting his wife and children. The Danes were
chased across the country now covered by Leigh and South-
end to Shoeburyness, where they threw up entrenchments
sufficiently strong to resist further attack. There they were
joined by the remnant of the army which had escaped from
Kent, and apparently made a formidable fort at the Ness. It
was situated near Rampart Street and was circular in form ;
one writer asserting that it was 1,600 feet long on the sea
front and ran 700 feet inland ; the boats being drawn up
inside the camp for repair or other necessary purposes. From
Shoebury the Danes made a daring raid right through the
centre of England, striking at Buttington-on-Severn. " For
many weeks the two armies sat watching each other, the river
flowing between them. At last, after the Danes had eaten
most of their horses, they sallied forth and crossed the river to

Online LibraryJohn William BurrowsSouthend-on-Sea and district: historical notes .. → online text (page 1 of 28)