Having wandered up through the Cliff Gardens there were three more surprises in store for me. I saw the first as I reached the top of the cliff path when I was greeted by sight of Prittlewell Square, a bijou Victorian public garden square which still retains much of its charm, and which is complemented by the surrounding period houses.
When the London-Southend Railway was finally completed in 1856 the town began to grow rapidly. The developer of the railway also leased forty acres of clifftop land for Cliff Town, a carefully planned Victorian suburb which included the gardens as an integral part of the layout. They formed a splendidly decorative centrepiece to the whole estate, a role they continue to play today.
Clifftown was built in several ‘classes’ of property, depending on the extent of the sea view. The ‘First Class’ houses were those on the cliff top facing the sea whilst the ‘Second Class’ houses were those at an angle to the sea. Further back were the ‘Third and Fourth Class” houses who nevertheless still had glimpses. Apart from the gardens of the square there was also an area of market gardens which was later turned into the bowling green. An elegant bandstand was built in the clifftop gardens across the road.
The bandstand which stood opposite the gardens had to be dismantled because it was in danger of toppling over the edge, but was restored & moved to another town park.
The second surprise was to see a large and imposing statute of Queen Victoria looking her most imperial. The statue was presented to the town by the Mayor Bernard Wiltshire Tolhurst to mark the 1897 diamond jubilee. It was originally situated at the top of Pier Hill, but was moved to its present position in 1962 because residents joked that in her original position she appeared to be pointing to the gent’s toilets!
I suppose calling Prittlewell Square and a 3 ton statue of Queen Victoria surprises could be a bit of an exaggeration but my last discovery of the day definitely was unexpected and rather strange but great fun More on that shortly!
More information on Southend and its history can be found at :
And more information about the statue can be found at: