A Surprise at Southend 2…..

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.

A satellite view of the Cliff Gardens at Southend. Prittlewell Square is the diamond shaped space in the centre.The area immediately between them and the sea is the site of the landslip.    © Google

A satellite view of the Cliff Gardens at Southend. Prittlewell Square is the diamond shaped space in the centre.The area immediately between them and the sea is the site of the landslip. © Google

Etching showing the proposed development of Cliff Town in the 1850’s © Southend Borough Council

Etching showing the proposed development of Cliff Town in the 1850’s © Southend Borough Council

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.

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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.

EPW024860The gardens seems to have had an overhaul in the 1920s  and was being restored in 2002 by the Heritage Lottery Fund when the landslip occurred.

Shortly after the landslip in November 2002.  Notice the bandstand just on the edge. © http://sucs.org/~dez/gallery/v/Walks/Landslip/?g2_page=2

Shortly after the landslip in November 2002. Notice the bandstand just on the edge. © http://sucs.org/~dez/gallery/v/Walks/Landslip/?g2_page=2

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.

Bright summer bedding in Prittlewell Square ©  http://www.beautifulengland.net

Bright summer bedding in Prittlewell Square © http://www.beautifulengland.net

The gardens of Prittlewell Square © David Marsh 2014

The gardens of Prittlewell Square © David Marsh 2014

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!

IN 1974 English Heritage placed the statue on the national listed buildings register (English Heritage Building ID: 122895) © David Marsh 2014

IN 1974 English Heritage placed the statue on the national listed buildings register (English Heritage Building ID: 122895) © David Marsh 2014

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!

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Queen Victoria statue in its old home on Pier Hill © http://www.southendtimeline.com

More information on Southend and its history can be found at :

http://rochfordessex.net/southend/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Southend2.htm

And more information about the statue can be found at:

http://www.southendtimeline.com/pierhill.htm

http://www.echo news.co.uk/news/8902593.Southend_s_Queen_Victoria_statue_could_be_on_the_move/

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Queen Victoria’s statue in the Cliff Gardens © David Marsh 2014

About Parks and Gardens UK

Parks & Gardens UK is the leading on-line resource for historic parks and gardens providing freely accessible, accurate and inspiring information on UK parks, gardens and designed landscapes. Email - info@parksandgardens.org. Website - www.parksandgardens.org
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