History of Southend Pier

image for southend pier

Southend Pier is the town's historical icon as well as being the longest pleasure Pier in the world. It stretches for 1.34 miles, putting Southend on the map as well as into the record books.

Since it was built in 1830 the Pier has seen both good and troubled times. With its many changes it has evolved to meet the trends of the passing decades of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It is a true survivor, having lived through fires, boat crashes, two world wars and economic decline as well as braving the elements of Mother Nature in beating off the effects of the weather and the waves.

In Brief

  • The present iron Pier was first opened in 1889 but only extended as far as what is now known as the Old Pier Head.
  • The first extension was built to accommodate the increased number of steamboats visiting the Pier. This was opened in 1898 and is known as the New Pier Head.
  • An upper deck was added and opened in 1908 and further extensions to this area were completed in 1927.
  • The final addition to the length was opened in 1929. The Prince George Extension brought the length to 2360 yards (2158 metres) or 1.34 miles, making Southend Pier the longest pleasure Pier in the world.

The Pier Railway

The electric tramway was installed by Cromptons and opened in 1890. It had one car of the toast rack type which operated on 0.75 miles of single track. By the following year the track had been extended to the full 1.25 miles and two further cars were added. More cars were added until four trains were operated with seven cars in each.

In 1949 the rolling stock was replaced with four new trains similar in design to the London Underground stock. In 1978 the electric railway stopped operating due to the wear and tear of the track and the high cost of repairs.

Between 1984 and 1986 the Pier was repaired and a new track laid. Two new trains began running again in 1986 on a single track with a passing loop. Each train has a diesel-hydraulic locomotive at the southern end, five trailer coaches at the northern end and a driver control unit with passenger space.

For further information on this iconic landmark please see the Southend-on-Sea Pier Museum website.

Page last updated: 30/05/2017