Thousands of people lined the streets of Southend one year ago to welcome royalty and celebrate our much-loved town becoming a City.
Wednesday 1 March marks one year since our now King, Charles III and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, bestowed the letters patent on Southend-on-Sea and officially turned our Borough into a City.
The decision to make Southend a City was made by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in memory of Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West who was tragically murdered whilst serving his local community in October 2021. Sir David fought passionately for City status to be awarded.
The letters patent are now proudly displayed in Southend Central Museum, alongside photographs of the Royal visit.
Pin badges have been delivered to every primary school in Southend as a reminder of that special day, so children in reception, through to year six can have a memento to keep and look back on.
Andy Douglas, headteacher at Milton Hall Primary School, said: “We took our Year 6s to the seafront to meet Prince Charles and Camilla and they were so amenable and engaged openly, which meant a lot to the children.
“Moving from a town to a city probably doesn’t mean a lot to the children right now but the fact that they can say they were there at the time will mean so much for years to come.
"I remember hearing the children say things like ‘I shook hands with Prince Charles’, ‘I’m not washing my hands for a week!’, because it was a truly memorable experience for them, and they represented Southend really well.”
The letters patent was presented to the 100th Mayor, Cllr Margaret Borton, who was also the last Mayor of the Borough of Southend and the first Mayor of the City of Southend. Her official portrait was unveiled recently at an invitation-only event and has been painted by talented Westcliff-on-Sea based artist Michelle Goldman. It has been hung in Porters Civic House.
Cllr Borton said: “It was already an honour being the 100th Mayor, but for Southend to then be granted City Status, making me the last Mayor of the Borough and the first Mayor of the City, well it was such a privilege.
“It’s hard to believe it was a year ago already as it feels like yesterday, but also so much has happened. I feel like it has given the community of Southend a real boost.”
As part of City Day, Lady Amess also received the first Freedom of the City on behalf of her late husband, Sir David Amess.
In the past year since Southend-on-Sea became a City, a lot has happened, including:
- the City joined together for the death of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, remembering her reign and attending the traditional and historic event of the proclamation of King Charles III
- the City joined together at a tree planting ceremony to mark one year since the tragic murder of Sir David Amess
- we celebrated a year of climate action and over 50 different projects being delivered
- we’ve launched a cost-of-living support scheme, linking residents with organisations, charities and volunteers who can help them get the support they need during the current financial crisis
- our pier has had an amazing year with new electric pier trains, including the ‘Sir David Amess’ entering operation, and a record-breaking year for visitors
- the Queen’s Baton Relay came to the City and as part of the build-up to the Commonwealth Games
- Brook Meadows opened, boasting a variety of services, including long and short-term residential care, at-home care and the Viking Day Service helping those with learning difficulties. Operated by Southend Care, the state-of-the-art facility has been built with accessibility, wellbeing and support as priorities, providing a more person-focused and holistic approach to care
- we’ve held numerous successful and fantastic community events including the Halloween Parade, LuminoCity, Southend City Jam and took part in the Hampton Court Flower Festival
- the City is award-winning, scooping a national Love Parks award, and seven of our parks were awarded green flags We have five blue flag beaches and a purple flag for a safe night-time economy
- the council housing team was shortlisted for several regional awards for innovative and exciting house building schemes; three got an honourable mention
- the City Celebration Fund, which was set up by Olympus and Southend-on-Sa City Council to support community events, also supported Southend Pride 2022, Southend Art Trail, the Leigh Folk Festival and Eid in the City of Southend
Cllr Stephen George, leader of Southend-on-Sea City Council, said: “It has been an amazing first year for our City, a year of historic events and great change. There is much our City has to be proud of, with our events, our landmarks, the way we conduct historic events and lean on one another, as communities should, during troubling times.
“I hope as we mark the one-year anniversary, residents and visitors can stop for a moment to appreciate their own individual contribution to our City, as it is ultimately the people who make any place, what it is.
“I would like to thank all the individuals, partner organisations, charities, residents, and visitors for giving so much of themselves to Southend-on-Sea. I hope the City is synonymous with happy memories for you, of calm and peaceful periods of your life and that when you think of our seaside, smell the sea air and hear the seagulls, you smile.”
Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group on Southend-on-Sea City Council, said: “As we reach one year since the honour of City status was bestowed upon us, it is another opportunity to reflect on Sir David Amess, all that he did for our community and what a great man and MP he was.
“City Day on 1 March 2022 was a special and emotional day and will go down in our collective history, giving Sir David the legacy that he rightly deserves.
“Our thoughts remain with his family and friends who are still grieving and trying to make sense of what happened.”
A special ceremony for the Southend City Jubilee Awards is taking place at the Civic Centre on Wednesday 1 March, honouring 70 of Southend-on-Sea’s unsung heroes and heroines. The event is hosted by Blade Education, with support from the National Lottery Awards for All Fund, Southend City Community Investment Board and Southend-on-Sea City Council.
Photos can be found on our Flickr page.