SOUTHEND CENTRAL Southend has spent the last few decades adjusting to the death of the Great British Holiday, while simultaneously adapting itself as a London dormitory. A huge injection of European regeneration money has helped, as will the arrival of a new campus for the University of Essex and a Further Education College, which is promising to bring 20,000 students. A £22m renovation of the Victoria Shopping Centre is underway to draw out-of-town shoppers back to the town, and a farmers’ market is held twice a month. The Royal Bank of Scotland and the administrators of VAT are both large local employers.
Southend remains popular with day-trippers and bank holiday weekenders, and has not lost the kiss-me-quick feel of the Fifties. Strolling along the Prom is still a popular Sunday morning pastime. Its efforts in the late 18th and 19th centuries to rival the elegance of other seaside resorts such as Brighton have endowed it with some fine buildings, including the Royal Terrace. The 1¼-mile-long pier, which has miraculously survived various disasters, including a fire in 2005, is now cherished and restored and complemented by the theme park Adventure Island, where thrills are supplied by The Vortex and The Scorpion. The sailing fraternity is strong here: there are five yacht clubs either side of Southend, in the stretch between Thorpe Bay and Leigh Old Town. Average house prices run from £150,000 for a two-bedroom house, £230,000 for a three-bedroom semi and well over £280,000 for one in a better area such as Leigh-on-Sea.