Britain's favorite seaside resort Southend-on-Sea is much more than beautiful beaches. As the longest pleasure pier in the world, Southend Pier is not just a historical national symbol but a zone for pure entertainment during your stay. As English poet Sir John Betjeman once said, "the Pier is Southend, Southend is the Pier."
A famous national landmark
The Southend Pier is a legend among its kind, extending 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary. It was built in 1830 and has been featured in books, films, and British TV series. In the olden days, it was a high-end spot for visitors of the seaside resort. Taking a stroll down the pier to the end was one of those unforgettable romantic moments for couples. The pier is also a survivor, having gone through fires, boat crashes, and two world wars.
The museum that kept the pier alive
By the end of the 20th-century, the pier had some funding problems and almost closed down. However, with the help of local supporters that were aware of the importance of the national landmark, it was kept alive. With the aim to preserve the history of the pier, a museum was opened in 1989 after the volunteers worked hard every weekend for three years to bring it to light. The museum is located in the old pier workshops, underneath the train station. These workshops were used to maintain and repair both the pier and the railway until 1978.
Exhibits with sea history
One of the main exhibitions is the popular paddle-driven steamer ship, the Medway Queen—a hero of the Dunkirk evacuation during the Second World War. As one of the "Little Ships" of Dunkirk that sailed to France to rescue the soldiers trapped on the beaches, the ship made a record seven trips, rescuing a total of 7,000 men. The displays also include a restored, working pier signal box, a restored ex-pier toast rack tram from 1890, and train carriages from 1949. They are exhibited together with information and pictures of the era, featuring how people dressed back then and how the pier looked in 1830. Elsewhere, find original memorabilia and a collection of old penny slot machines that still work.
Good to know
To find the museum go straight to the Pier Reception, then walk to the right of the railway entrance and follow the signs to the museum. The museum is a non-profit organization, which uses ticket entrance fees and souvenir sales to make improvements. Help them out by taking a gift home to one of your loved ones. Southend Pier has a train that transports passengers from the shore to the pier head, in case you don't feel like walking to the end. For children, there's a fun amusement park with games and rides to enjoy the whole afternoon.