The Pier Was Built in 1889
The Thames has always been a river of desires. In centuries past sailors and explorers, merchants and adventurers, have all journeyed down the river from London to hunt their fortunes or their future, while others from afar have sailed up the river on a similar quest or enterprise. For all of them the low Essex shore was always their first and last glimpse of England.
Up till the middle of the last century British ships crusing out of the Port of London dominated the trade routes of the world. The Cunard Queens dominated the Atlantic. Royal Mail Traces carried passengers to Brazil and South America, with a few of their ships pushing up the Amazon as far as Iquitos. P&O and Orient strains serviced Hong Kong and Japan and Australia. The brand new Zealand Transport Line sailed to Australia and New Zealand. The liners of Union Castle circumnavigated Africa. All these once acquainted names have disappeared now, and trendy container ships and plush cruise ships have replaced virtually all of the previous passenger-cargo lines that when flew the Red Duster into each ocean of the world.
Instances have modified, but there remains to be an endless number of delivery utilizing the Thames, and as you begin to pass the Essex shore the river is now overshadowed by the magnificent, Queen Elizabeth eleven Dartford Suspension Bridge, which was opened in 1991. Vehicles stream repeatedly overhead on the congested arc of the M 25, and 4 concrete towers with their spider-internet tracery of cables soar into the sky.
However, the rest of the long, flat Essex shoreline, which many a younger sailor used to observe with both the slight tang of immediate homesickness, or the buoyant elation of homecoming, remains to be just about unchanged. Most sailors had their minds mounted on the more exotic places on the far end of each voyage, but they have been lacking something, for there is much to be explored and enjoyed along the Essex aspect of the nice river.
Cruise ships nonetheless come as much as Tilbury, the place the previous passenger liners used to pick up and disembark passengers earlier than making the final lap up to KG5 or Victoria docks, but Tilbury has expanded and is now the principal container port for the Port of London. It is usually the site of the large, star-formed, moated and earth-walled fort that’s the perfect preserved of all the fortifications that have been once strung out along each river banks to guard London’s most susceptible gateway.
There was a blockhouse right here at the time of the Spanish Armada, and the present Tilbury Fort was constructed to exchange it within the late 17th Century. It was usually garrisoned by way of the Napoleonic wars and by way of the primary World Conflict. There has at all times been the potential threat of an enemy fleet, our mercantile rivals the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, and eventually the Germans.
The big artillery pieces still level out from the east and west gun lines along the embankment and the day I strolled there a Royal Navy destroyer and an old, pink-sailed Thames sailing barge had been each transferring up the river. The Navy ship gleamed gray and sleek within the sunshine, brisk and direct about her business, whereas the barge tacked slowly and lazily, a nostalgia image of a bygone age.
Observe the river and you will come to Canvey Island, which is linked to the mainland by the bridge at South Benfleet. The island was as soon as a lonely wasteland of mudflats and tidal inlets, until the land was reclaimed and protected by a sequence of embankments and drainage dykes constructed by a Dutch Engineer in 1623.
Despite this the island continues to be vulnerable to distinctive tidal flooding. In 1953 the terrible mixture of North Sea storms and Spring tide surge that devastated the whole of the jap counties coastline swamped Canvey and drowned 58 people. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped it from filling up with summer time cottages and camper sites. Small pleasure craft abound, because it is especially standard with the boating fraternity.
Canvey is now also the location of a huge petroleum refining industry, a gigantic conglomeration of massed storage tanks and writhing pipelines, just like the silver steel entrails of some distorted industrial monster laid bare.
Among the best views of the whole island is from the ruins of Hadleigh Castle, which overlook the vast sweep of the estuary. Hadleigh Castle was constructed in the eleventh Century to guard the mouth of the Thames and for centuries its great stone towers and partitions stood equal to the duty. Sadly, as we speak only the south east tower stays almost intact, with a number of crumbling walls marking the remainder of the positioning, and the split wall of the north east tower standing like some nice shattered tooth.
A few miles additional down the river is Old Leigh, as soon as a small fishing community overlooking a small marshy inlet, the village has now been virtually swallowed up by the growth of sprawling Southend. Nonetheless, the taste of Old Leigh continues to be there, with its cobbled high street and rows of fisherman’s cottages and a handful of fishing boats moored up among the many pleasure craft at its old wharves.
There is an old black clapboard sail maker’s loft at Victoria Wharf, which is now a primary Aid Put up manned by the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, and the scene here appeared to sum up Old Leigh. A small pleasure yacht was moored at the quay and nearby was a small sandy beach where households played and sunbathed.
Not far away was the Essex Yacht Membership, the place scores of young individuals were bobbing round in brilliant-sailed small boats, or wrestling with them up and down the slipways on both side of the Bembridge, an ex-cruising pilot cutter that now serves as the clubhouse. Membership racing occasions are monitored from the outdated wooden bridge the place there are positive sea views over the bows.
Throughout the Georgian interval the south end of Prittlewell was becoming a small, fashionable seaside resort for the properly to do. It was a spot of sedate beach huts where ladies in knee and elbow size bathing suits discreetly emerged to paddle their toes. From there it expanded quickly.
With the approaching of the railway in 1856 Southend was solely an hour away from the capital and promptly grew to become the favorite vacation resort for the East End of London. The city is virtually divided by the far protruding pier, with on either facet the amusement arcades, fast rides and the kids’s paradise of Journey Island. Right here and to the left of the pier is the wild, brash and noisy face of Southend, the center of all the bright lights, fish and chip outlets and enjoyable. Go to the appropriate and you will see the extra genteel features, with all of the peace and wonder of its many manicured lawns and cliff top flower gardens.
Go up from the promenade and walk alongside the Royal Terrace, where the Royal Resort was built in 1791 to commemorate a visit by Princess Caroline, the wife of the then Prince of Wales. Her go to helped to determine even more firmly the fashionable status of Southend. The terrace was restored in 1978, and in summer there’s normally a massed array of glorious, colored hanging baskets decorating the trendy hotel fronts.
Further alongside the white statue of Queen Victoria, flanked by palm timber, overlooks rich purple and yellow rose beds. Beside her there’s an elegant Victorian bandstand the place waltzing couples glide gracefully on sunny afternoons. Opposite is Prittlewell Square, Southend’s oldest surviving park, with its high splashing central fountain framed in white wrought iron entrance gates. All over the place there are sumptuous flower beds.
In Priory Park stands the outdated Prittlewell Priory which was once a Cluniac monastery and is now a museum. Beside it stands the solid grey Crow Stone, which once stood on the seashore at Chalkwell to mark the jap extent of London’s jurisdiction.
Down on the Western Esplanade is where the annual London to Southend Traditional Automotive Rally finishes, normally with three hundred or more vintage automobiles assembled there on the large day. That is just certainly one of the big annual events on this pleasure-geared seaside resort, ranging from the Previous Leigh Regatta and the Thames Sailing Barge Match, each held out on the river, to the high-flying Air Show within the skies above.
If you can’t face an hour’s brisk walk a full size practice now takes you out to the far finish of the pier, which was nearly at all times my final glimpse and first sight of the mouth of the Thames. The pier was in-built 1889, and has survived seven boat crashes and three fires. One and a 3rd miles long, it is the longest pier on the earth.
Rows of fishermen forged their traces over the rails, hoping to haul a fat bass or mullet up on to the deck boards, and there’s a pier head viewing tower with wide-ranging views. From right here anything from a cockle boat to an oil tanker may hover into view.
Shoeburyness occupies the final elbow of land before the shoreline turns away to the north. Until the center of the 18th Century it was a smuggler’s haven of misty marshes and hidden creeks. Then got here the Royal Artillery Garrison and school of Gunnery and the village started to develop. Between the wars its secure bathing beaches made it another vacation spot.
Plans have been put ahead for another future barrier here to span the full mouth stone island blue hoodie of the Thames. London and the marshlands of Essex have at all times been vulnerable to flooding, due to the sluggish increase of river and sea levels over the centuries, and now that rate of increase is accelerating on account of Global warming.
The Thames Barrier excessive up the river at Greenwich which was officially opened in 1984 is no longer thought-about satisfactory safety for the nation’s capital. Extra flood and storm tides of the 1953 variety are predicted as a high likelihood, and the ongoing battle against the hungry sea will proceed. If the proposed barrier is constructed it will be a large construction stretching far into the marshes on either side which can change the shore and skyline for ever.
Nonetheless, for the second the Thames has reached the cold North Sea with out additional hindrance. Having began far inland in the Cotswolds, passing by means of the great coronary heart of London, and caressing the winding Essex shore, the river still flows by in all its many moods, timeless and continuous, on its romantic method to the far, broad world.
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