The origins of ‘Cliff Town’
Gleneagles is to be found on the elegant Clifftown Parade within an area steeped in Victorian architecture and history. The completion of the London-Tilbury-Southend railway in 1856 provided the impetus for some fine larger scale housing development in Southend and acclaimed English Architects Charles Barry Jr. and Robert Richardson Banks designed the ‘Cliff Town’ Estate. Built between 1859 and 1861, the project was part of one of the first endeavors to position Southend as an aspirational seaside resort and residential town. ‘Cliff Town’ was created under very strict design controls, noticeably the uniform brickwork, recessed porches and doors, sliding sash timber windows, roofs in slate and cast iron balconies and boundary railings. Home to the wealthy and the wise, notable residents of Clifftown Parade include mountaineer Edward Whymper, the first to conquer the Matterhorn, and Benjamin Waugh, founder of the NSPCC.
Queen Victoria’s statue
Regally pointing out to sea is the commanding statue of Queen Victoria. Sculpted by Goldie and Swinerton, it was presented by Mayor Bernard Wiltshire Tolhurst, to the town to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 1897. It was originally situated at the top of Pier Hill and in 1962 it was moved to its present position directly opposite Gleneagles.
The history of Southend Pier
Southend Pier remains the best-known landmark of Southend and still holds the record as the world’s longest pleasure pier. It was built in 1830 and originally made of wood it was 1/2mile long, but was extended several times and eventually reached 1 1/8 miles. The longer pier enabled the docking of steam and other ships carrying visitors and running trips as far as France and Belgium. The original wooden structure was replaced by the present cast iron structure in 1889 and today stands at 1 1/3 miles long.
The ups and downs of the Cliffs Lift
The Cliff Lift was originally opened in 1912. A true counter-balanced funicular railway, the lift was constructed by Waygood and Co. and was an immediate success. In 1959 a major programme of modernisation was carried out and in 1990 further improvements were carried out. In 2003 a malfunction with the counter-weight brought operations to a halt and the lift was out of action for a period of 7 years. Investigations revealed major corrosion to the structure that would require a substantial amount of time and money to correct. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Cliff Gardens including the lift stations and in 2010 the cliff lift was re-opened to the public.
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