This book is worked around the recollections of Miss Augusta Mary Tawke, a grand lady and benefactor who was born in 1818, and who had her recollections of Southend-on-Sea and its neighbourhood transcribed in 1911, at the age of 93.
Starting at around 1855, you’ll be taken on a gentle tour around the town and will meet some of the gentry, and some of the most interesting and, even taking into consideration today’s generations, most quirky townsfolk.
You will meet some of the tradesmen of Prittlewell, and then take a stroll down towards the sea to Cobweb Corner, so-called after the wires for the tram system that criss-cross overhead From there we’ll go to the Terrace by the Royal Hotel and the library opposite, which was frequented and favoured by royalty, and meet some of the residents. You’ll visit Mrs Pilton and her little shop in the depths of the Shrubbery, and then back around past the fields to where Alexandra Street would be built.
A treat is in store, too, as you’ll take the ride on the first steam train out of Southend. Well, as far as Wickford, anyway. The return journey was delayed because of a derailment further up the line, but it is worth noting the differences in the level of interest and enthusiasm towards this new transport system now it has reached our town!
You’ll also go on excursions to the towns and villages around Southend, most of which are accessible with a sturdy cart and horse, and will include Rochford, Hawkwell, Hockley, Rayleigh, Thundersley, and back home via Hadleigh and Milton Hall.
The book comes to an end in the comparatively heady, modern times of 1912, by which time dress fashion and polite society had changed almost beyond recognition, and I can only imagine the choice words that the people of those bygone days may have to say on the subject.
Another enjoyment for the children was to climb half-way up the cliff and visit Mrs Clara Pilton in her little wooden house, which was situated very much on the site now occupied by the Alexandra Yacht Club. Mrs Pilton sold the same class of articles as Miss Woosnam, but not of course on so grand a scale. She was noted for her chocolate creams and other delights. Being a very fine large woman, I have often wondered since if she lived in that mite of a place on the cliffs, hardly larger than a bathing machine...
Directly after their marriage, my father and mother came to live at "The Lawn", Hall Road, Rochford. The place had always been let, my father never having cared about living there. Great was my mother’s astonishment on the first Sunday after her arrival, on looking out of the window, to see all the farm carts turned up in front of the windows under the trees, and great was the surprise of the old bailiff when she said she did not approve of such an exhibition...
The opening of the Great Eastern Railway extension from Liverpool Street Station to Southend took place on 3rd October 1889, at 7.13 am.
A good many persons assembled to witness the departure of the first train from Southend Station. The total number of persons who travelled by the train being ninety-two, of whom thirty-four booked to Prittlewell, thirty-seven booked to Rochford, two to Hockley, three to Rayleigh, nine to Wickford, three to Chelmsford, two to Shenfield, one to Brentwood and one to Liverpool Street.
Mr. Arthur Harrington was the first person to secure a ticket, No 0001, and prominent amongst his fellow travellers were Superintendent and Mrs Hawtree, Mr H. Harper, Mr Kelley, Mr Stredwick, Mr T. Quy, jun., Mr Blakely, one of the guards on the London and Tilbury Railway, and the renowned Thomas Sharpe (donkey driver).