Southend-on-Sea Listening Bench

Southend U3A Groups

Site of the bench in Southend-on-Sea

Welcome to the information page for the listening bench installed in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

The recordings on the bench were selected by a team of volunteers from a number of U3A (University of the Third Age) groups in the Southend area. The sound clips describe the town’s history and memories of the Second World War, holidays, amusements, pleasure boats, the Pier, and lifeboats, along with some local songs.

Location of the bench in Southend

The bench is by the Royal Pavilion at the end of the Pier.

The recordings on the Southend bench were selected by a team of volunteers from a number of U3A (University of the Third Age) groups in the Southend area as a U3A Shared Learning Project in partnership with the Essex Sound and Video Archive, with the support of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. Find out more about the U3A.

Audio clips on this bench

Memories of holiday time in Southend

Jack Forbes and Chris Jones performing “Day Trip to Southend”; clip from BBC Essex programme “Southend: A Seaside Centenary” with memories of visiting the town from East London (SA 1/1928/1); and Jim Worsdale describing the town in its peak as holiday resort (SA 1/935/1).

Historic depictions of Southend

Description of Southend from a Gazetteer of Essex published in 1863 (SA 13/1/6/2/1); a royal visit to the town in 1803 by Princess Charlotte of Wales from  BBC Essex programme “Views of Essex” (SA 1/933/1).

Amusements in Southend

Memories of the different amusements offered in Southend: the Caterpillar ride by Robert Tuck (SA 50/33/1); the Chalkwell Park fair by Lorraine Shearer (SA 50/26/1); and the Kursaal ballroom by Dennis Hayward (SA 1/1928/1); part of the song “Essex Woman” by Chris Jones and Jack Forbes (SA 19/1/70/1).

Maritime Southend

Memories by John Kett of a boat trip on the “Skylark,” the Southend Lifeboat, and catching  fish, compiled by BBC Essex (SA 1/467/1).

Enduring the Second World War

Personal memories and a report by A.P.  Herbert on the D-Day invasion fleet off Southend Pier (SA 1/455/1 and SA 13/1/6/2/1), followed by memories of VE Day celebrations and pubs giving away free beer (SA 1/455/1).

Local characters

Personal memories of Southend resident Lilian “Shrimp” Pragnall on how she was kept alive during the Second World War and her family helping to build the Pier (SA 1/1928/1), followed by stories by Jim Worsdale of a couple of characters who used to preach on the sea front (SA 58/4/1).

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