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Memories of the Southend Cliffs Wedding Cake Bandstand

IF there’s one attraction that evokes recollections of Southend’s golden age as an upmarket seaside city, it must be the bandstand.

At one time, within the early 1900s, Southend boasted as many as six bandstands. As we speak, in fact, there are none left on the boardwalk, though the bandstand in Priory Park continues to thrill audiences.

Probably the most well-known of all the town’s bandstands was the “cakestand” erected on the cliffs in 1909.

Nicknamed resulting from its intricate tier form resembling a Victorian wedding ceremony cake, it might not solely be a spot the place dancing and music could be loved, but additionally as a hub the place Southenders would meet, get pleasure from a secret tryst and even the location for a protest march.

The city’s first bandstand appears to have been the bandstand on Southend Pier. Information present this was in operation as early as 1901.

In 1902 a £425 wood bandstand was erected on the highest of the cliffs close to Prittlewell Sq..

It proved extraordinarily common however was changed in 1909 by the well-known wrought iron ‘cake stand’ – costing virtually £1,000.

The unique wood bandstand was then dismantled and relocated to the bottom of the cliffs in Joyful Valley.

On the day the cake store opened in June 1909, hundreds of individuals turned out to have a good time.

A lot house – The Cliffs bandstand pictured circa 1950 – seven years earlier than it was demolished and demolished

The construction has been described as “the best bandstand within the kingdom”. Nonetheless, it got here at a steep value. The foundations had been constructed of pure Kent cliff stone, whereas the completed enclosure was adorned with flowering plant beds throughout.

The Royal Marines band had been the primary to enter the brand new deluxe stage because the band’s musicians belted out the nationwide anthem.

However not everybody was in favor of “out with the outdated and in with the brand new”. Southend’s senior alderman, John Rumbelow Brightwell, was not silent in voicing his displeasure on the cash being spent on the wrought-iron construction. He thought the wood bandstand was completely satisfactory.

“Some councilors aren’t pleased except they’re losing taxpayers’ cash,” he stated in 1908.

He was to be overruled, nevertheless, and the mission would get the inexperienced mild as progressive metropolis councilors agreed on the necessity to assemble a first-class bandstand within the metropolis.

Bands from throughout the nation — and even America — needed to play the bandstand so badly that the attraction was expanded in 1912, permitting musicians to retailer their devices below the construction in a single day.

Within the early twentieth century there have been additionally much less grandiose bandstands dotted across the borough together with Chalkwell Park, East Parade and The Leas. Nonetheless, the Cliffs Bandstand by the ocean proved the right place for public gatherings and protests.

In August 1906 a procession of 100 unemployed employees from Southend marched to the Bandstand. Waving flags and shouting slogans, the lads marched twice across the bandstand earlier than speeches had been delivered.

The group protested Southend Council over the shortage of monetary assist for the unemployed. Dozens of law enforcement officials had been drafted over fears the protest might flip violent; nevertheless, it remained utterly peaceable.

Over the a long time, the Cliffs Bandstand has hosted the cream of bands and musicians. Crowds of spectators who would sit on solar loungers and revel in nightly live shows for a small price. After darkish, the construction acted as a beacon when splendidly lit and visual for miles.

Such was its attraction that in 1921 the council leaders at Nice Yarmouth determined they needed a bandstand for his or her resort and got here up with a bandstand impressed by Southend’s landmark.

The bandstand seats 3,000 individuals in the principle enclosure and has room for hundreds extra across the perimeter. In August 1931 deck chair receipts on the Southend Bandstand for the financial institution vacation totaled £778, in 1935 it was a whopping £1,118. Three years later they’d risen even additional to £1,275.

The employees who arrange the chairs and took the cash labored exhausting for his or her salaries.

Nonetheless, as was customary on the time, girls servants had been paid lower than males, although they did precisely the identical job.

Information from the beginning of the 1946 season present that ladies bandstand deckchair employees and gatherers had been paid £3.6 shillings every week. The lads pocketed £4.10 for a similar position.

James Hast and Avril Fane had been at all times the primary to take the stage on the Cliffs Bandstand in 1948

Up till 1948, after World Battle II, the bandstand was nonetheless in heavy use. Each Saturday evening, {couples} would collect on the Cliffs Bandstand to bop the evening away – and at all times first on the dance flooring was 82-year-old James Hurry.

The group appeared ahead to seeing Mr. Beeiling at his greatest to the reside music – at all times accompanied by singer Avril Fane.

Mr Hastings, a retired undertaker and former mayor of West Ham who has retired to Southend, refused to talk with one other associate. Miss Fane regularly complemented the pensioner in his dancing abilities and the couple grew to become an attraction for the bandstand viewers in their very own proper.

Sadly, the bandstand for wedding ceremony truffles was demolished in 1957. A much less swanky model of this has been in Priory Park, Southend since 2008.

Although confined to the historical past books, outdated images, movie and data can remind us how the lure of the Cake Pavilion was as soon as unequalled in Southend.

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