Kursaal

1837

In 1875, the brewery firm Meux developed 26 acres of farmland into a marine park. The first plans of the Kursaal site were drawn up in 1898 to include a tower, circus, theatre, arcade, etc as a speculative venture, by Pyramidal Syndicate Limited. The company collapsed, but not before brewers Samuel Allsopp & Sons, principal shareholders, had formed the Southend-on-Sea Tower & Marine Park Co, a year later called Margate & Southend Kursaals Ltd. The architects George Sherrin and John Clarke designed a large, domed tower in Baroque style to mark the main entrance of the Kursaal site. The Kursaal Palace of 1901 was a large, flat-floored single-balcony music hall and ballroom in the centre of the complex. Pictures show a barrel-vaulted ceiling, with ornate balcony on three sides, supported by pillars from balcony level, as well as the the balcony from floor level. The coffered proscenium framed a shell-shaped decorative rear wall; the stage was built at two levels, one apron, one almost thrust. There were dressing rooms and a band room. A local guide book of 1904 described it, inaccurately, but no doubt reflecting the company’s ambitions, as a replica of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.

American-born Clifton Jay Morehouse arrived in Southend and ran a trotting track. He re-opened this as an amusement park in 1913, with many ideas taken from New York’s equivalent Coney Island. It was later called Luna Park. The Morehouse family owned the Kursaal site until 1985, but the Kursaal Palace was used for the last time in the mid 1970s. After it was sold, the new company were unable to fulfil plans to restore the Palace and the stage was removed. Finally the local council intervened in the 1990s when the building was becoming increasingly unsafe, and, save for the dome, its supporting walls and the façade, it has now been virtually demolished and rebuilt as a leisure complex which includes a bowling alley.

Built / Converted
1901
Dates of use
Current state
Façade only
Current use
Converted to other use (leisure centre)
Address
South Church Avenue/Marine Parade, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England
Website-
Further details
Other names
Kursaal Palace , Luna Park
Events
  • 1897 Owner/Management: Pyramidal Syndicate Limited (collapsed 1899)
  • 1897 Owner/Management: Southend-on-Sea Marine Park Company (subsidiary of above)
  • 1898 Owner/Management: nam change to: Margate & Southend Kursaals Ltd
  • 1900 Owner/Management: Messrs Allsopp’s, brewers (also shareholder in above)
  • 1900 Owner/Management: s-85 Morehouse family
  • 1901 Design/Construction:
    George Sherrin & John Clarke
    - Architect
  • 1985 Owner/Management: Peter Ketteley
  • 1988 Owner/Management: Brent Walker
  • 1995 Owner/Management: Local authority
Capacities
  • Capacity
    Original
    Description
    2000-8000 standing
  • Capacity
    Later
    Description
    1910: up to 5000
Listings
  • Listing
    II
    Comment
    Listing seems to have been of limited value, having regard to its present condition
Stage type
Pros flat
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 49ft 1910 Width: 87ft
Proscenium width: 1910: 31ft
Height to grid: -
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -