It's easy for the visitor to be confused between Shoebury and Shoeburyness.
Shoeburyness is an administrative district formed from the areas of South and North Shoebury.
The villages of South and North Shoebury, once
known as Shoebury Magna and Shoebury Parva and then Great and Little Shoebury
respectively, are very ancient habitations of man and were the
home of both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon stone age man.
All of this is attested to by remains now housed in Southend-on-Sea Museum, Colchester Castle Museum and elsewhere such as Mersea Island.
This county of (then) forests and fens became the Kingdom of the East Saxons - Essex - and was one of the seven great Anglo Saxon kingdoms of the "Heptarchy". The others were Wessex, Kent, East Anglia, Sussex, Mercia and Northumbria.
In 2003 the tomb of an East Saxon, probably a
prince of the royal house of the Kings of Essex, was found not far from
Prittlewell Priory, the Saxon administrative centre of the area.
The Norse word 'viking' means a raider or pirate so
the Norsemen who came to Essex were not strictly 'vikings' since they came to
conquer and settle, not just to raid.
Be that as it may a great 'Danish' army, led by
two of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok (Leather Breeches), Ivar 'The Boneless' and
Hubba, terrorised all coastal Europe, travelled far up the rivers Seine and
Rhine, are even said to have sacked the Imperial City of Rome and finally
headed to Saxon Britain.(See also Vikings)
The force's attacks on Alfred the Great's kingdom
of Wessex, which by this time had effectively absorbed the kingdom of Essex,
under various leaders, notably Haesten and Godrum, fill many chapters of
history books but eventually, in 893, having been defeated at Chester and
Exeter and driven from their base at Benfleet they built two forts at
of the local Primary Schools, Hinguar, is named after one of the Viking heroes
The Danes were all driven out - by Alfred the Great's sons and grandsons - first to Mersea Island, just up the coast, then to York.
East Mersea has great similarities to South Shoebury. The Danes pulled their longships up the same type of shallow beaches, built similar earthworks and later the monks of Prittlewell built a church with a watchtower - St. Edmund, King and Martyr - on the high ground just North of the Viking encampment.
Medieval to Modern
From the Danes' expulsion until the 1890s the
people existed on brickmaking, subsistence farming and fishing (and added a
little wrecking and smuggling in as well!).
The standard bricks from Shoebury seem to have been yellow and grey which is well attested to by the many houses built from them in the locality. Red bricks were produced too.
During all this period the area was known for its
fen land and the terrible toll that malaria
took of the native inhabitants.
There are records of a notorious meeting place
known as the 'Red Barn' and of an inn called 'Men Found Out' which was probably
situated opposite where the Shoeburyness Hotel stands today.
in 1829 a slipway was built on the Ness to accommodate the Paglesham Customs boat, moved because there had been no seizures at Paglesham for more than three years. Gradually smuggling in the area tailed off due to improved Coastguard efficiency. The Shoebury tender 'Onyx' was sold in 1837 (for £93) and then the Coastguard Station at Shoebury was closed in 1844, its men being moved to Leigh-on-Sea. Fortunately for the Revenure Board the buildings were taken over by the Board of Ordnance in 1847.
In 1849 South Shoebury was a remote place consisting of a number of scattered farmhouses, labourers' cottages and fishermen's cottages. There were one or two more substantial houses; South Shoebury Hall, Suttons Manor House and Chapmans etc, and these were mostly leased to local farmers. The Tithe records of 1840 show only half a dozen people owning more than six or seven pieces of land in the parish.
The Lord of the Manor at that time, Robert Bristow, possessed approximately a third of the Parish and lived in South Shoebury Hall - when he was actually present in the parish. Close to the Hall was St Andrew's Church, with its Rectory only a few hundred yards away.
The church was visible from both sides of the Ness and had probably been sited in this position in 1100 A.D. to serve as a local watch point on both the North Sea and the Thames Estuary.
Communications were difficult. The road to the village of Great Wakering passed there via Suttons and Cupid's Corner, while the route to Southend ran along what was later to become Elm Road and then through North Shoebury.
The future High Street, which connected the military Station to the 'Main' (Elm) road and which ran past Mr Alp's farm (Friars), was basically a private track, albeit a public right of way, and was gated in three places along its length.
A Garrison Town
In the 1845 British Army came to Shoebury, building permanent barracks in the 1850s
The continuing bad state of Elm Road was to lead a few years later to the building of a separate access road to the barracks, Campfield Road. The Railways followed quickly, bringing Imperial Victorian prosperity.
With the army came the (Imperial!) General Post Office, who quite arbitrarily and entirely for their own administrative convenience called the postal area Shoeburyness to coincide with the Army post which was addressed as Shoebury Ness. There was considerable local opposition to this some of which is detailed in Parish Council records and some continuing into the 1900s in letters and articles in the Parish Magazine and in the Southend Standard Recorder.
Since the establishment expanded to include parts of Wakering and Foulness Island the old 'road' from Wakering to Foulness was marked with upside down brooms to show where it was safe to cross at high tide, when it was generally a foot or so under water, and the route became known as the Broomway.
Nevertheless many a soul was swept away to his death trying to cross the mudflats on the flow of the tide and many entries in the parish records show the burial of an 'unknown drowned person' including those so badly "eaten by fishes" that they could not be recognised!
Shoeburyness was an urban district of Essex from 1894 to 1933, when it became part of the county borough of Southend-on-Sea.
Gradually the area became half dormitory town and half service industry. Then, in the 1970s the Army marched away and the railway traffic declined leaving Shoebury to return to its subsistence living but with a boom population to support.
The eastern terminus of the London, Tilbury and
Southend Railway (C2C) is at Shoeburyness railway station. The station was
served by London Underground trains from 1911 to 1939.
South Shoebury, with a total population of more than 16,000, retains much of its original 'flavour'. Divided into four main sections - The Village, Cambridge Town, The Painters and The Garrison. Shoebury has two beaches; East Beach and Shoebury Common Beach both of which are designated Blue Flag beaches.
East Beach is a sandy/pebbly beach around a
quarter of a mile long between the Pig's Bay MOD site and the former
Shoeburyness Artillery barracks. Access to the large pay-and-display car park
is via Rampart Terrace.
Shoebury Common Beach is bounded to the Garrison housing estate and continues into Jubilee Beach. Shoebury Common Beach is home to many beach huts located in the promenade and on the sand. Uncle Tom's Cabin provides visitors with the usual seaside refreshments.
A Coast Guard watch tower at the eastern end of the beach keeps watch over the sands and mudflats while listening out for distress calls over the radio.
The use of the old garrison area for housing has regenerated some of the general area but since the estate is still 'walled off' from the centres of population its 'inmates' have not integrated into either The Village or Cambridge Town, the two adjacent sections of the town.
Many of the population 'commute' to Southend-on-Sea, Basildon, Chelmsford and London for work.
Shoeburyness has a delightful mixture of seaside, countryside and town coupled with access to the North of Essex and Suffolk. Constable Country (Flatford Mill) is only an hour and a half's drive away.
Looking across the strand of East Beach to the beach itself and the North Sea
Centres of local government, social services and charitable organisations are sparse in Shoebury itself due to centralisation in the Southend-on-Sea Borough, Unitary Authority.
A similar area to South Shoebury bordered mostly by farmland rather than by the North Sea.
North Shoebury was originally a rural agricultural centre with a few houses, an excise house and a church.
The earliest mention of 'Revenue Men' in the excise house is
from 1760 when a 'Waiter-and-Searcher' was employed at North Shoebury under the
command of the Controller at Maldon.
North Shoebury's Parish Church is St. Mary the Virgin.
Thorpe Bay is an area created between the wars on agricultural
and brick/gravel pit land between Southchurch and Shoebury.
Its Parish Church is St. Augustine's.
Great Wakering is an expanding rural/urban district in the Hundred of Rochford.
Like South Shoebury it is and extremely old area of habitation, it's name coming from the almost exclusively East Saxon method of naming places using a chieftain's name and adding the word "ing" for his 'clan'; in this case meaning the place of Wake's People.
Wakering is the gateway to Foulness Island which historically has had very close links with the village.
The Parish Church is St. Nicholas.
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