Disguised Observation Post
We started at a disguised defensive post, which when we visited in 2012 was next to the derelict Esplanade House. When we revisited in 2017, the site has been demolished and replaced with a Premiere Inn – luckily the pillbox-like structure has survived! The brick wall appears to be of classic Southend Victorian origin, which appears to have later had a brick removed in order that the concrete box built behind it could remain concealed, discreetly observing through the allegedly normal wall. The Germans would have been pretty confused! Because the loophole (slit) in this structure is only the size of a single brick, it is thought that it would have been a Home Guard observation post rather than a pillbox, as this slit is not designed for firing from and would have been too narrow for this purpose. The bunker was visible through a gap along from the wall, and the top of it peeped out over the top of the wall itself. Apparently the entrance of the structure is bricked up although we couldn’t get in to the site to see.
Across the road are two ‘anti-tank blocks’ (a.k.a. pimples or Dragon’s teeth), embedded into the seawall. One features a plaque (nice work) explaining the block’s purpose, stating over 1,000 of these blocks lined Southend seafront in the 1940s. Their purpose would be to block the shores from any German vehicles trying to drive into the mainland.
Demolished Gas Jetty & Bunker
In 2012 we also visited ‘Esplanade House’ pictured in the gallery. This was part of the Corporation Gasworks existing since the early twentieth century. This has since been demolished, but used to be behind the walls of the disguised observation post which it likely defended. A jetty existed for the gasworks up until 2007, built for the original pre-1940 industrial site, and also used by the 1970s industrial site. On the end of this jetty was a WW2 observation post, sort of like a big pillbox which was used for watching for invaders, rather than shooting at them. It is a great shame this unique structure has been lost. The rare photographs of the gas jetty bunker just prior to demolition in 2007 belong to David Bullock – many thanks for capturing these. Also below our modern photographs from around 2016-2018 showing the remaining concrete base of the start of the jetty.
Demolished Anti-Tank Blocks
At the beach end of Walton Road in Southend on Sea lies a mysterious series of circles in the road surface. Believe it or not, these are the remnants of anti-tank roadblocks installed to prevent enemy movement around the seafront if the Germans launched an invasion on the beaches of Southend in 1940. Presumably, the concrete bases of these anti-tank devices; potentially cylinders, were too tough to remove after wartime or during the surfacing of the road, and hence the road was resurfaced around them. As well as at Walton Road pictured here, they also exist at Cliveden Road, either side of the Roslin Beach Hotel.