Southend-on-Sea 1891 to 1911: The Emergence of a Commuter Town?

Purvis, Keith (2020). Southend-on-Sea 1891 to 1911: The Emergence of a Commuter Town? Student dissertation for The Open University module A826 MA History part 2.

This dissertation was produced by a student studying the Open University postgraduate module A826 MA History part 2. The research showcased here achieved a distinction.
Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.
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Southend-on-Sea’s population grew exponentially in the years 1891 to 1911. This dissertation investigates and evaluates Walton’s claim made in: The English Seaside Resort, A Social History 1750-1914, that: ‘commuters were the main ingredient’ in explaining Southend’s rise to the third most populous seaside resort during the Edwardian period. It is also a response to Walton’s call for more research at the local level to support a greater understanding of the growth and diversity of seaside towns.

This study finds that while growing numbers of commuters began to make a significant contribution to Southend’s rapid growth in the Edwardian period, Walton’s claim is not a sufficient explanation of what was a more complex process spanning a longer period. It was a unique combination of geographical, economic and social factors which together produced the extraordinary population growth experienced in Southend in the years 1891 to 1911.

These findings will be supported firstly with an analysis of Southend’s rapid population growth from 1891- 1911. Secondly by an examination of the importance of three key factors that contributed towards creating a dynamic of rapid population growth by the 1890s. These were: - the town’s development as a resort catering predominantly for working class Londoners; improvements in rail connections with London and migration from the Essex countryside due to agricultural distress. Finally the contribution made by three additional factors in bringing about rapid population growth will be evaluated: - the activities of land agents and speculative builders; the role of Southend Municipal Council and the responses of railway companies. These specific factors combined help to explain why Southend was one of the fastest growing towns in England in the period 1891 to 1911.

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