SCT'61 Articles
Southend Sea Front Bus Services by Brian Pask

This is a short personal history of the Southend sea front bus services and the open toppers that worked them with the pictures either taken by Brian or drawn from his collection.
According to a 1934 timetable, at that time there were two Sea Front Services - 6a Kursaal to Leigh Elms via Chalkwell Schools and 19 Southend Pier to Leigh Church via Grand Hotel. A photo which is thought to be prewar shows a 6a at the Kursaal with destination Leigh Elms, so the services were probably extended to that point before the war, but number 6a was still used.
By 1946, probably the first year in which the Sea Front Service ran after the war, the service had become 19 Pier and Leigh Elms via Chalkwell Station and 19a Kursaal and Leigh Elms via Chalkwell Schools and it seems likely that the renumbering came with reintroduction after the war. Both services terminated at the Kursaal from the 1948 season.
Following the Co-ordination scheme, from the 1955 season the services became 67 Leigh Elms-Shoebury Common and 68 Leigh Elms-Hamstel Road (absorbing Southend Corporation's 68 Bryant Avenue to Hamstel Road). The route for 67/68 was via Chalkwell Station, that via Chalkwell Schools being covered by 67a/68a variants, but these numbers were only used for one season. For 1956 the western terminus of both routes became Thames Drive and the 67 was later extended at the east end, first to the Cambridge Hotel and then to Shoebury East Beach. The 67 and 68 exchanged eastern termini from the 1965 season and some time after 1969 the western terminus of the 67 became Kent Elms Corner.

Brian Pask collection
A single decker of the type which seems to have been used on the sea front in perhaps the early 1930s. It is unidentified, but appears to be a Daimler and is fitted with an open sided body for its sea front role. Although it carries passengers it is, for some reason, parked on the wrong side of the road just west of the pier. Although the route details are not clear on the photo this may have been a 19 and its location the Pier terminus of that route. However, why this was on the wrong side of the road is not clear. The location is roughly where the Cliff Lift was later, but the purpose of the sloping building on the side of the cliff is not clear.

Essex Bus Enthusiasts Group
A rather nice small open sided single decker, HJ3812, opposite the Kursaal on route 6a. Note the side route boards advertising "Marine Tour Chalkwell Bay Swimming Baths Pier Kursaal", suggesting that this photo predates the 1934 timetable and that at this time the route did not go beyond the sea front at Chalkwell (i.e. the stop later known as Chalkwell Shelter).

Essex Bus Enthusiasts Group
A somewhat more conventional (for the period) single decker, ML1582, at the stop just west of the pier on a 19 for Leigh Church. Note the small board propped up against the front of the bus advertising a "Grand Marine Tour"! This was one of a number of London General Omnibus Co. DE? class Dennis single deckers acquired by Westcliff in 19??.

Essex Bus Enthusiasts Group
In 1937 new modern vehicles were provided for the sea front service. There were three open top double deckers, Bristol GO5Gs with ECOC bodywork, JN8570/1/2. These three vehicles were fitted with roofs in 1942, but had them removed again in 1949 for further sea front service. One of their discarded roofs survived for many years on a farm near Rochford as covering for a haystack! No prewar photo of one of these vehicles seems to have survived, but this photo shows JN8570, with its added roof, at the route 5 terminus just south of Victoria station just after the war. Note the peculiar shape of the front upper deck windows where they followed the line of the original open top body.


Brian Pask collection
Somewhat later JN8570, pulls away from the Chalkwell Shelter stop and turns into Chalkwell Avenue on route 19. It does not yet have its Eastern National fleet number, but appears to be in cream and green livery, suggesting a date sometime between 1952 and 1954. These open toppers survived until 1959/61, but by this time had moved to Clacton.

Brian Pask
Accompanying the open top double deckers in 1937 were a batch of Bristol JO5G single deckers with ECOC bodywork, JN8560-9. These had more ornate mouldings than earlier single deckers, different opening windows and opening roofs (a photo exists of JN8566 showing the roof open). Obviously intended for the Sea Front Service most, if not all, were in cream livery and carried side route boards reading "Sea Front Service". However, a 1939 photo exists of JN8562 in red livery, so either they were not all in cream or this one was later repainted. Two of the batch, JN8568/9, were requisitioned during the war, but at least some of the others returned to the Sea Front Service afterwards. These would have been the only vehicles available for the service until the open top double deckers had their roofs removed again in 1949. Some would have remained until arrival of more open top double deckers (from Brighton & Hove) in the early 1950s, when they were repainted red and used on normal single deck duties. JN8566 is seen here opposite the Kursaal on Sea Front service 19, probably in 1951

Brian Pask
Two AECs are recorded as acquired by Westcliff in 1950 from Brighton & Hove, but a photo dated 4/8/49 shows GJ2004 in Southend but still with Brighton & Hove fleet names, so they may well have been on hire at first. There is also a photo in the April 1950 edition of Buses Illustrated showing GJ2004 on hire to Westcliff in summer 1949. In the photo shown here, GJ2004, now with Westcliff fleet names, is at the Kursaal terminus on route 19 in August 1951.

Brian Pask
Another open top double decker was added to the fleet in 1950 when HX2980, originally a 1931 AEC demonstrator with Short bodywork, but later with an ECW body, was converted. The livery appears to be cream with black engine cover and mudguards, the same as that carried by the Brighton & Hove open toppers acquired the previous year. One of Southend's seafront landmarks, the Palace Hotel, is visible in the background. HX2980 at the stop immediately west of the Pier on route 19a in August 1951.

Brian Pask
Another Brighton & Hove AEC, GJ2012, at the stop just west of the Pier on route 19, again in August 1951. This vehicle and its sister GJ2011 are shown in the Eastern National fleet list as acquired by Eastern National in 1954, but it is clear that at least the former was with Westcliff, presumably on hire, earlier than this.

Brian Pask
The other vehicle of this pair, GJ2011 now in Eastern National cream/green livery and with fleet number 1009, west of the pier on 14th July 1957. By this time the Sea Front Services had become 67/8, this vehicle being on route 68 to Hamstel Road.

Brian Pask
Another Brighton & Hove AEC acquired by Eastern National in 1954 was GN6200, seen here at the 68 terminus at Hamstel Road on 10th August 1955.

Brian Pask collection
With what looks very much like postwar ECW bodywork, but recorded as being rebodied in 1942, is another ex-Brighton & Hove AEC, GW6259. This was acquired by Eastern National in 1950 and may have been used at Clacton at first, since I cannot recall ever seeing it in Southend. However, it must later have worked there since this photo shows it pulling away from the Chalkwell Shelter stop and turning into Chalkwell Avenue. It is without a blind, just having a paper sticker "Sea Front Service" in the blind box. Absence of a blind suggests that it may have been a short term loan to Southend.

Brian Pask
Westcliff were not averse to using the open toppers on routes away from the sea front, although not to quite the same extent that Southend did later! By 1951 the 19a included a peak hour service from Chalkwell Station to Westborough Road which became 65 in 1955 and 16 in 1957. Probably because it was originally part of the 19a it was often worked by an open topper during the summer. JN8570, by this time Eastern National 1244, stands at the stop opposite Chalkwell Station on this route on 30th June 1955. The waiting queue of people certainly look more like commuters than holidaymakers!

Brian Pask
Another route which often had an occasional visit by an open topper was my local route, the 9, where one sometimes appeared on an odd early morning journey at 5.46 am to Southend! Here, another ex-Brighton & Hove vehicle, NJ5976 a Dennis Lance, stands at the Willson Road terminus of the 9 early one summer morning in June 1951. This was one of six vehicles, NJ5974-9, acquired by Westcliff in 1949, this being the only one which was open top. The others spent their short lives with Westcliff on contract work from Fairfax Drive depot, click here for a photo of NJ5979 taken in 1951. Although all were Dennis Lances, the closed top vehicles (but not NJ5976) were disguised by fitting AEC radiators.

Brian Pask
Another open topper, GJ2004, at Willson Road on the 9 in June 1952. It is still in Brighton & Hove/Westcliff cream and black, but now has Westcliff fleetname, so was presumably now owned by them.

Brian Pask
Eastern National acquired four ex-Brighton & Hove Bristols for sea front use in 1952/3, but the only one of these to be used at Southend was ANJ831. It is seen here at the Kursaal on route 67 in June or July 1956. AEC GJ2011 is behind it on the 68.