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Coordinates: 51°32′33″N 0°39′13″E / 51.5425°N 0.6535°E / 51.5425; 0.6535

Leigh-on-Sea is located in Essex

 Leigh-on-Sea shown within Essex
Population 20,737 
OS grid reference TQ841859
Unitary authority Southend-on-Sea
Ceremonial county Essex
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LEIGH-ON-SEA
Postcode district SS9
Dialling code 01702
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Southend West
Website Leigh-on-Sea Town Council
List of places: UK • England • Essex

Leigh-on-Sea is a civil parish administered as part of Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, England. In 1996, it became a civil parish, and a town council was created, funded by an increased council tax rate in the area. The parish, which is the only one in Southend, had a population of 20,737 according to the 2001 census. A survey by Halifax Estate Agents, published in the Evening Standard newspaper in 2007, placed Leigh-On-Sea as being the second best place to live on the English coast after Christchurch, Dorset.[1]



Leigh-on-Sea was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Legra, where it is described as a "one horse town". Located next to the sea, Leigh has been primarily a fishing village for most of its history[citation needed] However, its sheltered position at the mouth of the Thames gave it some success as a port, with international trade and a shipbuilding business[citation needed]

Due to its good position on the shipping route to London, it began to grow and by the 16th century had become a fairly large and prosperous port[citation needed] Ships of up to 340 tons are recorded as being built in Leigh[citation needed] including many that would have been built for the local fishing fleets. With its location at the mouth of the Thames, Leigh was often used by the navy against threats from pirates and the French, Spanish and Dutch Navies.[2]

By the 18th century ships had become larger and trade changed. At this time Leigh's deep water channel silted up and the importance of the town diminished. It then gradually reverted to a fishing village, supplying the London market by road and barge. When the London to Tilbury railway was extended to Southend in 1856, this split the village in two and many of its timber-framed buildings were demolished[citation needed]

The Mayflower is believed to have docked at Leigh-on-Sea to take on provisions and passengers before its epic voyage to the new world with the Pilgrim Fathers[citation needed]

The fishermen of Leigh are famous for their heroic attempts to rescue British soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. A memorial in St Clements churchyard stands as a reminder of their bravery and sacrifice.

The arrival of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway in 1854 spurred the town's development, allowing greater trade with London and the rest of the world, and making it a commuter town for London workers. Leigh-on-Sea railway station is run and served solely by c2c.[3]

Old Leigh

Leigh-on-Sea boasts London's nearest beach, and many visitors travel down at the weekend to the conservation area of Old Leigh with its cobbled streets and clapboard cottages. The area is notable for its shellfish, and there is a small but active fleet of cockle boats, which keep alive the reputation of Leigh as the epicentre of the world cockling trade. The picturesque cockle sheds are home to many old Leigh families who have followed this trade for generations.[4]

Osborne Bros specialises in producing and supplying quality shellfish and fish to individuals and trade customers around the world. Their café is housed in the heart of the Old Town in an 18th century stable mews which was used to house horses and carriages delivering ale to the local public house – The Crooked Billet. The cockle sheds and smoke house are located along Cockle Shed row, which remains largely unchanged since being built in the 19th century.[5]

Festivals and activities

Old Leigh is also host to numerous festivals including the Leigh Art Trail, the Leigh Folk Festival (always featuring The Famous Potatoes) and the Old Leigh Regatta. Leigh on Sea has been called "the St. Ives of the East" owing to the number of artists in the town. The annual Art Trail is a chance for local and invited international artists show their works in the area's shops and cafes.[6] The folk festival started in June 1992 and has been held every year since then, featuring local talent and nationally and internationally known artists in a series of outdoor and indoor events held over seven days. It is believed to be the largest free folk festival in the country with more than 70 bands and 30 dance groups taking part and with up to 10,000 visitors.[7] The regatta is held over one weekend in September. It is organised by the three Sea Scout Groups based in the Old Town to raise funds for local Scouting and a nominated charity.[8]

Cultural references

Leigh-on-Sea is the setting of Tim Bowler's book Midget. Further literary connections include the fact that John Fowles was born here in 1926 - the author of such novels as The Collector, The Magus, and The French Lieutenant's Woman. HG Wells also bought a house for his mistress, Rebecca West at 28 marine parade in late February 1917.

Notable persons



  1. ^ "Christchurch is the town rated perfection-on-sea". Evening Standard (Associated Newspapers Limited). 11 August 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  2. ^ History of Old Leigh
  3. ^ c2c Railway
  4. ^ Out and about in Old Leigh by Richard Baxter
  5. ^ Osbourne Bros seafood merchants
  6. ^ Masey, Anthea (12 June 2003). "Meet the new wave". Evening Standard (Associated Newspapers Limited). Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  7. ^ "That's all folk". Essex Life (Archant): pp. 62–63. May 2009. 
  8. ^ "Seaside fun in Old Leigh". Essex Life (Archant): pp. 17. September 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  (Registration required).

External links

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