Until its closure in late 2020, The Railway Hotel was one of Southend’s most prominent counter-cultural landmarks, beloved by a majority of residents from across the city. Its impact to the city, and its sad and premature loss is felt today by many – even far beyond the boundaries of the county.
The building itself bares important local architectural and historical significance to the city, on its own merits and as one of the borough’s first public houses in what is now the city centre. Its location, placed within the Banks & Barry ‘Cliff Town’ Estate (now the Milton Conservation Area), also lends further evidence to the historical significance of the building to the wider story of Southend.
Currently, the building (we feel wrongly) is neither listed on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE), nor is it on the Local List of Historic Buildings. This means that there is currently no protection for this Public House in terms of conservation (architecturally or aesthetically), and as a result, there is little stopping an application of irresponsible development concluding in the loss of one of the city’s assets.
The Railway was more than a beloved local pub; it was the crucible in which an entire generation of music, art, and culture was created and thrived in Southend. Known for its stalwart support for local, national, and international musicians of all genres, The Railway was primarily a community-spirited live music venue, as much as it was a popular public house.
Beyond the bricks and mortar, its patrons, the Railway Community is a 5.5k strong eclectic diaspora of local art and music lovers that otherwise would have never shared one space. A glistening example of community cohesion, The Railway represented the very best of what Southend’s thriving cultural scene could offer, and was for decades one of the town’s (now city’s) liveliest venues. The pub gave a second home to a whole family of local artists and customers, many of which now feel bereft of a similar space in the city.
The Railway’s community engagement stretched beyond that of just a pub, as for years it proudly supported those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities through a legacy of accessible and inclusive events, and also fundraising tens of thousands for various charities through events. The pub was proudly a ‘safe-space’ for LGBTIQA+ patrons, and happily played home to the alternative cultural scene (by all definitions) in Southend.
The contribution The Railway has made to our city and its story cannot be underestimated.
Sadly, despite overcoming several difficult financial periods in recent history, the Coronavirus pandemic proved too much of a financial strain on the business, and the previous operators closed to the public for the last time on 31st October 2020.
In the past 1.5 years, it had been hoped by the community that now the building has been relinquished back to the responsibility of the Brewery/PubCo, they would reopen this busy and popular city-centre pub for eager trade. This unfortunately hasn’t happened, and the building remains empty and shuttered.
As it stands, the community has been given no assurances of the long term security of this beloved institution, and we now feel the local authority should assist in bringing this venue back into the hands of the community that wishes to see it reopen.
We believe fundamentally that this building must remain a community pub.
The Railway is a cultural icon to our city, and is an asset that cannot be lost in the same ways other significant venues are. We have reason to believe that this beloved pub is at risk of being lost forever.
WHAT CAN WE DO next?
We’ve already asked Southend Council to list The Railway as an ACV, and to include the building on the Council’s Local List of Historic Buildings.
We believe that right now, this is one of the most effective ways we have of ensuring The Railway will reopen as a community pub.
To help us save The Railway:
Please SIGN and SHARE this petition.
Tell everyone; help us get the word out that we need to act quick.
Please consider writing to your Ward Councillors and ask them to support the ACV listing.