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Leigh-on-Sea is a civil parish administered as part of Southend-on-Seamarker, in Essex, Englandmarker. 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, Dorsetmarker.


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 However, its sheltered position at the mouth of the Thames gave it some success as a port, with international trade and a shipbuilding business

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 Ships of up to 340 tons are recorded as being built in Leigh 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.

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

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

The fishermen of Leigh are famous for their heroic attempts to rescue British soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirkmarker. 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 Londonmarker and the rest of the world, and making it a commuter town for London workers. Leigh-on-Sea railway stationmarker is run and served solely by c2c.


In recent years, Leigh-on-Sea has become home to an increasing number of upmarket bars and restaurants such as The Estuary . Cafés such as laid back, hippie-esque The Squeeze who use only organic produce, art galleries and hairdressers also adorn the towns surroundings. Popular hairdressers include Staffords owned by Lee Stafford and Srangeways owned by Ade from the Channel 4 show The Salon. Leigh is also home to a wide range of shops, from clothes and shoe shops selling the latest fashions to more expensive additions such as Bang & Olufsen and Connections who provide the furniture for another channel 4 show, Big Brother. Leigh also has a strict no nightclub policy in an effort to preserve the towns heritage

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.

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.

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.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. 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. (Registration required).

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

Helen Mirren - Actress

Lee Evans - Actor

Nathalie Emmanuel Actress

Vivian Stanshall - Artist/Musician

Trevor Bailey - Ex-England Cricket Captain

Phil Cornwell - Comedian/Impressionist

Tina Cousins - Singer

John Fowles - Author

Phill Jupitus - Television Presenter/Comedian

Dominic Littlewood - Television Presenter

David Lloyd - Tennis Player/Businessman

John Lloyd - Tennis Player/Commentator

Hannah Tointon - Actress

Kara Tointon - Actress

Steve Wright - Radio Presenter

Lee Stafford - Celebrity Hairdresser

These New Puritans - Rock Group

My Life Story - Rock Group

Understand - Rock Group

James Bourne - Musician

Alison Moyet - Singer

Peter Taylor - Football Manager

John Hodge - NASA Flight Director


Image:Old Leigh.jpg|Cockle Boats in Old LeighImage:StClementsChurch_LeighOnSea.jpg|St Clement's Church, Leigh-on-SeaImage:GrandHotel_LeighOnSea.jpg|The Grand Hotel, Leigh-on-Sea


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