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Monitoring Survey At Southend Pier In Essex

Read about a monitoring survey project THS Concepts undertook on the longest pleasure pier in the world!

Article By: Tom Ayre | Last Update: June 2021


Southend Borough Council


Survey – 2 Days


Southend-on-sea, Essex


Tom Ayre / Chris Horton / Scott Watts / David Regan

The History Of The Pier

Southend Pier is a popular tourist attraction in Southend-on-Sea, England. It is the longest pleasure pier in the world, stretching 1.34 miles (2.15 km) into the Thames Estuary. Here is a brief history of Southend Pier:

  • The first Southend Pier was built in 1830 and was only 100 yards (91 meters) long. It was used as a landing stage for boats and a promenade for Victorian tourists.

  • In 1889, the pier was extended to its current length of 1.34 miles (2.15 km) to accommodate steamboats that needed deeper water.

  • In the early 20th century, Southend Pier was a popular destination for day-trippers from London, and it featured a variety of amusements, including a ballroom, bandstand, and refreshment kiosks.

  • During World War II, the pier was closed to the public and used as a naval base. It was damaged by bombing and had to be repaired after the war.

  • In the 1970s and 1980s, Southend Pier underwent major renovations and was restored to its Victorian glory. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction, featuring a museum, an amusement arcade, a café, and a gift shop.

  • In 2005, Southend Pier was hit by a severe storm and suffered significant damage, leading to a major restoration project. It has since been fully repaired and is once again open to the public.

The Monitoring Project

The ageing existing diesel-powered pier trains that run up and down on a daily basis are due to be replaced with brand new electric trains. As part of the validation works for the new trains, THS Concepts were asked to undertake a movement monitoring survey on a number of structural piles at quarter points along the pier.

This involved fixing reflective monitoring targets to the existing iron piles that have been screwed into the foreshore. Due to the age and marine growth on the piles a non intrusive method of fixing had to be undertaken. This was completed by simply zip tying a plastic plate with a target glued to it. 

The monitoring survey had to be undertaken at low tide so as we could safely setup our monitoring survey equipment. The complication with the low tide is the safety and practicality window. We had a 3 hour window to setup, undertake the monitoring and safely get off of the foreshore. Access to the foreshore could only be undertaken from the shore so we had to walk out and return along the soft mud.

The monitoring process involved Southend Pier’s engineering team running a number of different train combinations over various sections of the pier. THS Concepts recorded the vertical deflection of the piles utilising Leica TS15 total stations. 

The Results

Overall the monitoring survey went very well. It helped that a very organised plan was in place prior to the works with timings scheduled to within 5-minute intervals. We had to wade through knee-height water at the beginning and end of the survey work so we did get a little wet. Other than the rain the job went very well!