Last updated

Old Leigh.jpg
The Old Leigh waterfront at low tide, with cockle boats
Essex UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Essex
Population22,509 (2011) [1]
OS grid reference TQ841859
Civil parish
  • Leigh-on-Sea [2]
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
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
UK Parliament
List of places
51°32′33″N0°39′13″E / 51.5425°N 0.6535°E / 51.5425; 0.6535 Coordinates: 51°32′33″N0°39′13″E / 51.5425°N 0.6535°E / 51.5425; 0.6535

Leigh-on-Sea ( /ˌl-/ ), commonly referred to simply as Leigh, is a town and civil parish in the City of Southend-on-Sea, in the ceremonial county of Essex, England. In 2011, it had a population of 22,509.



A calm Old Leigh morning A Calm Old Leigh Morning.jpg
A calm Old Leigh morning
The Old Leigh waterfront at high tide Leigh-on-Sea - Old Leigh - 04.jpg
The Old Leigh waterfront at high tide
The High Street in Old Leigh Leigh-on-Sea - Old Leigh - 09.jpg
The High Street in Old Leigh
View across the Thames Estuary at sunset Hayden Peek - Chalkwell Beach Sunset.jpg
View across the Thames Estuary at sunset

Leigh-on-Sea is on the northern side of the Thames Estuary, a few miles from the open waters of the North Sea to the east, and a similar distance from the Kent coast to the south. The coastal environs of the town feature a nature reserve at Two Tree Island and a centrally located beach adjacent to Bell Wharf. At low tide Leigh's foreshore has a wide expanse of mud flats and creeks, extending offshore towards the deep water channel of the Thames (Yantlet Channel). Leigh is 40 miles (65 kilometres) from central London via road and rail networks and is part of the London commuter belt. [3]



Archaeological finds of pottery and coins from Romano-British era in the locality suggest early settlement. [4] From at least the Saxon period a hilltop clearing amidst the woodland that covered much of the surrounding area (the Rochford Hundred) of Essex came to be known as Leigh. [5]

A place of minor economic importance at the time of the Norman Conquest, a reference to Leigh (Legra) appears in the Domesday Book survey of 1086.

St Clement's Church, Leigh-on-Sea StClementsChurch LeighOnSea.jpg
St Clement's Church, Leigh-on-Sea

St Clement's Church was rebuilt in the late 15th century or early 16th century, although the list of rectors dates back 1248. The fabric of the church is of Kentish ragstone and flint rubble, with a Tudor porch constructed of red brick. The mediaeval structure of the church was added to and altered during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The chancel was extended at the east end in 1872 by C. F. Haywood; Ernest Geldart added the south aisle in 1897, and there were a number of alterations made by Sir Charles Nicholson in 1913 and 1919. The tower at the west end was a prominent landmark for shipping on the Thames Estuary, and the building contains a good selection of stained glass dating from between the 18th and 20th centuries. The building is Grade II* listed by Historic England, and a key factor for this rating was the sympathetic nature of the 19th and 20th century additions. [6]

Leigh Hall, a medieval manor house demolished in the early 20th century, was once situated near the ancient eastern manorial boundary of Leigh and Prittlewell.

Robert Eden, who became rector of Leigh in 1837, demolished the previous rectory and commissioned a large new one, which was completed in 1838. One quarter of the building remains today as Leigh Library, as the other wings of the building were demolished by Southend Corporation when they acquired the building and the surrounding land. The rectory and grounds occupied a 6-acre (2.5-hectare) site, and the work carried out by Eden included the construction of Rectory Grove as a public right of way, which replaced an existing cliff-top path called Chess Lane. [7] Leigh Library was designated as a listed building at Grade II in 1974. [8]

'Old Leigh'

In the 11th century Leigh was a marginal community of homesteads. The Domesday Book records 'five smallholders above the water who do not hold land', [9] who were probably engaged in fishing thus giving Leigh a claim to nearly a thousand years of activity in the fishing industry. [10]

The main seafood catch from Leigh fishing boats has always been shellfish and whitebait. Many of the local trawlers were at one time bawleys, and two of Old Leigh's pubs – the Peter Boat and Ye Olde Smack – owe their names to types of local fishing boat.

The riverside settlement of 'Old Leigh', or 'The Old Town', is historically significant; it was once on the primary shipping route to London. From the Middle Ages until the turn of the 20th century, Old Leigh hosted the settlement's market square, and high street (known as Leigh Strand). Elizabethan historian William Camden (1551–1623) described Leigh as "a proper fine little towne and verie full of stout and adventurous sailers". [11] By the 1740s however, Leigh's deep water access had become silted up (as attested to by John Wesley) and the village was in decline as an anchorage and port of call. [12]

Modern era

Broadway developed between the 1870s and the 1920s from a residential street to a commercial parade of shopfronts, as the town began to expand. During the 1920s, Broadway was extended further west with the demolition of a large manor house, Black House/Leigh House (built 1620).

In 1983 Leigh gained its own paper, Leigh Times , and in 1996 gained its own Town Council. [13]

During the 1990s and the early 21st century Leigh-on-Sea went through more change: the growing dominance of out-of-town, 24-hour supermarkets and retail parks, as well as the arrival and popularity of retail online shopping, meant that much local business had to reinvent itself, either as venues for socialising, or to offer niche services and products to cater for the town's changing demographic.

A foggy winter morning in Leigh-On-Sea Hayden Peek - Leigh-On-Sea - Boat In The Mist.jpg
A foggy winter morning in Leigh-On-Sea

Leigh-on-Sea has frequently been cited as one of the best places to live in the UK, owing to factors such as its proximity to London, nearby outstanding Westcliff and Southend grammar schools, good access to sports and arts activities, multiple opportunities to develop skills, and a strong sense of belonging and community spirit. [14] A 2018 survey by Rightmove found that Leigh-on-Sea was the place in the UK where people were happiest living. [15]

Reports in the local newspaper; the Southend Echo, have suggested (with such opinion supported by many local business owners) that Southend-on-Sea City Centre (to avoid the demise of many ‘High Streets’) needs to ‘follow’ the example of Leigh Broadway and Leigh Road…with independent businesses, rather than national chains,  being the prime tenants.

On 15 October 2021, Sir David Amess, the local Member of Parliament, was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery being held in Belfairs Methodist Church in the town. [16]


Leigh-on-Sea is served by Leigh-on-Sea railway station on the London, Tilbury and Southend line. [17] Regular, daily bus services run between Southend-on-Sea, Benfleet, Canvey Island, Basildon, Rayleigh and Chelmsford. [18] Scheduled flights to national and European destinations operate out of nearby London Southend Airport. [19]

The current railway station is situated near the western end of Old Leigh marina. Built in 1934, it replaced the original station, which was opposite Bell Wharf.


Leigh-on-Sea is a district of Southend-on-Sea, and includes the electoral wards Belfairs, Blenheim Park, Eastwood Park, Leigh and West Leigh. The two latter Electoral Wards and one Poll District of Belfairs and Blenheim Park Wards are included in the Leigh-on-Sea Town Council area, which is a civil parish. It is represented in Parliament in the Southend West constituency, by Anna Firth.

The population of the entire district taken at the 2011 Census was 38,931. [20]

Festivals and activities

Several annual events have become well established, including Leigh Regatta, Leigh Folk Festival [21] and The Leigh Art Trail. [22] [23] The regatta is held over one weekend in September.

Museums and galleries

Leigh Heritage Centre is located in the Old Smithy and serves as a museum for Old Leigh. It is run by the Leigh Society, who have also opened the next-door Plumbs Cottage, a restored and substantially rebuilt 1850s fisherman's cottage. [24]

Old Leigh Art Studios is a commercial gallery with artists studios. It was established by the artist Sheila Appleton and potter Richard Baxter in 1991. They have since been joined by painter Ian Smith and ceramicist Julie O’Sullivan. [25] The studios participate in the annual Leigh Art Trail. [22]

Notable people

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southend-on-Sea</span> City and Borough in Essex, England

Southend-on-Sea, commonly referred to as Southend, is a coastal city and unitary authority area with borough status in southeastern Essex, England. It lies on the north side of the Thames Estuary, 40 miles (64 km) east of central London. It is bordered to the north by Rochford and to the west by Castle Point. It is home to the longest pleasure pier in the world, Southend Pier. London Southend Airport is located north of the city centre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phill Jupitus</span> British comedian

Phillip Christopher Jupitus is an English stand-up and improv comedian, actor, performance poet, cartoonist and podcaster. Jupitus was a team captain on all but one BBC Two-broadcast episode of music quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks from its inception in 1996 until 2015, and also appears regularly as a guest on several other panel shows, including QI and BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Castle Point</span> Borough in England

Castle Point is a local government district with borough status in south Essex, 30 miles (48 km) east of central London. The borough comprises the towns and villages of Canvey Island, Hadleigh, South Benfleet, and Thundersley. The borough council is situated at Thundersley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canvey Island</span> Human settlement in England

Canvey Island is a town, civil parish and reclaimed island in the Thames estuary, near Southend-on-Sea, in the Castle Point district, in the county of Essex, England. It has an area of 7.12 square miles (18.44 km2) and a population of 38,170. It is separated from the mainland of south Essex by a network of creeks. Lying only just above sea level, it is prone to flooding at exceptional tides and has been inhabited since the Roman conquest of Britain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thames Estuary</span> Estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea

The Thames Estuary is where the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea, in the south-east of Great Britain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Two Tree Island</span>

Two Tree Island is a small island lying north-east of Canvey Island and south-west of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, England. It covers 257 hectares and is connected to the mainland at Leigh by a single span bridge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southend West (UK Parliament constituency)</span> Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1950 onwards

Southend West is a constituency in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament. The seat is currently held by Anna Firth who won the 2022 by-election, following the murder of the incumbent MP, David Amess.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prittle Brook</span> Stream in south Essex, England

The Prittle Brook is a 7.2 mile (11.59 km) watercourse in south Essex, England. A tributary of the River Roach, the brook rises in Thundersley and passes through Hadleigh, Leigh-on-Sea, Westcliff, Prittlewell, Rochford and discharges into the Roach and then into the North Sea via the Roach and Crouch estuaries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daws Heath</span>

Daws Heath contains a large area of woodland in eastern Thundersley, part of Castle Point near Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England. It is traversed by the Daws Heath Road and St Michael's Road. Daws Heath provides a semi-rural escape for local towns and villages and their residents as they walk, cycle or drive out of Castle Point, as Daws Heath Road has fields and woodland on both sides of the road with a small scattering of houses. Going down Daws Heath Road it is not uncommon to see rare-breed cattle, sheep and horses. Daws Heath is surrounded by Greenbelt and Woodland which are a buffer to stop the local villages merging by development. West Woods, nearly 80 acres (320,000 m2) of mixed woodland, was purchased from the Church of England in 2009, securing continued public access to these woods; public support in the Daws Heath area is very strong especially on green belt and woodland preservation. The area has established neighbourhood watch schemes, Church Groups and Greenbelt Protection Groups. Daws Heath contains The Deanes,, and is linked to a local Sixth Form College in Thundersley (SEEVIC), now part of USP College.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southend Central Museum</span> Museum in Southend-on-Sea, England

The Central Museum is a museum in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. The museum houses collections of local and natural history and contains a planetarium constructed by astronomer Harry Ford in 1984.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eastwood, Essex</span> Human settlement in England

Eastwood is a suburb of the city of Southend-on-Sea in the City of Southend on Sea in the county of Essex, England. Eastwood is sometimes called Eastwood Park, particularly for local elections.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Benfleet</span> Human settlement in England

South Benfleet is a town and former civil parish, now in the unparished area of Benfleet, in the Castle Point district of Essex, England, 30 miles east of London. It is adjacent to the village of North Benfleet. The Benfleet SS7 post town includes South Benfleet, Thundersley, New Thundersley and Hadleigh. The Battle of Benfleet took place here between the Vikings and Saxons in 894. In 1951 the parish had a population of 8191.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hadleigh, Essex</span> Human settlement in England

Hadleigh is a town and former civil parish, now in the unparished area of Benfleet, in southeast Essex, England, on the A13 between Thundersley, Benfleet and Leigh-on-Sea with a population of 18,300. In 1951 the parish had a population of 5,209. It has a squared bypass to the north.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Corringham, Essex</span> Human settlement in England

Corringham is a town and former civil parish in Essex, England, located directly next to the town of Stanford-le-Hope, about 24 miles (39 km) east of London and 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Basildon. Corringham lies on a hill overlooking the Thames between Canvey Island and Tilbury Fort. It is in the unitary authority of Thurrock, 6 miles (9.7 km) north-east of the administrative centre, Grays.

Belfairs Academy is a non-selective secondary school with academy status in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Essex</span> County of England

Essex is a county in the East of England. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, the North Sea to the east, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and Greater London to the south and south-west. There are three cities in Essex: Southend, Colchester and Chelmsford, in order of population. For the purposes of government statistics, Essex is placed in the East of England region. There are four definitions of the extent of Essex, the widest being the ancient county. Next, the largest is the former postal county, followed by the ceremonial county, with the smallest being the administrative county—the area administered by the County Council, which excludes the two unitary authorities of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea. The ceremonial county occupies the eastern part of what was, during the Early Middle Ages, the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Essex. As well as rural areas and urban areas, it forms part of the wider Home Counties of England.

Margaret White-Wrixon was the first woman to swim the Thames Estuary from Southend to Kent, a feat she completed in 3 hours 5 minutes on 7 August 1960, aged 16. On 25 June 1961, aged 17, she became the first person to complete the Thames Estuary two-way swim, which she did in 6 hours and 40 minutes She was accompanied on that swim by official observers from Leigh Swimming Club and the historic fishing boat The Endeavour. Also in 1961, she became the youngest person to swim the English Channel, swimming from France to England in 15 hours 8 minutes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great Wood and Dodd's Grove</span>

Great Wood and Dodd's Grove is a 36.8-hectare (91-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. It is also a Local Nature Reserve called Belfairs. Essex Wildlife Trust runs the Belfairs Woodland Centre and manages the site together with Southend-on-Sea City Council.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Clement's Church, Leigh-on-Sea</span> Church in Essex, England

St Clement's Church is a parish church affiliated with the Church of England in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. It is a Grade II* listed building dedicated to Saint Clement of Rome, a 1st-century martyr and patron saint of mariners.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murder of David Amess</span> 2021 killing of a UK member of parliament

On 15 October 2021, Sir David Amess, a British Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament for Southend West, died after being stabbed multiple times at a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church Hall in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man and Islamic State sympathiser, was arrested at the scene. He was found guilty of murder and the preparation of terrorist acts in April 2022, and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order.


  1. "Civil Parish population 2011" . Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  2. "Leigh-on-Sea Town Council - Home". www.leighonseatowncouncil.gov.uk.
  3. Office for National Statistics, Office for National Statistics. "Social Cohesion in London".
  4. "Leigh Beck Archaeology and RHFAG | The Vanishing Past | Archaeology on Canvey | History | Canvey Island Archive". www.canveyisland.org. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  5. Williams, Judith (2002). Leigh-on-Sea: A History. Phillimore. p. 40. ISBN   978-1-86077-220-7.
  6. Historic England. "Church of St Clement (1322326)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  7. "Leigh Library - The Original Rectory". leigh-on-sea.net. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  8. "LEIGH LIBRARY, Leigh-on-Sea - 1112706 | Historic England". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  9. Rumble, A (1983) Domesday Book 32 Essex; Phillimore & Co. Ltd
  10. "North Thames Fisheries local action group". Thames Estuary Partnership. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  11. Camden, William. "Essex". A Vision of Britain through time. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  12. Wesley, John. "The journal of John Wesley". A Vision of Britain through time. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  13. "Leigh Town Council" . Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  14. "Which Essex town has been named fourth best place to live in the UK?". Echo. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  15. "Leigh-on-Sea, Essex is the best place to live in Britain, says Rightmove". ITV. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  16. "MP David Amess dies after being stabbed at constituency meeting". The Guardian. 15 October 2021. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  17. "Leigh on Sea Train Station | Your Guide to Leigh on Sea by Train". c2c. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  18. "Local bus, coach and rail information". Carl Berry. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  19. "Destinations". southendairport.com. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  20. "Southend Ward (Leigh) population 2011" . Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  21. "Leigh Folk Festival | The UK's biggest free folk festival".
  22. 1 2 "Leigh Art Trail". Leigh Art Trail. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  23. Leigh Art. Leigh Art Trail Group of Artists. Leigh-on-Sea: Leigh Art Trail Group of Artists. 2003. ISBN   978-0-9544985-0-4. OCLC   84993978.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  24. "The Leigh Society - an eye to the future an ear to the past in the heart of leigh". www.leighsociety.com. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  25. "Old Leigh Art Studios". Visit Southend. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  26. "Obituary - John Barber". aronline.co.uk. 13 November 2004. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  27. "Orbiting Jupitus". Essex Life. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  28. "Heln Mirren interview". The Telegraph. 7 February 2011.
  29. "Peggy Mount". The Guardian. 14 November 2001.
  30. Howeson, Louise. "The house in Leigh where Dame Rebecca West lived with HG Wells' love child". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 7 November 2022.