work Eastern Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 2WW


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The Kursaal is a Grade II listed building, which opened in 1901 as one of the world's first purpose-built amusement parks.

The venue was opened in 1894 by father and son Alfred and Bernard Wiltshire Tollhurst, on four acres of land purchased the previous year, as the 'Marine Park and Gardens'. In 1901, they opened a grand entrance pavilion, called the Kursaal, designed by Campbell Sherrin, containing a circus, ballroom, arcade, dining hall and billiard room. The word Kursaal is German, meaning a "Cure Hall" or spa, and it seems to have been adapted to mean a place of healthy amusement. Southend's Kursaal became the largest fairground in the south of England.

List of rides and attractions

  • The Skids/Swirls

  • Bumper Cars

  • The Morehouse Galloper 1954–1973

  • Ski Jump

  • Waltzer


  • Wild Mouse

  • Calypso (Kursaal 1962–1983?-now currently travelled by John Smith)

  • Cyclone (1937–1973)

  • Harton Scenic Railway (1910–1973)

  • Switchback Railway

  • 1st Water Chute (1921–1957)

  • 2nd Water Chute (1958–1971)

  • Toboggan Slide (1925-

  • The Mont Blanc (1933–1973)

  • Laff In The Dark (1938–1973)

  • Aerial Flight (1894–1973)

  • Figure Eight (?-1947)

  • River Caves

  • Joy Wheel

  • Bowl Slide

  • Airsport (?-1973)

  • Miniature Railway

  • The Whip (1921-?)

  • The Tumblers (1921-?)

  • Never Stop Railway (1923-?)

  • Autodrome (1927-?)

  • Wall Of Death (1929-?)

  • Midget Mansion (1930-?)

  • Caterpillar

  • Jolly Tubes (1920's-?)

  • Whirlpool (?-1973)

  • Dive Bomber (1950's-1959)

  • Noahs Ark (1953-?)

  • Ghost Train (1931-?)

  • Petboats (1933-?)

  • Mountain Dipper (1933-?)

  • The Whirlwind Racer (1930's-?)

  • Tumblebug (1938-?)

  • Seaplane (1938-?)

  • Stratosphere (1945-?)

  • The Under & Over (?-1973)

  • Knock the lady out of bed

  • Kelly's house (Destroyed by fire)

In 1927 two Scotsmen named Jimmy Shand and Tom Wilson approached Southend United F.C. who played at the Kursaal, they agreed a deal to start greyhound racing on July 27. The greyhound operation lasted only two years because Shand and Wilson refused to pay the increased rent demands, as well as the impending ban on greyhound racing at grounds from the F.A. (due to the damage to the pitch). The football club remained there until 1933, when they moved to Southend Stadium.

The Kursaal declined in the early 1970s, with the outdoor amusements closed in 1973, and the main building finally succumbing to closure in 1986.

Although the outdoor amusements were redeveloped for housing, the main Kursaal building reopened in 1998, after a multimillion pound redevelopment, containing a bowling alley, a casino and other amusements.


  • Please call for opening times