In every issue of H+S The Property Magazine, we focus on a different location around Southend, analysing the key features of each area and looking at the stats that may influence your decision to buy, rent or open a business there. This issue, the spotlight’s on Chalkwell.
Chalkwell may be small but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. With superb transport links to the city, close proximity to both Leigh-on-Sea and Southend, and attractive landscape, it may come as no surprise that this is a highly sought-after area for those on the property search and as a result, available property is often scarce.
At the heart of Chalkwell lies Chalkwell Park, which is home to a recognised rose garden, cricket pitches and extensive children's play area, among other historical and leisure facilities. This often acts as a hub for residents across Southend, hosting highly attended annual events such as Chalkwell Fair and Village Green.
Birds, Bears and Ballads: Chalkwell Park Through the Ages
Over the years, a number of generations will have played in its acres of land, however its landscape has changed significantly during that time. Kids and adults alike will have enjoyed visiting the park’s peacocks, which are still resident to this day.
In the early part of the 20th century, there was substantial demand in the area for monkeys to be kept as pets but local sanctions meant they were not allowed to be brought to a port. This resulted in animals in crates being floated towards the shore to be ‘adopted’ by the area's residents. It is thought that this may have prompted the beginning of the ‘pet’s corner’ in Chalkwell Park. One fondly remembered inhabitant of this new miniature zoo was Lulu, a male(!) black bear who resided there for a number of years during the early seventies after being found in a crate at Tilbury Docks. Many have memories of this unusual resident – so much so that the famous bear has even had a song written about him! Folk group, Gluepot, whose lead singer is the noted singer-songwriter Neil McSweeney, have recently released their EP ‘Lulu the Bear and Other Songs’, the title track of which is written from Lulu’s perspective. Incidentally, Gluepot will be performing at Leigh Folk Festival this weekend – giving you the chance to hear the song live!
Nowadays, despite the slightly less exotic landscape, local residents and tourists alike still flock to Chalkwell Park. Art group, Metal Culture, now reside in the Grade II listed Chalkwell Hall. In 2007, they received permission to transform the unused Georgian house into a carbon-neutral work and living space for artists. The hall now hosts 20+ artists-in-residence each year who live in the building for short periods of time. The group is also heavily involved with the local community, hosting a large programme of events including Village Green, and Shorelines Literature Festival of the Sea, held every two years. This year the group is hosting a new venture, Netpark, intended to be ‘the world’s first digital art park’. The attraction takes visitors on a tour of ten playful and engaging pieces of artwork and stories around the park, all viewed through an iPad. Such events mean that Chalkwell Park is sure to be a hive of activity locally for many more generations to come.