Does Southend still have a thing for pirates?

Though Southend’s love for all things pirate-themed still tends to be a common topic for conversation between those reminiscing upon Southend’s “good old days”, it is enough to make you wonder why the association between Southend and pirates has slowly been fading over the years.

Peter Pan’s Playground

Adventure Island Pirate Theme

Of course we’d have to start with Peter Pan’s Playground, as most of us still affectionately call  it even though it’s been Adventure Island for a number of years now. Peter Pan is probably the world’s most famous pirate adventure story, about the boy who never wanted to grow up and instead spent his never-ending childhood going on adventures in Neverland with mermaids, fairies and pirates. Adventure Island’s mascot is still Snappy the Crocodile, perhaps a throwback at the crocodile that Peter Pan fed Captain Hook’s hand to.

You can still get your face painted as a pirate at Adventure Island, and you may even spot the odd Peter Pan’s Playground decoration from years ago (can you spot Peter Pan himself?). There certainly are still a few pirate references and nautical bits and bobs at Adventure Island (it’s still the seaside after all) such as the Jumpin’ Jolly Rogers ride and some pirate shooting games (see above: first image on the left), but most of the pirate-themed rides are gone or re-branded as something else now.

Some pirate-themed rides that are now gone:

  • Mr Smee’s Boat Ride (Mr Smee being one of Captain Hook’s pirate crew)
  • Blackbeard’s All At Sea
  • Blackbeard’s Pirate Adventure
  • Pirate Galleon

Southend’s Golden Hind & The Queen Anne’s Revenge

Golden Hind Ship Southend

Image and information on Golden Hind sourced from Southend Timeline.

The Golden Hind was a full size replica of Sir Frances Drake’s sailing ship that was used to sail around the world, and was constructed between 1947 and 1948. The Golden Hind was starting to deteriorate by 1992 and its popularity was sinking (excuse the pun). In 1996, the Golden Hind was bought by Peter Pan’s Adventure Island after having been closed to the public, and was soon replaced with the Queen Anne’s Revenge as the Golden Hind had become far too costly to maintain. The Queen Anne’s Revenge was a replica of the English pirate Blackbeard’s ship and became the centrepiece of the surrounding Blackbeard attractions.

However, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was demolished in January 2013, marking the end of Southend seafront’s pirate/”tall ship” era. In its place now will be an indoor play area, which is currently still in construction.

Never Never Land

Southend Never Never Land

Never Never Land was once the pride of our seafront – a real tourist hot spot! Now all that remains are broken bits of castle in what looks like an ancient fairy kingdom that time forgot. Truly, Never Never Land is where Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook and all of the wonderful fairy miniature castles, surrounded by serene lantern-lit waterfalls and fantasy creatures, died. (You can read more about the history of Never Never Land here.)

Pirate Playgrounds

Though pirate-themed playgrounds in Southend are slightly harder to come by these days, Thorpedene Primary School in Shoebury are still keeping the fun Southend pirate spirit alive with their nautical-themed school website and boat emblem as the school logo. They even have a Little Pirates school club:

Thorpedene Little Pirates

In fact, their playground even has its own pirate ship, courtesy of Sovereign’s playground structures, with their school emblem featured on the ship’s flag.

Pirate School Playground Structure

I would personally love to see some more playground pirate ships and boats around Southend – especially on Southend seafront where, though there are a number of great seaside playgrounds, a pirate playground would be guaranteed to be popular with young children.

Pirate Ship Playground Structure

Southend Pirate Events

We still love our Pirate events in Southend. Like our Pirate Theme Fancy Dress Walks, Southend RNLI‘s fundraising pirate-themed events, and having pirate ship floats in our Carnival Processions. In fact this year, we’re even having Peter Pan as our Christmas Pantomime, with David Hasselhoff starring as Captain Hook. (How we managed that one, I do not know…)

Peter Pan with David Hasselhoff

Not to mention the fact that the production is even lending their pirate ship to this year’s Christmas Parade. Because, of course, every Southend parade needs a pirate ship regardless of the festive season :)

Other Southend Pirate-y Things

The love for all things pirate-y is still alive within Southend-on-Sea.

You can’t venture far in Southend without some sort of “hat tip” to Southend’s past love for pirate-y things. There are still pirate games and arcade machines along the seafront, and Sea Life Adventure have their own pirate-themed aquarium.

Pirate Stuff on Southend Seafront

A family from Southend won the prestigious “Shed of the Year” award in 2010 with their “pirate’s cabin” shed, built to look like the poop deck of a pirate ship moored at a Caribbean dock. It’s absolutely brimming with piratannical ephemera and other odd bits and pieces, complete with a koi carp pond and aviary surrounding the shed. Amazing.

Southend Pirate Shed

 Loads of incredible photographs of this pirate shed in Southend can be found here.

Southend also used to have a basket ball team called The Essex Pirates; a British Basketball League from Southend-on-Sea founded in 2009 at the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre.

If you have any more random odd facts about Southend’s love for pirates and all things pirate-y, do please leave a comment below so that I may add it to this article!


 If you’ve enjoyed some of these old photos…

Check out Old Photos of Southend-on-Sea!