What is a Kursaal?

The word Kursaal comes from the German language and means a room or public hall used by visitors at health resorts in Germany.
It later became to mean an amusement park at a seaside or other type of resort.

dancing outside kursaal

The opening of the Kursaal amusement park must have been a very exciting day in the lives of the people living in Southend, Essex in 1901.
Set in about 27 acres, at the time it was the probably the largest theme park in the world.
For the next 60 odd years it was to prove one of the major attractions for Essex, London, and beyond.

With its close proximity to London the Kursaal attracted not only day trippers but people taking their annual holidays.
The heydays of the Southend Kursaal occurred before the advent of cheap package holidays abroad - these were to prove the death knell for the famous dome.

Believe it or not...

Trotting racing at kursaal

Trotting racing was run by Southend Trotting Co. Ltd at the Kursaal from 1905 until 1913.

The UK One Mile Trotting Championship was held there in 1905 and was won by a horse called Grace Greenlander.

southend kursaal greyhound racing

Nearly a year to the day after the first UK greyhound race at Belle Vue in Manchester, racing at the Southend Kursaal started on july 27th 1927.

Greyhound racing finished on August 1928 when the greyhound racing club were evicted.

eric the whale at kursaal

1932 saw the arrival of a huge Blue Whale at the Kursaal with the exotic name of Eric !

He was embalmed and on put on display in a gigantic glass tank. He had to be regulary showered with liquid paraffin to prevent him rotting.

al capones car at kursaal

In early summer 1933 Al Capones car, an armour plated 1928 Cadillac V8 Town Sedan, was exhibited in a booth at Southend Kursaal.

The public were charged 6d (2-1/2p) each to see it !!

kursaal postage stamp

In October 2011 the Royal Mail issued a Kursaal stamp in its series of the UK's best known landmarks.

It was in exalted company, others included Edinburgh Castle and Blackpool Tower.

kursaal zoo

In 1916 they opened the Kursaal Zoo containing over one hundred animals.

An ad in a 1930's Southend Carnival features "Bostock's Wonder Zoo"
complete with picure of a lion, elephant, giraffe and ostrich.
The tag line on the advert was "see 'em alive".
Unfortunately, shortly after the start of World War Two you could no longer
"see 'em alive" - because most of them were dead !!

The powers that be decided a hoard of wild animals running through the town,
after being released by a stray bomb, would not be a good idea and so many of them were killed.