The village of Prittlewell was originally centred at the joining of three main roads, East Street, West Street and North Street, which was extended south in the 19th century and renamed Victoria Avenue. The principal administrative buildings in Southend are located along Victoria Avenue, although Prittlewell is now mainly a residential area.
People first settled by the Prittle Brook around ten thousand years ago during the Stone Age. Little appears to have affected life in Prittlewell as its population gradually evolved from their original character as hunter-gatherers to a more settled existence during the Bronze and Iron Ages.
The Roman occupation began to influence the area with the construction of a Roman-style dwelling, probably a farmhouse or villa close to the brook in what is now Priory Park. The introduction of new ideas, new skills and social structures under this Roman influence would have brought significant change to the area. The discovery of Roman burial sites during road and rail construction in the 1920s and 1930s indicated that the settlement was well developed and of some significance, although no prominent buildings were preserved.
Saxons and Vikings
Following the decline of Roman Britain, the area came under the influence of Saxon raiders, over time becoming established as part of the kingdom of the East Saxons. During this time (largely the 5th and 6th centuries), the historic Saxon name of Prittleuuella came into being.
The construction works of 1923 and 1930 that revealed Roman burials also unearthed evidence of numerous Anglo-Saxon burials, a significant number of which were high-status or warrior burials containing weapons, imported goods, jewellery and decorative beads some of which were made out of glass.
Royal Saxon tomb
The high status of the area during the Anglo-Saxon period was confirmed by the discovery of a substantial and undisturbed 7th century chamber tomb in 2003. The unusually rich contents and their condition have excited archaeologists, being described as "unique" by the Museum of London. A fuller description of the excavation and the artifacts of the burial chamber, thought to be of Saebert of Essex, can be seen at the dedicated Museum of London website.
(ref. Museum of London). The story of the excavation was also thought so significant as to be the subject of a special UK television documentary entitled The King of Bling, as part of the Time Team series.
Unfortunately, although the burial site is of archaeological importance, it is also earmarked as the route of a highly controversial road building project championed by Southend Borough Council in the face of very substantial local opposition. When funds become available, it is probable that the burial site and a significant part of the adjacent Priory Park will be consumed by a widening and straightening of a road constructed in 1923. It is ironic that the building of that original road led to the earlier discovery of Roman and Anglo-Saxon burial sites at Prittlewell.
At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 the two manors in the area that is now Prittlewell were Prittlewell and Milton, the former owned by Swein of Essex and the latter by the Priory of Holy Trinity, Canterbury (now Canterbury Cathedral).
In the twelfth century Robert de Essex, also known as Robert FitzSwein, founded Prittlewell Priory as a cell of the [Cluny|Cluniac]] Priory of St Pancras, Lewes. The foundation charter included the manor and church of Prittlewell.
At this time the lands of the priory extended to right down to the seafront. Due to this, when a fishing settlement was set up two miles (3 km) south of the priory in the 14th century, it was still regarded as part of Prittlewell and as such was named Stratende, Sowthende or South-End. From this settlement the modern town of Southend-on-Sea grew.
Over a period of around two hundred years the Parish Church, St. Mary's, was substantially enlarged, reaching its present size with the addition of its tower in the mid-15th century.
Southend was developed as a bathing resort in the 18th century and by the 19th, Prittlewell was regarded by visitors to Southend as "an attractive village in the hinterland".
Links between Prittlewell and Southend were improved in 1889 a road was built between the village crossroads by the church to Southend, named Victoria Avenue and in 1892, when Prittlewell railway station was built on the Great Eastern Railway linking Southend and London
Also 1892 saw the foundation of Southend-on-Sea as a municipal borough, which took over responsibility for Prittlewell from an earlier parish council.