Southend-on-Sea is a unitary authority area, town, and seaside resort in Essex, England. The district has Borough status, and comprises the towns of Chalkwell, Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea, North Shoebury, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay, and Westcliff-on-Sea. The district is situated within the Thames Gateway on the north side of the Thames estuary east of central London. It is bordered to the north by Rochford and to the west by Castle Point. It is home to the longest leisure pier in the world, The Southend Pier. London Southend Airport is located north of the town centre.
Originally the "south end" of the village of Prittlewell, Southend became a seaside resort during the Georgian era, attracting many tourists in the summer months to its seven miles of beaches and bathing in the sea. Good rail connections and proximity to London mean that much of the economy has been based on tourism, and that Southend has been a dormitory town for city workers ever since. Southend Pier is the world's longest pleasure pier at . It has suffered fires and ship collisions, most recently in October 2005, but the basic pier structure has been repaired each time. There has been significant loss of pier-head facilities since the major fire in 1976.
Southend, like many other British sea-side resorts, went into decline as a holiday destination from the 1960s, since flights and hence holidays abroad became more affordable. Since then, much of the town centre has been developed for commerce and retail, and during the 1960s many original structures were lost to redevelopment. However, about 6.4 million tourists still visit Southend per year, generating estimated revenues of £200 million a year. H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC), (formerly H.M. Customs and Excise), are major employers in the town, and the central offices for the collection of VAT are located on Victoria Avenue. The University of Essex, Southend Campus has been developed locally to provide further education facilities and to assist in boosting the economy. Southend also has over 80 parks and green spaces and 14 conservation areas.
There are nine railway stations on two lines within the borough which connect it to London.