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Clacton-on-Sea from the air
Clacton-on-Sea is located in Essex
Clacton-on-Sea shown within Essex
Population56,874 (2016)[1]
OS grid referenceTM170150
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtCO15, CO16
Dialling code01255
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°47′30″N 1°08′45″E / 51.7918°N 1.1457°E / 51.7918; 1.1457Coordinates: 51°47′30″N 1°08′45″E / 51.7918°N 1.1457°E / 51.7918; 1.1457

Clacton-on-Sea is the largest town in the Tendring peninsula and district in Essex, England, and was founded as an urban district in the year 1871. It is a seaside resort that saw a peak of tourists in the summer months between the 1950s and 1970s.

The town's economy continues to rely significantly on entertainment and day-trip facilities and it is strong in the service sector, with a large retired population. The north-west part of the town has two business/industrial parks. In the wider district, agriculture and occupations connected to the Port of Harwich provide further employment.


It is located between Jaywick and Holland-on-Sea along the coastline and Great Clacton to the north. The relevant local authority is Tendring District Council.

It is at the south-eastern end of the A133. The resort of Frinton-on-Sea is nearby to the north-east.


Town centre fountain

Clacton has a pleasure pier, arcades, a golf course, caravan parks and an airfield. The town and its beaches are still popular with tourists in the summer and there is an annual entertainment programme including the Clacton Carnival, which starts on the second Saturday in August and lasts for a week. Clacton Airshow, an aerial display, takes place on the Thursday and Friday before the August Bank Holiday, with historic and modern aircraft such as the Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane, Harrier, Jaguar, Tornado, and helicopters. There are also wing-walkers and the Red Arrows.

Clacton has a shopping area with many of the usual national chains represented, and a Factory Shopping Village in the north of the town.

Clacton has two theatres, the West Cliff Theatre and the Princes Theatre. The West Cliff is one of the last theatres in the country to put on an old-style summer show.[citation needed]


Clacton Spear, Natural History Museum, London

Clacton was a site of the lower Palaeolithic Clactonian industry of flint tool manufacture.[2] The "Clacton Spear", a wooden (yew) spear found at Clacton in 1911 and dated at 450,000 years ago, is the oldest such spear to have been found in Britain.[2][3]

Great Clacton was founded by the Celts around 100 BC.[citation needed] There are some vague traces of Romans using the Clacton area as a seaside resort. The name Clacton dates from around AD 500, when the area was settled by Saxons. The original name, Claccingaton, means "the village of Clacc's people". The Domesday Book records the village as Clachintuna.

Clacton was repeatedly surveyed by the Army in the Napoleonic Wars as a possible invasion beach-head for Napoleon and his Dutch allies. There was a large army and militia camp where Holland-on-Sea now stands. In 1810 5 Martello Towers were built there to guard the beaches between Jaywick and Holland.

Clacton was still a small village and a few outlying hamlets when the Essex railway engineer Peter Bruff, the steamboat owner William Jackson, and a group of businessmen built a pier and hotel there in the 1871. In the 1880s the Great Eastern Railway reached it, and it grew into the largest seaside resort between Southend and Yarmouth, with some 10,000 people by 1914 and 20,000 by 1939.

For well over a century Clacton Pier has been an RNLI lifeboat station.

Just before the Second World War the building of Butlin's Holiday Camp boosted its economy, though the Army took it over between then and 1945 for use as an internment, engineer, pioneer and light anti-aircraft artillery training camp The 3 most dramatic incidents during the war were:

1)The crash of a German He 111 aircraft on 30 April 1940, the explosion of one of the magnetic mines on board (killing the crew and 2 civilians, and the defusal of the other mine by experts from the Navy;

2)The bombing of the Wagstaff Corner area in May 1941, which felled some well-known buildings;

3)The impact of a V2 rocket in front of the Tower Hotel, injuring dozens of troops inside though without bringing down the structure. Clacton looked out on the route taken by many of the V1 and V2 bombs aimed at London.

A big role in the town's history just pre-and postwar was played by the KIngsman family, who bought and developed the Pier and ran a pleasure-steamer service from London. There was a summer sea excursion, on a larger ship, across to Calais until the early 1960s.

Butlins returned after the war. This, the building of the nearby chalet town of Jaywick, caravaning. and the movement of retired Londoners into the area, largely transformed the town from being an East Anglian resort into an extension of East London.

In 1964 the town was in the national news when Moped Mods and motor-bile Rockers clashed on the sea front and arrests were made.

Since around 1970 several well-known local buildings have been demolished, including the Art-Deco 1930s Odeon Cinema (an architectural loss to the town), the Warwick Castle pub, the Waverley Hotel, and Groom's Crippleage (which housed orphaned handicapped girls from London). Cordy's seafront restaurant has been converted to other uses. Butlins Camp has now given way to flats. The other main change on the sea front is the large wind-farm located 3 miles offshore on Gunfleet Sand, which is visible from many streets in the town and even from inland. The once famously crowded Bus Station in Jackson Road has become a car park. The Ocean Revue Theatre, where Max Bygraves made one of his first appearances, has shut.

(Sources--Norman Jacobs "Clacton Past and Present"; 1967 editions of "The Essex Countryside"; WO series (War Office), ADM 1 (Naval), HO 192/3 (Civil Defence) files at the National Archives).

Clacton's town centre and seafront areas were struck by an F1/T2 tornado on 23 November 1981, as part of the record-breaking nationwide tornado outbreak on that day.[4]

Seaside resort[edit]

West Beach
Garden of Remembrance

The modern day Clacton-on-Sea was founded by Peter Bruff in 1871 as a seaside resort. Originally the main means of access was by sea; Steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company docked from 1871 at Clacton Pier which opened the same year. The pier now offers an amusement arcade and many other forms of entertainment.

People who wanted to come by road had to go through Great Clacton. In the 1920s, London Road was built to cope with the influx of holidaymakers. Later, in the 1970s, the eastern section of the A120 was opened obviating the need for Clacton visitors to go through Colchester. Today Paddle Steamer Waverley operates from Clacton Pier offering pleasure boat excursions.

Clacton has one of only seven Blue Flag beaches in the East of England at Martello Bay (two more are locally at Dovercourt Bay & Brightlingsea). Other beaches have also been awarded the Seaside Award for 2013 (formerly Quality Coast Award) at West Beach and again at Martello Bay. Clacton Seafront Gardens which run along the top of the seafront west of Clacton Pier has also been awarded a Green Flag and includes various sections with formal gardens, memorials and places to sit and rest away from the hustle bustle of the beach.

Former Butlins[edit]

In 1936, Billy Butlin bought and refurbished the West Clacton Estate, an amusement park to the west of the town. He opened a new amusement park on the site in 1937 and then, a year later on 11 June 1938, opened the second of his holiday camps. This location remained open until 1983 when, due to changing holiday tastes, Butlins decided to close the facility. It was then purchased by former managers of the camp who reopened it as a short-lived theme park, called Atlas Park. The land was then sold and redeveloped with housing.[5]


Clacton has a cricket club and a football team called F.C. Clacton, whose best F.A. Cup performance was the first round. The football team play at the Rush Green Bowl with the bus shelter being the stand for the passionate supporters. The name was derived after someone said it looked like a bus shelter. The club then took bus timetables and stuck them on it, to resemble a bus shelter.

The Cricket Club has many grounds around Clacton with one in Holland-on-sea and another where Essex County Cricket Club used to play. Clacton also have a rugby club with teams ranging from under 12s to a first and second team. The first and second teams play in Essex League 1 and train on a Tuesday night at 7 which is held at the rugby club in Valley Road.


Before the Industrial Revolution, Clacton's industry mainly consisted of arable farmland. As the Industrial Revolution spread across the country, farmers in Clacton realised that their equipment was obsolete. A steam-powered mill was built in 1867 to replace the windmill, which was eventually demolished in 1918. Nowadays, the town's main industrial area is in the northeast of the town (Gorse Lane Industrial Estate and Oakwood Business Park) which contain a variety of businesses and industrial units.


St John's Church[edit]

St John's Church is the oldest surviving building in Clacton. It has been suggested that smugglers may have used a tunnel from the coast to the Ship Inn to smuggle goods into the country, but this is discounted by some historians.

Clacton Pier[edit]

Clacton Pier viewed from the south west

Clacton Pier was the first building of the new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. It officially opened on 27 July 1871 and was 160 yd (150 m) in length and 12 ft (3.7 m) wide.[citation needed] Originally built as a landing point for goods and passengers, as Clacton was becoming an increasingly popular destination for day trippers, in 1893 the pier was lengthened to 390 yd (360 m), and entertainment facilities added.[6] Bought by Ernest Kingsman in 1922, it remained in the ownership of the Kingsman family until 1971.[7] In March 2009 the pier was purchased by the Clacton Pier Company, who installed a 50 ft (15 m) helter-skelter as a new focal point.[8]

Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm[edit]

A 48 turbine wind farm has been constructed about 4.3 miles (7 km) off the Clacton coast.[9]


Clacton has an oceanic climate (Köppen "Cfb") with fairly low precipitation. This makes for pleasantly warm and relatively dry summers (which also enhances the towns popularity as a sea-side town), but also fairly chilly winter days. For the 1961–1990 observation period, Clacton averaged 103.7 days with at least 1mm of rain annually, and just 24.3 air frosts a year- comparable to south west coastal locations.

Climate data for Clacton 1961–1990, 16 m asl.
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.1
Average low °C (°F) 1.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 49
Mean monthly sunshine hours 58.3 75.6 117.6 155.9 207.8 211.9 200.1 199.3 153.4 117.9 75.0 54.2 1,627
Source: Met Office[10]


Clacton's population increased substantially during the 20th century from 7,456 at the 1901 census to 25,000 in the 1960s, 45,065 in 1991 and reaching over 53,000 by 2001.


St Osyth's Teacher Training College occupied several buildings in Clacton, mostly along Marine Parade East, until its amalgamation with the North East Essex Technical College in the late 1970s. The town is served by three secondary schools, Clacton Coastal Academy, Clacton County High School and Tendring Enterprise Studio School. The Colchester Institute has a site on Church Road and Thomas Road. Adult Community Learning, run by Essex County Council, is situated in St Osyth Road.


Weeley A133 bypass

Clacton-on-Sea is located at the terminus of the A133 road which runs between Clacton and Colchester.

The town is served by Clacton-on-Sea railway station (90 minutes to London Liverpool Street station) via the Sunshine Coast Line whose two branches (the other runs from Walton-on-the-Naze) converge before Thorpe-le-Soken.

The town is served by bus routes operated by First Essex, Hedingham Omnibuses. Termini include Colchester, Manningtree, Harwich and Walton-on-the-Naze. National Express operates coach services to/from London and Liverpool.

Clacton also has Clacton Airport, which has been active since its use by the RAF during the Second World War. In the 1990s, the airfield was featured in the BBC television series "Airport".


Clacton's environmental qualities draw on several things: proximity to the sea, its evolution as the resort, its attraction as a retirement area, and its business and trade. The conservation and enhancement of Clacton’s various environmental qualities depends on assessment, evaluation and management.

Both Tendring District Council and Essex County Council can advise on heritage and historic buildings. The district also advises on wildlife conservation, and on obtaining grants for managing countryside for public enjoyment and appreciation. The county has an archaeological service.

Notable people[edit]

George Wylie Hutchinson, self portrait, 1920
Paul Banks, 2015

The following were all born or have lived in Clacton-on-Sea:

  • George Wylie Hutchinson (1852–1942) a Canadian painter and leading illustrator, lived in Clacton in retirement
  • Arthur Townsend (1883-??) a British long-distance runner, competed in the marathon at the 1912 Summer Olympics
  • Flight Lieutenant Edward Pennell DFC (1894–1974) a British WWI flying ace and local politician
  • Joan Kiddell-Monroe (1908–1972) a British author and illustrator of children's books
  • Pat Fletcher (1916–1985) golfer, born in Clacton-on-Sea and emigrated to Canada
  • Jennifer Worth RN RM (1935–2011) a British nurse and musician
  • Mike Everitt (born 1941) an English former footballer and manager, over 300 pro games
  • Graham Hurley (born 1946) an English crime fiction writer
  • Steve Foley an English former professional footballer, made 283 appearances for Colchester United
  • Stephen D. Nash (born 1954) an English wildlife artist who primarily specialises on primates
  • Steve Wright (born 1959) an English former professional footballer, over 300 games
  • Barry Lamb (born 1963) experimental musician, composer
  • Beth Goddard (born 1969) a British actress.
  • Paul Banks (born 1978) lead singer of rock band Interpol
  • Ian Westlake (born 1983) an English footballer, over 200 games
  • Tom Eastman (born 1991) an English professional footballer, 270 games for Colchester United.

Cultural references[edit]

On the Easter weekend of 1964 rival youth gangs of Mods and Rockers descended upon Clacton-on-Sea. They created mild havoc by fighting with each other.[11][12]

The music video for "Always on My Mind" by the Pet Shop Boys was filmed in Clacton, which was also the setting for their film It Couldn't Happen Here.[13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Town population 2016". City Populations. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b Laing, Lloyd; Laing, Jennifer (1980). The Origins of Britain. Book Club Associates. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0710004311.
  3. ^ "The Clacton Spear". Natural History Museum. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Adams, Nicky (June 2008). "Morning campers". Essex Life. Archant. pp. 18–20. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2009. (Registration required.)
  6. ^ The Heritage Trail Archived 19 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Clacton And District Local History Society Archived 4 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "New arrival at Clacton Pier is not just any helter skelter..." Archived from the original on 9 April 2009.
  9. ^ "Gunfleet Sands Wind Farm, United Kingdom". 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.[unreliable source?]
  10. ^ "Clacton 1961–90 averages". Met Office. Archived from the original on 10 February 2001. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  11. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY – 18 – 1964: Mods and Rockers jailed after seaside riots". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016.
  12. ^ Cawley, Laurence (20 April 2014). "Mods and rockers 50 years on since Clacton 'invasion'". Archived from the original on 11 August 2016 – via
  13. ^ "History: 1987". Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2018.


External links[edit]