The “World’s Smallest” Museum in a Southend-on-Sea phone booth with Dame Helen Mirren as a guide
Red telephone boxes have become less and less common in Essex.
They were once a British icon, but many have now fallen into disuse in the decades that have seen the rise of cellphones and the internet.
Many of these phone booths were simply left to rot, unfortunately becoming magnets for vandalism.
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Others have been converted into homes for defibrillators or community libraries.
But in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, one of those phone booths has been converted into a truly unique asset for the city.
Throughout the 2010s, a red phone booth at the corner of Alexandra Street and Capel Terrace fell into disrepair.
Windows were smashed, the red paint got tired and the phone booth was no longer operational.
In 2018, it was completely deleted.
But in 2019 he was replaced with something really different for Essex.
It’s called the Clifftown Telephone Museum.
The white sign at the top of the box that once said “Telephone” now even reads “Museum.”
Inside, signage and technology have been taken back in time, so the phone booth looks straight out of the 1900s.
Located on Alexandra Street, a historic road that runs from Southend High Street, the museum is designed to tell the story of the area in which it is located – the Clifftown Conservation Area.
The Clifftown Estate, which lies east of Southend-on-Sea’s main town center, was a planned estate in the 1800s.
It was built to inspire investment in the thriving seaside town, which would soon expand and become one of Essex’s largest economies.
A series of lush townhouses were built along the waterfront for the wealthy.
Many have since been redeveloped, but the Clifftown Estate remains and is now an official conservation area.
The Telephone Museum has been restored to tell the story of the region.
Once inside, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The context of the time is told with a little help from one of Southend-on-Sea’s most famous people.
Actress Dame Helen Mirren grew up in the seaside town and attended local schools, including St Bernard’s.
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The Holywood star lent her voice to the museum to give an introduction to set the scene.
It can be heard from a panel and loudspeaker located directly to the left of the phone booth museum.
Dame Helen speaks not only of her roots in the area, but also of the lush history of the Clifftown estate, which played a significant role in the area’s Victorian rise.
The museum also informs visitors about the iconic statue of Queen Victoria, now located just yards from the waterfront, as well as the iconic cliff lift and pier, all built in the 1800s.
Admission is free, funded by a £ 10,000 grant from the National Lottery, and is a great way to soak up the little-known history of a seaside town that has always looked to the future.
The museum is just a minute’s walk from Southend-on-Sea High Street or a two-minute walk from Southend Central Station.
So if you ever feel like taking a seaside break without completely leaving Southend, take a little time walk.
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