Moves to give conservation area protection to 118-year old Southend almshouses

A tiny set of cottages dating back more than 100 years could become Southend’s latest conservation area in a move to give them added protection.

Southend Council bosses are proposing to introduce a conservation area for the almshouses in Chelmsford Avenue, Southend.

The Dowsett Almshouses consist of eight single-storey houses arranged around a courtyard.

The almshouses, built in 1904 thanks to the first mayor of Southend, Thomas Dowsett, nestle between two two-storey semi-detached houses included in the scheme.

The council commissioned a review of the almshouses, which were used to house poor Prittlewell residents over the age of 65, has recommended they be designated within a conservation area.

A report by experts, Purcell, said: “The Dowsett Almshouses are attractive cottage style almshouses which have survived relatively unaltered and retain their original character. They have a strong historical association with Thomas Dowsett, the first mayor of Southend, and this association continues today as the buildings are still administered by the same trust.

They also continue in their original use. The buildings also have an association with local architects Burles and Harris, who appear to have been prolific in Southend at the time.”

The council is carrying out a consultation on the designation which would protect the almshouses from any future “incongruous alterations”.

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for environment, tourism and culture, said: “This is only a very small area of cottages in a proposed conservation area for their historic value. This has been brewing for about a year and so far we have had no adverse comments.

“They are delightful. The results of the consultation will be reported back and hopefully there will be no objections. That being the case I see no barriers. It would have to go back to cabinet though.”

Conservation Areas can be created in areas of special architectural or historic interest that deserve careful management to protect that character. Southend currently has 15 Conservation Areas.

Residents, businesses, property owners within a Conservation Area may need to obtain planning permission from the council before making alterations to their property.

Purcell’s report says an Article 4 Direction should be considered for the almshouses. This would limit the replacement of windows and doors and external painting.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter