kursamuspktitle - Southend’s Kursaal 50 years on #2

Second part of the tribute to Southend’s Kursaal Amusement Park which closed fifty years ago in 1970. The first post on this was published in June 2020.

Kursaal Amusement Park in colour – scenes from The Prisoner

I spent sometime screencapping these scenes from ‘The Girl Who Was Death’, but didn’t particularly want to make this second part of the feature on the Kursaal Amusement Park into too much of a ‘Prisoner’ themed post. The focus here rather is to to show the amusement park as it was in the late sixties and those scenes from The Prisoner complement this. The 15th episode of the 1967 series ‘The Girl Who Was Death’ showed the Kursaal to good effect and a good record of the site before it closed for good. Frank Maher, who was Patrick McGoohan’s double – was the person who was actually at the Kursaal because McGooham himself wasn’t available to film those scenes.

Here’s a few of those scenes from the famous 1967 TV series just for prosperity….

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The clown at the Laff in the Dark shown laughing at the exploits of The Prisoner – Number Six – who was being led on a wild goose chase by Sonia around the Kursaal.

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Sonia (played by Justine Lord) at the Laff in the Dark.

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The Paratrooper ride next to Laff in the Dark is very briefly shown in The Girl Who Was Death.

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Number Six with cape and deerstalker hat heading for the carousel. The water chute can be seen behind.

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Sonia by the water chute (this is the sixties built version which was moved to Rhyl after the Kursaal closed.)

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Clip from The Prisoner showing the water chute in use.

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Number Six (in cape and deerstalker hat) rides the Caterpillar to find the girl he sat with wasn’t Sonia!

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Number Six (Frank Maher standing in for McGoohan) has spotted Sonia driving away from the theme park thus he gets into his own car to chase here. The scenes shown here depict The Caves ride to good effect.

Further scenes from The Girl Who Was Death include the Roller Coaster and other rides, and in some of these Alexis Kanner plays a photographer working with a blonde that looks similar to Sonia – and Kanner gets visibly annoyed on the two occasions Number Six pounces upon them unexpectedly thinking he has finally cornered Sonia.

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Justine Lord with camera crew outside the Laff in the Dark palace. (From authors’ archives.)

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Justine Lord on the carousel ride. (From authors’ archives.)

I derived the above screencaps from my Prisoner DVD set featuring The Girl Who Was Death. Below is a edited version that can be seen on You Tube featuring the scenes from the Kursaal.

You Tube video showing the clips from The Girl Who Was Death.

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Were rides moved to Peter Pan’s Playground?

As someone who has used both theme parks, it was a surprise to find the Whip at the Kursaal. I only ever knew this ride at Peter Pan’s Playground, I don’t recall it elsewhere, thus it seems to me it may have been moved from one to the other in the years before I became acquainted with Southend. I’m not sure if this ever happened with the other rides from the Kursaal. I mean the Jig Saw Train, Wendy’s Glide and others most definitely were not from the Kursaal – thus its only the Whip which was moved down the seafront promenade to Peter Pan’s.

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The Whip at the Kursaal. Prob 1930s or 1940s. Source: Jimmy Sirrel’s Lovechild

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The Whip in its heyday at the Kursaal. Note it’s lack of roof. This is the same exact ride I knew at Peter Pan’s. Source: Pinterest

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Peter Pan’s Playground in the sixties showing The Whip. Source: Pinterest

In the above picture The Whip evidently has a new look including a roof thus seems it was newly introduced to Peter Pan’s Playground when this picture was taken.

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Was the Kursaal modernised?

Its often thought the Kursaal was totally run down and full of decrepit old funfair rides. Nothing can be further from the truth. Some of the earlier pictures in this page show there were indeed upgrades. The Paratrooper was a sixties ride so that was one new addition and certainly there were others.

This film shown below depicts the park in 1962 apparently. It has an especially good rendition of the old style Water Chute which was last in action during 1957 – and there’s very brief clip which shows the Kursaal’s newer Water Chute!

Without a doubt some rides at the Kursaal were modernised. The water chute for example was completely rebuilt in 1958 and the plans for this can be seen at the National Fairground and Circus Archives. The old ride employed at least 15 staff – several of these had to operate the old style water chute boats whilst others maintained the incline plane that took the boats back up to the top to be used once again. The new ride employed around six staff.

The article at New Steel Construction says the new water chute was built in 1965 however judging from the You Tube video above that was definitely earlier when it was built! Both Wikipedia, Joyland Books and others say the year of construction was 1958.

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Building the Kursaal’s new water chute. The article is dated 1965. Source: New Steel Construction

The Water Chute was dismantled upon closure of the Kursaal amusement park in 1971 and moved to Rhyl. It began operation at Ocean Beach fun fair in Rhyl during 1972 and worked til 2007 when that fun fair closed down completely. The ride was then dismantled and stored for the Dreamland Heritage Amusement Park project.

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The former Kursaal water chute at Ocean Beach, Rhyl, in 1980. Source: Joyland Books

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Continued in part three….

Other Kursaal posts:

Southend’s Kursaal 50 years on #1 (June 2020)

Kursaal Amusement Park (February 2018)

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