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Benjamin Disraeli in Southend

DISRAELI'S VISITS TO PORTERS

At various time from the 17th to the 19th century Porters was let by its owners.  the names of a number of tenants are recorded, and one is of particular interest because of a visitor who came tp stay with him.  In the reign of William IV, Sir Francis Sykes held the tenancy.  In 1833 and again in 1834 he had as his guest at Porters Benjamin Disraeli, then a young man of about thirty.  Disraeli had already attracted some attention as a novelist with his "Vivien Grey" "Captain Popanilla", "The Young Duke" and "Contarini Fleming", all published between 1826 and 1832.  He had begun his writing on political subjects, but did not enter parliament until 1837, as then Member for Maidstone.

But what was the significance of Disraeli's patronage of Porters?  Well he was a Prime Minister, parliamentarian and Conservative statesman, who played an instrumental role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party.  He was more significantly Prime Minister of the Unitred Kingdon twice and the only First Minister to be born Jewish.  It is known that Disraeli had a warm relationship with Queen Victoria.  In 1876 he became a peer as the Earl of Beaconsfield, which would round off nicely four decades in the House of Commons.

Porters was sometimes referred to as Porters Grange.  there was at one time a grange on the estate, probably, Benton thought, an appendage to Prittlewell Priory.  In a letter to his sister in 1833, Disraeli wrote "I can answer for Southend being very pretty.  I am staying at an old Grange with gable ends and antique windows, which Mr Alderman Heygate turned into a comfortable residence, and which is half a mile from the town - a row of houses called a town".  The town he referred to was a group of buildings at the top of Pier Hill which constituted New South End, the fashionable sea-bathing resort established less than fifty years before.  the row of houses was Royal Terrace, where, among other notable visitors, had stayed Caroline, Princess of Wales, and Lady Hamilton.  Porters, at the time stood in rural surroundings, with few buildings between it and the churches of Prittlewell and Southchurch, and with only a single row of property to the south along the coast.  The total resident population of Southend, with Prittlewell and Milton, was few more than 2,000.  In February, 1834, on his second visit to Porters, Disraeli penned his oft-quoted tribute to Southend - "You could not have a softer climate and sunnier skies than at abused Southend.  Here there are myrtles in the open air in profusion".

 

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