Secrets of Lakeside Shopping Centre

Chafford Hundred

Property Description

Pictured above is the planned lake hotel artist’s impression, original pre-2005 Lakeside logo, the new Intu facade c.2013, and construction of the centre c.1993. Although this article is a dramatic change to the usual content of Beyond the Point, I hope it will be of interest. Whilst not necessarily of historic focus, this article will investigate Lakeside’s history and its modern architectural significance, as well as relating to themes of urban exploration and the infrastructure of this social hot spot, within Essex, today. It will also shed light on the ‘unseen’ cultural, architectural, and natural features of the Centre, like much of what Beyond the Point covers. Lakeside is a part of the social ‘history of tomorrow’.

What is the history of Lakeside?

With construction completed in 1990, Lakeside was erected on the site of a former chalk quarry – many of which spanned the area throughout the 20th Century, leaving gorges. Many of the gorges filled with water and became lakes, such as the lake next to ‘Lakeside’ itself. There was also a large cement industry present nearby. Now, neither industries remain, but other industrial activity is greatly present. In 1993, the West Thurrock Power Station also present there, closes for demolition. This image (top) shows a rare shot of Lakeside whilst under construction. The glass dome’s frame, in yellow, can be seen before the glass was put in.

Lakeside & Its Infrastructure

Since the shopping centre’s construction, it has seen the construction of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Opened shortly after, and possibly in unison with, Lakeside, it was built in 1991, and opened by the Queen herself. Lakeside itself has seen several extensions, including the large VUE cinema block, the Boardwalk restaurants area, and the large ‘anchor’ stores (M&S, Primark, Debenhams, House of Fraser). Recently, due to the name change of it’s supermarket chain owner, it has been renamed ‘intu Lakeside’ and featured a minor graphical overhaul.


Top Five ‘Secret’ Things to do at Lakeside

At Beyond the Point, our aim is to highlight the unseen side to the wonders of Essex. Whilst not specifically historical, here’s our list of the top five things to do at Lakeside Shopping Centre, in which you can better understand the infrastructure, architecture, and natural surroundings, of Lakeside:

5 – The Shopping Centre Chapel

Although there’s not much to do here, it’s certainly secret. Denoted by a single sign on the corridor on the left of the Food Court (very top floor), rather than going down there to the toilet, you’re gonna head straight onto the end. There will be an unattended, convenient chapel room. You could probably hold a rave there and no-one would ever know. Still, whether you want just to poke your nose in, or show your devotion, this place is at least worth seeing whilst you’re at the Shopping Centre. Read the full ins and outs here.

3 – Alexandra Lake

Built next to the Shopping Centre, it features as the centre for the view at the Boardwalk restaurants. Of man-made origin, this lake provides a natural haven of beauty among the site of the shopping centre. Boat rides can be taken out onto the lake, whilst it’s also home to a local diving and water sports centre, whose ‘house’ can be seen opposite the centre. It makes for a great walk, with signs highlighting the various nature visible around it.

1 – Empty Carpark Rooftops

Providing excellent views across the Thames, and to the QE2, this legal-yet-unconventional viewpoint requires finding any of the multi-storey car parks which are relatively vacant (not essential) and therefore at a quiet time of year and day (if you want to enhance the experience by having the roof to yourself). Simply climb the stairs until you get to the top. It really is spectacular, and free – plus, it feels like you shouldn’t be there to heighten the fun (even though it’s fine!).

4 – Walk Around the Outside!

Although you’ll usually find yourself navigating the shops and hallways inside the building, take a step outside. The immediate outskirts around the edges of the building make for an interesting urban walk. With the feeling  that at times that you’re going where you shouldn’t, you will walk past the loading bays and climb the steps linking these areas to the main courtyards. the various courtyards also uncover various small gardens, dedication plaques, and gardens. The whole greatness of this is purely discovering areas to Lakeside you never before would have thought existed.

2 – Chafford Gorges & Davy Down Nature Reserves

Transformed from chalk industry giants of the 20th Century, these huge craters in the landscape now form nature reserves due to the mineral-rich soils. What’s more, is that water collects in the bases of them, forming lakes. One of these can be walked to after ten minutes, as soon as you cross the Lakeside c2c railway footbridge. Davy Down is not a former gorge, remaining untouched since the Victorian era. North of the main road above the shopping centre, this reserve is home to a large brick viaduct and ornate pumping station.

What’s In-store for Lakeside?

The future of Lakeside, and new ‘intu’ re-branding, sees a number of plans for future upgrade. this includes a foot-bridge across the lake (trust me that would be handy!) and lakeside hotel. Numerous new stores will also be on the near-future’s horizon. It plans to see a new lake hotel constructed too (see top).

2013 Explore of the Centre

Below is a set of photographs taken on an explore in Autumn 2013 with Jack Swestun. We decided to explore one of the car park buildings whilst it was completely empty, providing for some excellent views and a sense of having accessed a secret area all to ourselves. We also had a look around the loading bays, railway footbridge, gardens, and a sneaky glimpse into the offices underground near the bus station.

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One comment

  • UrbEssex
    February 22, 2018 at 2:22 am

    There’s a ‘secret’ path that not many people know about in the retail park area between I think Toys ‘r’ Us and Sports Direct (but don’t quote me on that) and it leads round the bit diagonally across the lake from the multi-story car parks, and has by far the nicest views of the lake. Or, at least, there was. They seem to have gotten rid of it for staff parking. It’s a real shame, because a lot of my childhood was spent in that ‘secret’ kids park, and there never seemed to be many other children there.


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