Frinton-on-Sea developed as a seaside resort late in the 19th century. However, there was a scattered settlement in existence many centuries before.
Frinton-on-Sea is first mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, where it appears to have been dependent upon farming. The village consisted of two large manors: Frietuna and Frientuna. Frietuna was part of the big estate belonging to Count Eustace of Boulogne and the manor of Frientuna belonged first to Geoffrey de Mandeville and was later owned by the wealthy Earl of Essex. At this time the village had a population of approximately 20-30 people.
In 1801 Frinton-on-Sea had an area of 469 acres and a population of 31.
There was little growth until 1871, when the population reached 54.
The extension of the railway line from Thorpe-le-Soken to Walton-on-the-Naze in 1864 (the idea of engineer Peter Bruff), with an ‘unofficial’ halt in Frinton-on-Sea saw an influx of new visitors and the growing reputation of Frinton-on-Sea as a weekend resort prompted the Great Eastern Railway Company to build a station there in 1888.
In 1885 the Marine and General Land Company bought up Frinton-on-Sea, and the following year published its plans. They wanted to create a town of ‘broad terraces, squares, crescents, tree-lined avenues and roads’. This coincided with Bruff’s idea of creating a new town called ‘Frinton Haven’. Yet the town still did not grow, and by 1891 the population had only reached 87.
The reason for Frinton-on-Sea’s lack of growth was a viable water supply. Peter Bruff discovered a water supply at Mistley and formed the Tendring Hundred Water Company. The supply of water arrived in 1888 and Frinton-on-Sea’s development took off.
The town of Frinton-on-Sea as it is known today was created by Sir Richard Powell-Cooper. In 1893 he bought an interest in the bulk of the land within the ‘Triangle’ and the area outside and adjacent to The Gates, intending to follow on the development begun in 1886 by engineer Peter Schuyler Bruff. He began to develop the resort utilising some of Bruff’s ideas to ensure that the settlement would be more than merely ‘another’ new town.
At this time Sir Richard Powell-Cooper also owned part of the Greensward and the Seafront. This prevented the type of development which would have been undesirable to the upper-middle class of the period.
One of Sir Richard Powell-Cooper’s first achievements was to lay out the golf course on the marshland at the west end of what is now known as the Greensward. The Golf Club opened in 1895 and became one of the most fashionable in England. This was followed in 1896 by The Grand Hotel and in 1899 by the Lawn Tennis Club, which was established on land from the Cooper estate. In the early days, international stars played at a post-Wimbledon tournament at the club. Now there is an International Veterans Tournament post Wimbledon which attracts top class veterans.
The progressive development of Frinton-on-Sea was initially centred on Station Road, which ran from ‘Frinton Gates’ to the seafront, and by 1904 many new commercial premises were being opened. Frinton-on-Sea’s new status dictated that this main thoroughfare be upgraded and the Duchess of Connaught renamed it Connaught Avenue in September of that year. It was transformed into a high-class shopping street, affectionately known as ‘The Bond Street of East Anglia’. Connaught Avenue still retains a higher proportion of locally-owned family businesses than most other High Streets.
In 1902 the town’s residents raised £179-12 shillings towards the cost of the Drinking Fountain to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII. It was also decided to upgrade the public garden known as Jubilee Garden and this is still in existence at the seaward end of Connaught Avenue. The Drinking Fountain was dismantled early in the 1960s to make way for the screening of the new public convenience on The Greensward and over the years it was not replaced and subsequently ‘lost’.
Frinton-on-Sea’s famous ‘Greensward’ was created out of former pastureland as part of the 1903 Frinton Sea Defences Act.
Frinton-on-Sea’s golden years occurred between the wars; they were dubbed the ‘Royal Years’. The town became the exclusive place to be and anyone who ‘was anyone’ spent the summer season here.
This trend was started by Edward, Prince of Wales, who came to visit and returned many times.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s the motor car gave mobility, and a house by the sea within easy reach of London became attractive to the upper classes. Large detached houses were built in the tree-lined avenues leading to the sea. The Homestead was designed by Voysey, the famous London architect, in 1905/06. One of the best known of the grand houses also built in Holland Road, is ‘Maryland’ which was famous for its guests, who included Prince Edward and Mrs Simpson, and Sir Winston Churchill.
In 1934 a new scheme was prepared by the architect Oliver Hill and the management company Frinton Park Estate Ltd. This was to be called Frinton Park and was to be a ‘showcase of modern architecture’. The best land, near the sea, was set aside for the most modern design, in a style that was to become known as Art Deco. Frinton Park was unsuccessful because the house designs and concept were too modern, but ironically it is only the most ‘modern’ Art Deco style that was actually built and remains today.
Frinton-on-Sea as a town was reasonably complete by 1935.
By the early 1930s, Frinton-on-Sea’s Seafront Gardens and Greensward had developed into much-used public open spaces.
The Gun Garden, which is situated at the junction of the seaward end of Connaught Avenue and Old Road, was created c. 1918.
Between 1923 and 1940 a Clock Tower was sited on the Greensward. However, because of poorly constructed foundations and subsidence it had to be demolished.
The Crescent Garden and the Rock Garden were clearly established by 1935.
The outline of the Crescent Garden actually appears on an 1899 plan of Frinton-on-Sea.
The Rock Garden was a feature situated at the southern end of the Greensward adjacent to the public conveniences. It was removed in the 1950-60s.
The Second, Third and Fourth ‘Avenues’ of Frinton were lined with trees in the early 1930s.
After the Second World war Frinton-on-Sea again took up its place as a select seaside resort.
In subsequent years the outlook of the town has evolved, although the atmosphere of an Edwardian resort has remained. The resident population of the town has continued to grow since the mid-1950s, possibly due to the electrification of the railway in 1958. Frinton-on-Sea still retains its reputation as a popular, quality resort. Its appeal is perhaps more geared to the visitor who enjoys the features of the town, the Greensward and its safe beaches, without the introduction of amusements, street trading and other lively attractions.
The Walton & Frinton Guide Book described Frinton-on-Sea in 1951 as the most exclusive seaside resort in Great Britain.
Frinton’s history is relatively recent with its creation resulting in the dramatic transformation of a scattered development being part of a highly focused vision by Peter Bruff and Sir Richard Powell-Cooper. This has largely been sustained for a century.
A determined resistance to the introduction of formal gardens and amusements has made Frinton unusual or even unique.
Many years before the 1998/99 historic landscape survey and restoration plan for Frinton-on-Sea, it was noted with concern by those that lived and worked within The Gates (south of the railway gates crossing), that over the years there had been a steady slow but ongoing decline in the features of the environment.
Connaught Avenue and The Jubilee Gardens
It is considered that Connaught Avenue still remains the gateway to Frinton as was envisaged by the original founders of the town. The access to Frinton’s shopping centre and seafront is through the railway gates at one extremity of Connaught Avenue. This creates a focused view along the Greensward and the seafront. The importance of enhancing the Avenue cannot therefore be over-emphasised as it forms the central focus for visitors and residents alike entering or leaving the town.
At the seaward end of Connaught Avenue the Jubilee Gardens form the junction with The Esplanade. The gardens form a link between the central shopping area and the seafront.
Frinton is now regarded as an important heritage resort because it has managed to retain its own particular character and style.
The town has resisted many commercial pressures; the resort has maintained an air of serenity and communal pride. It has not succumbed to the desire to follow trends. Consequently many of the original features still exist and can be restored rather than replaced.
Frinton-on-Sea, south of the railway gates, although of mature appearance is a relatively recent residential and marine resort, mostly comprising Edwardian and inter-war development. From its beginning covenants of the highest standards were insisted upon, generally ensuring the preservation of its distinctive local identity as a high quality residential area with substantial houses set in good sized gardens.
All proposals within Frinton-on-Sea’s designated Conservation Area 1982 therefore require detailed consultations.
The 1960s, onwards to the late 1990s, saw the creation of a new township with modern housing of a more modest design with a precinct of shops, in an area north of the railway gates known as The Triangle which formed part of the Frietuna Estate.
Henceforth Frinton-on-Sea was known by the endearing term for the division of the older part against the new as being Inside the Gates; and this is how it is still spoken of locally.
Special Note: The Frinton Residents’ Association would like to thank David Foster for contributing the above information.
Further information on the history of Frinton-on-Sea can be found on www.frinton.org/history/