MANY of the roads which make up 21st century Clacton may not have existed without one man.

Back in the 1860s, Peter Bruff, a civil engineer responsible for the railway line from London to Colchester, saw a seaside lot with plenty of potential.

Mr Bruff was a man who knew an opportunity when he saw one and was also involved with the development of both Walton and Felixstowe as resorts.

Clacton historian George Hardwick said: “In April 1865, there had been an advertisement announcing that an auction was to be held at which this valuable freehold building land was to be sold off in lots.

“The advert went on to mention the fine sandy beach, the purity of the air and the extraordinary healthiness of the place.”

At the time, Bruff was investing a great deal of money in promoting Walton as a seaside resort, buying up land, building houses and a public hall, supplying the town with gas and water and shoring up the sea defences.

As soon as Clacton beach came on to the market, Bruff dropped Walton as Clacton appeared to be a much more attractive proposition.


He was attracted by the empty site which he could plan out as he wished and with plenty of room for expansion both inland and along the coast.

Bruff bought the 50-acre site in 1865. His idea was to use the land to create a new seaside resort, complete with a pier, hotel, public hall for entertainments, shops and spacious villas.


Clacton was not subject to coastal erosion to anything like the same extent as the more exposed site of Walton and he felt it would not take much effort to link Clacton to the Walton railway line.

Historian Norman Jacobs said: “When Bruff bought the area which we now know as the centre of Clacton, there was only Rosemary Lane (now Rosemary Road).”

He thought up a few different layouts before settling on the one we still see today.

Bruff’s vision for his new town of Clacton-on-Sea was to build a high-class seaside resort.

“It was quite simply a business venture aimed at attracting visitors.

“He wanted his seaside town to be a high-class resort catering for an exclusive middle and upper-class clientele.”


So Clacton’s raison d’etre, right from the start, was as a seaside resort.

The pier was opened in 1871 as the first building to be built in the new town. The Royal Hotel opened in 1872.

Bruff insisted there would be “no slums or any object that could offend the eye in the new watering place”.


The coming of the railway in 1882 meant more day trippers from London were being attracted.

In 1882, Peter Bruff commented: “We need to stop the present rush of the lowest type of London trippers - men, women and children who only seem to enjoy themselves when revelling in drink and obscenity.”


His later constructions in the town included a public hall in Pier Avenue, which was destroyed by a fire in 1939, and the creation of the town centre.

Bruff died in Ipswich in 1900, but his legacy lives on not least in the hospital ward and residential road in his name.