Ghost town: Carby House

Carby House

1985 was quite a momentous year for me. I passed my driving test on the third attempt, saw my oldest daughter born, and began refereeing. I also embarked on a career in Information Technology.

I was working for HM Customs and Excise and as an avenue for promotion had taken the ADP aptitude test a year or so earlier. I evidently passed the test, and subsequent interview, and working with computers beckoned. I had already been offered promotion, but chose IT for no other reason than it attracted an allowance that boosted my income. As a struggling father, sole wage earner at that time, I was becoming used to a life of penury. I needed the money, and despite knowing little about computers plunged in.

My initiation into IT was a ten-week Common Business Orientated Language course at Carby House. I did all my formal IT training at Carby House over the remainder of the eighties before leaving the comforts of the civil service to become a consultant and enjoy a freelance lifestyle. I took to IT like a duck to water, and still work as a consultant some twenty-seven years later.

Despite Thatcher’s attacks on the civil service Southend had a thriving office community in those days. Carby House was the northernmost of a long row of office blocks along Victoria Avenue. I seem to recall that the building was not the sole preserve of HMC&E and have a vague recollection of a bank on the ground floor.

Not a particularly tall building, at eight floors it still must have hosted a number of departments; I can only recall the training centre and a museum that featured items on smuggling and contraband. Perhaps other memories will come back. It certainly was a smart set-up and included a small canteen.

I was somewhat shocked when I passed Carby House recently. It has been empty for some time now, but it is looking decidedly shabby. It has been vandalised and is doubtless home to vermin, if not also frequented by the homeless as well as those seeking the thrills of vandalism.

It will be bulldozed and the site will house flats at some point, I have little doubt of this. I am not sure I won’t find this equally depressing. I do not mourn for the ghosts of my past, but I do mourn for the high quality jobs that have disappeared from Southend, and which Carby House is a grotesque monument to.

The Avenue is a vista of dereliction at the moment, the High Street is shadow of former glories, the college building a vacant stare, and the central library soon to fall silent. This town is coming like a ghost town.


2 Responses to Ghost town: Carby House

  1. Jane Sealy says:

    Victoria Avenue was originally built as the main route into the town, lined by trees and gracious villas. Today the decaying office blocks are reminiscent of run-down inner city areas. Ideally I should like to see houses – compact family units carefully landscaped to provide a good impression of our town.

  2. Something has to be done as the current shabby vista is an embarrassment. I remember the days when a drive up Victoria Avenue was a thing of joy. Now I can only wonder as I drive down it on how things went so badly wrong for my town.

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