The gradual transformation of the historic Shoebury Garrison site to a sprawling mix of homes, both old and new, began in 2004.

But the garrison story began in 1849 when the south Shoebury site was bought by the Board of Ordnance to use as an artillery testing sand practise range. It became a permanent station in 1854

The officers’ mess was set up in a former Coastguard station on what is now Mess Road, facing the Thames Estuary.

Officers were accommodated in the terrace of coastguard cottages, to which a library and dining room were added in 1852. Barracks were built on what is now Parade and in 1856 a garrison hospital went up nearby.

The Royal Artillery School of Gunnery was established there in 1859. Horseshoe Barracks and various other amenities were added not long afterwards and the site was extended to cover some 200 acres lying between Ness Road and the coast

The garrison became integral to the development of new and improved artillery weapons. In 1920 the School of Gunnery was redesignated as the Coast Artillery School of the Royal Garrison Artillery,

Regiments were garrisoned in Shoebury until 1976 and its military personnel reduced. After the Old Ranges closed in 1998 the old garrison land and buildings were sold and earmarked for housing.

A history of the site by Southend Council said: “Shoebury Garrison is a unique area of national importance. Its history, archaeology and historic buildings, and its unique setting overlooking the mouth of the Thames Estuary with adjacent beaches, parkland and nature reserves make it a fascinating area to explore.”

After much debate over the loss of the adjoining Gunner’s Park to a housing development, Southend Council finally approved plans for 465 homes on the site. Residents fears they would lose much of the park proved unfounded when developers realigned the park, much of which was prone to flooding thanks to an underground river.

The park area was duly moved further towards the seawall where a wildlife area, lake and new ditches were formed and are now home to a wide array of birds, including swans and ducks.

As well as the Officer’s Mess, other grand buildings were renovated, including the Commandant’s House, Beach House and the Clerk of Works House.

Other buildings including barracks and offices were carefully converted into grand, high-ceilinged homes on the estate.

Some of the plans, including a 40-bedroom hotel and a landmark tower block have yet to materialise.

However, former military buildings are still to be converted for community use including two of the Powder Magazines, the Quick Fire Battery and the Experimental Casement buildings which will be used for a month-long Southend arts festival starting in September.

The renovations form part of plans for a heritage centre. Other lovingly preserved landmarks include the clock tower built in 1856 at the old parade square entrance.