CLEETHORPES has been voted Pier Of The Year 2016 by the members of the National Piers Society. WORTHING came 2nd, closely followed by LLANDUDNO. 16 other piers received at least one vote in this, the 20th year of the competition.
Cleethorpes is one of the shortest piers in the UK, and has been since the late 1940s; but when it opened on 4 August 1873, at a cost of £8,000, it was 1,200ft long. 2,859 people paid the enormous sum of 4d (or 6d for bath- or sedan-chairs!) to walk along it on the first day, and over the next five weeks the number of visitors totalled 37,000, the majority coming by rail from the great industrial cities. They were not, sadly, the genteel type of folk envisaged by the town’s residents; a dance band was hired to play for them and shocked locals complained of “an influx of the great unwashed, including young men dancing together and smoking pipes”! In 1883 a barrel vaulted Concert Hall was erected at the pier head and the dancing moved inside, but it was destroyed by fire in 1903. Two years later a Pavilion was built on a side extension a little way down the pier, and this still survives.
In 1936 the pier was sold to Cleethorpes Borough Council for £27,800 and at the outbreak of war it was sectioned (cut in half). The seaward end was badly damaged during a storm in 1949, and the Council demolished the pier’s neck; some of the salvaged materials were used for the construction of a new stand at Leicester City Football Club’s ground. The pier was now only 335 ft long. Summer shows were staged inside the Pavilion but from 1968 onwards it began to house bingo, wrestling and stamp fairs. In the 1970s it became known as the home of Northern soul music.
The pier changed hands no fewer than eight times over the next 20 years, but despite considerable capital investment it gradually went downhill and acquired an unsavoury reputation. In 2013 it was saved by a private buyer and extensive restoration was carried out. The Pavilion now boasts a Promenade Bar, Victorian Tea Room, fine dining Restaurant and a Function Room capable of hosting conferences, weddings and shows. Since reopening it has been wildly successful.
The National Piers Society’s President Gavin Henderson commented: “The restoration of the Pier at Cleethorpes, and its Pavilion in particular, has won overwhelming support, and I congratulate those who have carried out this remarkable transformation.” Bryan Huxford, the man responsible for the transformation, said: “To be recognized in this way by the members of the National Piers Society, just eight months after reopening, is truly amazing.”
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