National Piers Society
Weston-Super-Mare Birnbeck Pier

The foundation stone of this Birch-designed pier was laid in 1864. It opened on 5th June 1867 and consisted of a 1040 foot cantilever construction to Birnbeck Island and a short jetty extending westwards from the island.

1872 improvements included the 250 foot wooden north jetty. A lifeboat station was added in 1881 (the boathouse was built in 1889), and a pavilion in 1884. A tramway transported baggage from the steamers.

A fire damaged the main buildings on Boxing Day 1897, but the switchback escaped. The new pavilion and low water jetty opened in 1898. In 1902, a new lifeboat station was built. In 1903, the pier was closed after a gale damaged both jetties. The north jetty was rebuilt in steel to 300 foot and re-opened in 1904 but the low-water jetty remained closed until 1910 and lasted until 1932.

The opening of the Grand Pier's funfair caused the abandonment of Birnbeck Island amusements in 1933. The Admiralty took over the pier from 1941 to 1946 when it became known as 'HMS Birnbeck'. P&A Campbell ran the pier from 1962-1972, selling it to John Critchley a year after regular passenger steamer services ceased to call.

In 1989, ownership passed to Phil Stubbs who planned to restore the pier. But, by 1992, the pier was closed (other than for anglers) with financial problems having caused the abandonment of redevelopment plans.

The Council and English Heritage planned a survey in 1996 as to possible future uses for the pier. The pier was put up for auction in Bristol in May 1998 at a reported asking price of £50,000

In 1999, the lifeboat station installed a walkway across the pier to allow them safe access to the island, at a cost of £20,000.

In 2006 the pier was sold to new owners, Urban Splash, and in August 2007 they launched a competition for ideas for the regeneration of the pier and island. In March 2008, Levitate Architecture and Design Studio Ltd were announced as the winners of the design competition. The winning design included a dozen luxury apartments and a 50-room hotel.

On 14th August 2009, the North Somerset Times reported that Birnbeck Pier was being sold to a mystery bidder. Urban Splash was reported as having accepted an offer from another party and was entering into legal issues. However, despite early encouraging signs, Urban Splash later said it was not in a position to redevelop the pier due to the recession.

The pier remained closed to the public as it had been since 1994 and continued to deterirate. It was included on English Heritage's "buildings at risk" register and in January 2011, Mike Davies from the National Piers Society voiced the Society's concerns that nothing was happening and that the re-opening of Weston's Grand Pier seemed to have caused Birnbeck to have been forgotten.

Then in September 2011, it was announced that the pier had been sold for an undisclosed sum to businessmen Wahid Samady and Michael Ross. Mr Samady said that they were looking to retain and enhance the facility for the RNLI, restore the pier and enable public access to the land, so everyone could enjoy this scenic and unique destination. In February 2012, the detailed plans for the redevelopment of the pier were still being kept secret.

However, in August 2012, it was reported that the sale had never actually been completed and ownership still resided with Urban Splash. The pier's future remains unclear.

In December 2012, a proposal was made by local NPS committee member, Mike Davies, that a bid be made to the Lottery Fund for help to revitalise the pier. However, it was reported that for such grants to be successful the pier and island would have to be in public ownership, via something like a trust or charity. At the time, the pier was still privately owned. Then in April 2013 the pier was visited by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey who met with John Penrose MP, English Heritage and CNM Estates to discuss its future. It was still unclear whether CNM Estates had actually bought the pier from Urban Splash and the sad saga continues.

***

  Pier Statistics
 
Length Opened Status Owner
Initially 1200ft
Now 1040ft (317m)
1867 Grade II* Urban Splash

Pier News
Oct 2014 - Business plans for Birnbeck Pier to be reviewed
Dec 2013 - RNLI leaving Birnbeck is ‘final nail in the coffin’
Nov 2013 - Developer said to owe Council for hotel demolition
Oct 2013 - Former student's video of Birnbeck's history.
Sep 2013 - Public sector cash is the key to saving pier - council
See Pier Newslinks Archive for earlier stories
Pier Gallery
Flickr gallery of images of Birnbeck Pier
Simplon Postcards of Birnbeck Pier
Britain from Above images 1920
Google search for all images of Birnbeck Pier
Pier Movies
Youtube - Birnbeck Pier Feature with John Crockford-Hawley
Youtube - A look at Birnbeck Pier 1/10/11
Chris Foote Wood's YouTube video of the Pier (2008)
Pier Weblinks
Friends of the Old Pier Society Website
Wikipedia entry for Birnbeck Pier
The Heritage Trail webpage for Birnbeck Pier
An intrepid adventurer's 2006 visit to Birnbeck Island
Birnbeck Arts forum for proposals to save the pier
Pier Webcam
No webcam here I'm afraid
Pier Weather

Click for latest weather at Weston-Super-Mare