Compiled by Anthony Wills
CLEETHORPES pier went into receivership at the end of January. Owner Kash Pungi was declared bankrupt but is confident of raising money through the sale of other properties which he owns. Meanwhile two local businessmen who are buying up and restoring pubs in the town have pledged up to £1 million with the aim of securing local sponsors.
A meeting was held on 1 February between HASTINGS Council and representatives from the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust. The Council’s cabinet agreed in principle to a Compulsory Purchase Order forcing the current owners Ravenclaw Investments to hand over the ailing structure, which has been closed completely since September 2008. In March the Trust won a grant of £75,000 from the Community Builders scheme to fund the necessary engineering studies and architectural designs to complete their business plan. They have also acquired the lease of an empty retail unit slightly to the east of the pier which opened as a Pier Information & Retail Shop at Easter.
While Grade II listed piers at HASTINGS and WESTON-SUPER-MARE (BIRNBECK) are in desperate need of restoration funding, the Cutty Sark received a further £3 million from the Department of Culture, Media & Sport in February. The restoration of the 1869 tea clipper at Greenwich is now costing a staggering £46 million. £23 million has so far come from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the rest from the Greater London Authority, Greenwich Council and private donations.
The remains of the collapsed concert hall on BRIGHTON WEST pier have been removed for safety reasons, and in preparation for the i360 tower to be erected on the esplanade opposite its entrance. The West Pier Trust says that all the historic elements will be safely preserved. The Times of 4 February covered the event with a poignant photograph. In the same week a spectacular one-off “re-creation” of the pier by laser illumination was staged as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Around 500 people turned up for a meeting held in COLWYN BAY Town Hall on 22 January to discuss the future of the resort’s ailing pier. The meeting, which was chaired by the district’s MP David Jones with local councillors in attendance, came out overwhelmingly in favour of restoring the pier, and a local businessman pledged £10,000 on the spot. The cost of full restoration is estimated at £5- 6 million. The idea of a charitable trust was mooted, though the present owner Steve Hunt said setting this up might require thousand of pounds as well as taking a considerable amount of effort and time, while the 110-year old structure continued to deteriorate. Another idea is to turn it into a wind turbine centre under the auspices of local energy company npower. The pier is not included in a multi-million pound seafront protection and improvement scheme to be funded by Welsh Assembly regeneration monies. David Jones has now asked for an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of Conwy County Borough Council. The meeting was well covered by BBC Wales and ITV News (BBC Wales screened a documentary on a year in the life of the pier in December 2008).
Waveney District Council has finally approved the plans to build a five storey 30 bedroom hotel over the pier entrance at SOUTHWOLD. Welcoming the decision its owner Stephen Bournes said that 6 full-time and 6 part-time jobs would be created, in addition to the 95 staff already employed during the summer season. Southwold has been suffering in terms of visitor numbers and some guesthouses closed recently.
PENARTH Arts & Crafts’ plans to restore the pier pavilion received a welcome boost when the local authority (Vale of Glamorgan District Council) agreed to contribute £15,000 in support of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s award of £99,600 (see PIERS 94). The Council’s Visible Services Dept. have refurbished the lamp standards along the pier and repainted the pavilion, and will soon begin renewing the rest of the decking. The pier is used for filming of the BBC1 series Dr Who and its spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.
WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK owners Urban Splash have received £80,000 from English Heritage which is to be used to repair and restore the spider bracing which maintains the four trestle legs that support the bridge from the mainland to the island. In April a historic bench made from recovered cast iron and wooden parts of the pier was thrown on to the rocks below the kiosk used by the Friends of the Old Pier. The bench, which was commissioned by the Friends in 2001 and made by an employee of the Lay brothers (previous owners of the pier), gave users a vantage point across the bay.
Fourteen brand new attractions are being manufactured by a local firm for WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND pier including a helter skelter, mirror maze, Ghost Train and old style Crazy House. The two electric trains which will convey passengers down the pier are being constructed with seats made from wood reclaimed from the pier deck after the July 2008 fire. The topping-out ceremony for the new Pavilion building took place on 3 February and the pier is on schedule to reopen in the summer. Meanwhile a Sport Relief fun run held on the pier on 21 March attracted hundreds of entrants including Dragons Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis.
The stump of decking at ABERYSTWYTH Royal pier has now been opened up to the public with the installation of picnic tables and benches and construction of an external staircase leading down from the Brasserie (formerly an Indian restaurant). The latter offers a wide variety of snacks and meals plus roast dinners on Sundays. The Pier Pressure nightclub above the amusement arcade has been given a makeover and remains popular with the large student population of this university town. The pier suspended its 24-hour drinks operation during the cold winter due to lack of demand. Other facilities on this busy structure, which has been a member of the NPS since 1979, include snooker tables in the bar, a take away pizza shop and the video store. There is an interesting display of historic photos in the corridor leading from the seafront to the bar, serving as a reminder that this was a Eugenius Birch structure which opened in 1865. A fine watercolour showing the pier at its full length hangs in the town museum, which is now housed in the town’s former Capitol cinema.
The people behind the proposed Millennium pier at BOGNOR REGIS in 2000 are trying to revive the project. The so-called Dragonfly (later Seatrek) pier was turned down for funding in favour of the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth. Now Steve Goodheart and Mike Jupp have approached Arun District Council with fresh plans and an appeal for financial support.
The ever-inventive Tim Hunkin has installed a new machine in the amusement arcade on SOUTHWOLD pier. It is called Whack a Banker and has proved extremely popular with visitors. For 40p you get 30 seconds to hit as many bald pop-up figures as possible with a mallet. In the event of winning the player is told “You win, we retire. Thank you very much to the taxpayer for paying our pensions”.
Visitor numbers to BOURNEMOUTH pier during 2009 are said to have been well up on previous years. There were 380,000 paid admissions during the summer season. Much of the success can be attributed to the Air Festival, which takes place again this year from 19-22 August. The Society’s AGM is being held in Bournemouth on 12 June.
The future of SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier is said to be in doubt. Owners Six Piers Ltd. have spent £300,000 on the sub-structure but are unwilling to make further investment unless it can be recouped through earnings. Discussions are taking place with Portsmouth City Council. The original pier opened in 1879 but was completely rebuilt in 1904 after a serious fire. It is Grade II listed and was the venue for the Society’s AGM in 2005. There is an amusement arcade at the pier entrance leased to Crown Leisure and children’s rides between the main building and the jetty, which is used by fishermen. There are a number of function rooms which are sometimes used for live gigs and boxing tournaments. Local support for the pier is lacking, if comments left on local newspaper websites are to be believed.
Specialist engineers from Hemsley Orrell Partnership have been examining the underside of CROMER pier to assess the state of the metalwork and report to the pier’s owners North Norfolk District Council. Above decking level the wintry weather had its effect on the Christmas Seaside Special at CROMER, where audiences were down 12% on last year. This year’s summer show opens on 26 June.
SOUTHEND Pier Museum reports much damage owing to long delayed repair work by the Council on the shore building, which caused flooding both in the museum and the office, necessitating dismantling of the display cabinets (the precious contents being temporarily stored in the pier trains). It is hoped to re-open the museum in May once the wiring has been repaired and alarms reinstated. The Trust is applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant towards the cost of replacing the old cabinets with new glass ones which will make it easier for children and wheelchair visitors to view the exhibitions. A members’ meeting held elsewhere in the town on 30 March featured an illustrated talk by Ken Crowe on Victorian Seaside Trippers.
The Friends of SWANAGE Pier are holding their Annual General Meeting on 18 May. The year under review has seen visitor numbers exceed the 100,000 mark, not counting over 14,000 anglers. On the fund-raising front the Christmas Bazaar netted £1,680. The Friends will be playing their part in the Victorian Festival to be held from May 17-23 which celebrates the 125th anniversary of the town’s railway.
A two page feature in the Times of 12 December on the young rugby player Jack Rodwell was illustrated by a large picture of him walking down SOUTHPORT pier.
A former commissioning editor for Channel 4 TV in Wales was found dead beneath PENARTH pier on 9 January. Police have ruled out foul play.
A man who fell from the pier at LLANDUDNO on 19 January had to be rescued by helicopter.
A controversial plotline for ITV1’s Coronation Street concerning a toddler being snatched from his bed began filming on BLACKPOOL NORTH pier on 27 January. The story, which bears some resemblance to the Madeleine McCann tragedy, had been shelved for over three years.
The severe winter weather caused the sea to freeze over at ST ANNES on 30 January. This rare phenomenon, which also occurred at Poole in Dorset round about the same time, is believed to be the result of low salt content and shallow water depth, and was observed by the Coastguard Rescue Officer for Lytham during a routine patrol of the beach. The last time this happened was at BOGNOR REGIS in 1962.
The Times of 4 February featured a picture of the pier at BLANKENBERGE (Belgium) taken by photographer Carl de Kezer.
A prop dummy from a film set fell into the sea below BOGNOR REGIS pier on 6 February and was last seen floating westwards towards Pagham. The dummy, nicknamed John, was being used in a “rockumentary” entitled Punk Strut, being filmed on the pier. The film makers have apologised and made a donation to the RNLI, whose lifeboatmen were called out to rescue what was believed to be a human body.
The 100th International Women’s Day on 7 March was marked by a Join Me On The Bridge event involving scores of women marching along BRIGHTON PALACE pier- one of sixty bridges in twenty countries across the world – to raise awareness of women affected by war and conflict.
A recent advertisement for the Halifax Cash ISA features EASTBOURNE pier.
BRIGHTON PALACE pier was used as the background to a brief item about winter swimmers show on BBC1’s Countryfile on Sunday 29 March.
The Independent’s travel magazine on 10 April included a fine photo of LLANDUDNO pier to illustrate the publication of a new book 52 Weekends By The Sea by Brigid Benson and Craig Easton.
The following day’s Observer had a feature My Sunday In A Nutshell showing Richard Simcock’s young son leaping for joy on SOUTHPORT pier.
A couple who met on WESTON GRAND pier in 2007 have fulfilled their dream of kissing on every pier in the country. Hazel Costin and Jay Preller plan to get married on the Grand when it reopens in 2011. Their achievement has already been recognized with a plaque on CLEVEDON pier. They are planning to write a book about their exploits entitled From Pier to Eternity.
The artist Grant Archer is creating a visual document of all piers that are currently open to the public with the intention of exhibiting the images around the coast and raising awareness of the importance of piers to society.
Following the successful jump over WORTHING pier by Lewis Crathen and Jake Scrace in November last year it has been announced that Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards will take part in this year’s Birdman Rally in August, though he will be jumping off the pier, not over it…..
A random trawl through some of this year’s holiday guides reveals that on the East Anglia Sunrise Coast LOWESTOFT has a Blue Flag beach either side of CLAREMONT pier. SOUTHWOLD needless to say gets a good write-up and has taken a half-page advertisement. The GREATER YARMOUTH guide has a fine aerial photograph of the seafront showing both BRITANNIA and WELLINGTON piers. The English Riviera brochure has no mention of TORQUAY PRINCESS, only a partial shot of PAIGNTON pier and a slightly better one of TEIGNMOUTH GRAND. A distant shot of SOUTH PARADE pier adorns the cover of the Portsmouth guide while CLARENCE gets an editorial mention. And finally SOUTHPORT pier gets a whole page to itself in the town’s 2010 brochure, as well as the back cover.
And finally…. Is SKEGNESS the first UK pier to advertise on Twitter? Users can receive updates on the Captain Kids Adventure Playground attraction there by clicking on www.twitter.com/captainkids
(Thanks to the late David Cheshire, Mike Davies, Daphne Leach, Tim Mickleburgh, Ken Wisdom and Chris Wyatt for their contributions)
We have had an enquiry regarding the cardboard cut-out figures on Brighton Palace, Clevedon and Mumbles pier (among others), where people can put their heads through the hole where the face should be, and have their picture taken. Does anyone know what these are called?