Compiled by Anthony Wills
Sir Lindsay Bryson, Chairman of the BRIGHTON WEST Pier Trust, died on 24 March aged 80, after a long battle with cancer. The Times carried a lengthy obituary on March 29. A memorial service was held on 11 April. His successor is Glynn Jones.
The Gambling Bill scraped through Parliament just before the House rose for the General Election campaign, after the Government made a concession on super-casinos. Only one such establishment will be permitted to open, rather than the eight previously proposed (and before that, “as many as the Market will bear”). It is hoped that this will be in BLACKPOOL, but this is by no means certain.
SOUTHWOLD pier has been sold. The 625 ft. restored pier changed hands for an undisclosed sum at the beginning of March. The new owners are Stephen and Antonia Bournes of Halesworth, and they have already joined the Society. Mr Bournes was manager of the Crown Hotel in Southwold between 1985 and 1988. His wife had a career in the theatre. More recently, the Bournes have been running a catering business in Halesworth. It is understood that they intend to develop the bar and catering side of the pier. There are no plans to make any of the existing staff redundant. The pier was restored by Chris and Helen Iredale and chosen as the National Piers Society’s Pier Of The Year in 2002, and recently received a special commendation at this year’s Civic Trust awards.
WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK is also changing hands. Surrey businessman James Scott, who grew up in the town, has exchanged contracts with the current owner Peter Lay, with completion due this summer. Mr Scott has also paid £10,000 for a one- year option on the neighbouring Royal Pier Hotel. His proposals for the pier, yet to receive planning consent, include a museum, ice-rink, shops, restaurants and helicopter landing pad. The Birnbeck Regeneration Trust, set up by local authority North Somerset District Council, is currently looking into various options for the pier ahead of putting in a lottery bid. At present only RNLI lifeboatmen are allowed on to the crumbling structure.
The ferry service between Southampton and HYTHE pier is under threat because of a hike in business rates, according to the Southampton Echo, which has been running a campaign to save it. Loss of the boats would inevitably mean the withdrawal of the unique pier railway and threaten the very future of the structure, which was opened in 1881 and is the 7th longest pier in England and Wales. This development is all the more alarming after the pier was repaired in record time following the breach last November caused by a dredger going off course.
An earth tremor measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale shook COLWYN BAY in February but no damage was sustained to the pier.
NPS Chairman Anthony Wills wrote in early March to 1066 Marketing in Hastings complaining about their 2005 Visitor Guide to Hastings & 1066 County. The Guide does not mention either Hastings pier or the White Rock Theatre, and its index is incorrect. After the Hastings Observer took the matter up, the firm sent a belated, unsatisfactory response.
North East Lincolnshire Council’s arts development team held a Creative Voices Day in CLEETHORPES pier pavilion in February for 10-19 year olds to take part in activities ranging from film making to samba dancing.
Hundreds of clubbers were evacuated from Visions nightclub on BOGNOR REGIS pier on 27 February after fire broke out in one of the toilets at about 2.30 a.m. Firefighters from West Sussex rescue service were sent to tackle the blaze and spent just over an hour dealing with the situation. Arson has not been ruled out and the police are investigating.
Meanwhile, work is well under way at revamping the Roof Garden area in front of the Conservatory Bar. The old Roof Garden repertory theatre dressing room block has been demolished and the rather dowdy windswept terrace area is to be enclosed.
MUMBLES pier sustained minor damage on 31 March when a boat carrying out a survey for the RNLI collided with one of the pier legs.
A lifeboat was called out to try to retrieve a handbag accidentally dropped by a Canadian woman into the sea off SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier in March. The bag, which was not recovered, contained the woman’s passport, visa and credit cards.
The SOUTHEND Pier Museum Foundation held its Annual General Meeting on 8 March. The accounts ending 31 December 2004 show reserves of £25,823. The Pier Museum Extension Appeal Fund stands at £5,966.73, though this includes an amount of £2,500 which has to be repaid to the Lloyds TSB Foundation.
Artefacts from the former GREAT YARMOUTH WELLINGTON pavilion, dating from the early 20th century, have been offered for sale on the Internet. The items, including terracotta plaques and urns, lengths of balustrade and metal shields, were found in a Norfolk Architectural Salvage Yard. Valued at around £20,000, they were being offered for sale in good faith, but have now been withdrawn while police investigate. Meanwhile the Theatres Trust has lodged a strong objection to plans to convert the historic Wellington theatre into a “family entertainment centre” (amusement arcade). The Trust, which must legally be consulted about any change of use, said the loss of theatrical facilities ran counter to Great Yarmouth’s recently published cultural plan, and that the local council faced a conflict of interest as both freeholder of the pier and the planning authority. Recently the end of the pier was stripped down to remove defective areas including asbestos.
Plans have been submitted to install a 6.5 metre tall sculpted figure in stainless steel at the head of SOUTHPORT pier. Designed by Wirral-based company CAMM, the figure will match artworks already sited at the town’s Dunes leisure centre and the new Marine Way bridge.
Following the unexpected listing of the entrance buildings/kiosks on BOSCOMBE pier (see PIERS 74), owners Bournemouth Council are in discussion with English Heritage regarding their refurbishment. As part of this the toilet facilities would be removed and replaced by expanded catering and retail units. At the seaward end of the pier the intention is to demolish the former Mermaid Theatre (currently fenced off) and the existing platform, replacing it with a smaller open platform.
2005 is the Year Of The Sea, and among the hundreds of exhibitions and special events scheduled to take place across Britain are the exhibition Turner: The Sea at Tate Britain in London (28 March – 18 September), Summer Of The Seaside at the Mersey Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool (tel. 0151-237 3918), The English Channel at Chichester District Museum (24 May – 10 September, closed Sundays & Mondays, tel. 01243 784683) and Trafalgar 200 at Portsmouth Dockyard (28 June – 23 October, tel. 0870 043 3929). As part of DEAL’s Maritime Heritage Festival “Admiral Lord Nelson” will arrive at the town’s pier on 30 May and be given the freedom of the town by the Mayor.
CROMER pier pavilion has announced details of its legendary summer show Seaside Special 2005. This is the 28th season of the most famous end of the pier show in England and Wales. Topping the bill this summer is comedian Barnaby, and the cast also includes singers Claire Maurer and Adam Porter-Smith, a conjuror and a troupe of dancers. The season runs from 18 June to 17 September with performances on Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30 p.m. From 5 July matinees beginning at 2.30 p.m. are added on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, plus Saturdays at 4 p.m. In addition, for the first time ever, a Christmas season of the show is planned. A new road train linking the town centre to the promenade and pier came into operation at Easter.
The Krankies top the bill at BLACKPOOL NORTH pier theatre this summer. Rockin’ With Laughter, which also stars Bucks Fizz, Stu Francis, Chris Hide, Kirsty Williams and the Emma Jay Dancers, opens on Tuesday 19 July and continues on Wednesday to Saturday evenings until 29 October. The show is presented by Starstruck Promotions.
BOURNEMOUTH pier theatre has an impressive line-up of shows, including Hooked On Laughter running on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 May – 29 September (with additional nights during the high season) and Saturday and Sunday concerts featuring, among others, the Barron Knights, Roy Hudd, Jimmy Cricket, Vince Hill and Brotherhood of Man. With regard to the pier itself, some redecking has been carried out, but the condition of the landing stages is causing concern.
GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA pier theatre promises appearances this summer by the Chuckle Brothers and Joe Pasquale.
Congratulations to FELIXSTOWE pier on reaching its centenary – it opened in July 1905. Built for the Coast Development Company, its original purpose was as a landing stage for Belle Steamers’ vessels operating between London Bridge and Great Yarmouth. The first ship to berth there was the Woolwich Belle, in transit from Ipswich to WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE and CLACTON piers. The pier was originally 2,793 ft. long, making it at the time the third longest in England and Wales after SOUTHEND and HERNE BAY. It had a 3_ ft. gauge three car electric tramway, able to transport 100 passengers at a time. Two of the cars were withdrawn in 1926, the third remaining in operation until 1939. The pier was sectioned on 30 May 1940. After the Second World War ended the pier was sold and reduced in 1949 to its current length of 450 ft, its original angled hardwood struts being replaced by vertical reinforced concrete supports. Fishermen and strollers used the pier until the decking beyond the pavilion was closed on safety grounds in 1999. It is not known whether any ceremonies or celebrations are planned at this decaying and possibly doomed structure.
A fund-raising evening for the BOGNOR International Birdman Rally was held in Visions nightclub on the pier on February 20. The Rally, which is now in the hands of a Trust, will take place over the weekend of 20/21 August.
Messages from people all over the world are being cast into the sea off BRIGHTON PALACE pier by a man who has a “message in a bottle” website. Stuart Conway, from Brighton, has thrown nearly 3,000 bottles off the pier over the past nine years. Stuart’s customers enter their messages via his website and even state their preferred type of bottle! Stuart includes his contact details, asking people who recover the bottles to contact him, but only ten people have been in touch since he started.
Britain’s cleanest beaches were revealed on 1 April. The 122 beaches, all eligible for the coveted Blue Flag, include EASTBOURNE from the pier to the Wish Tower and BOGNOR REGIS from the pier to Butlins Southcoast World. BRIGHTON beach again failed to be nominated. In 1987, when the Blue Flag scheme began, only 12 beaches qualified.
BLACKPOOL, BRIGHTON and TORBAY are the towns with the highest suicide rates in the UK, according to official statistics, which show that 5,755 people took their lives in 2004, three-quarters of them male. These towns have seven piers between them.
A survey of over-50s conducted for Yours magazine has found that most people, given the choice, would spend their retirement beside the seaside. SKEGNESS was first choice, followed by SOUTHEND, Kings Lynn, Spalding and LLANDUDNO.
STOP PRESS: As the magazine was going to press we heard that LOWESTOFT CLAREMONT has been put up for sale. The asking price is £2.8 million. The pier was opened in 1903 and has been owned by the Scott family for the past 35 years.
(Thanks to David Cheshire, Steve Wilkinson, Daphne Lewis and Tim Mickleburgh for their contributions)
MEDIAWATCH Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
PENARTH pier was bedecked with flowers (or were they digitally superimposed?) for a full-page Heinz soup commercial that appeared in TV Times and other publications late in 2004.
The Telegraph travel section of 5 February had a fine picture of the shell of BRIGHTON WEST engulfed in nesting birds.
Presenter Zoe Ball has turned movie director, shooting a 13-minute feature entitled Four Brothers And A Funeral at various sites in Sussex including BRIGHTON PALACE pier. The film, which is acted by an Asian cast, premiered at the Genesis cinema in London’s Stepney Green on 17 March.
TV presenter Lowri Turner extolled the virtues of CLEVEDON when she was interviewed by the Daily Mail for their Where I’d Rather Be This Weekend feature on 26 February.
CROMER pier figured large in Episode 5 of ITV1’s popular drama series Life Begins, starring Caroline Quentin and Frank Finlay, on 16 March.
Both the Mirror and the Telegraph gave extensive coverage on 31 March to the Yours magazine survey on favourite places to retire to (see Piers News page 8.)
The April issue of South Coast Magazine, aimed at an upmarket readership, contained an excellent piers feature enhanced by photos from the Richard Riding Collection and comments from Anthony Wills. Only the title was a let-down: Pier Pressure (again!).
The new OFCOM building, hard by Southwark Bridge on London’s Thames river, features along its main staircase a blow-up picture of a couple standing on a pier with a transistor radio placed on the decking nearby. OFCOM staff were unable to identify the pier.
Incognito Theatre were due to present End Of The Pier Show, a new play by Tony Bilbow and Mike Fentiman, set on BRIGHTON WEST pier in 2002, at the Incognito Theatre, Holly Park Road, Friern Barnet, London N11 from 22 – 28 May at 8 p.m.
BE ON TV! BBC-1 will be recording Songs Of Praise on Central Beach, BLACKPOOL (between the NORTH and CENTRAL piers) on Saturday 16 July between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Presenter Aled Jones will host the recording, together with some surprise guests and the Leyland Band (winners of the North West Brass champions awards) conducted by Paul Leddington Wright. If you want to be part of the programme – which is scheduled for transmission on Sunday 4 September on BBC-1.