Monday, 11 April 2011

Clevedon Pier

Clevedon is a very small sleepy town on the coast of the Bristol Chanel in North Somerset, England. Not much of a beach, because there's no sand, but there's rocks to climb on and seaweed to slip on. Its at it's best on a stormy winters evening, when the waves crash over the wall, and into the road which passes right next to it. Enormous fun dodging the spray.

It's such a little sleepy place that sometimes it's not open! We've turned up at 4 o'clock for a spot of tea to find everything shut and no one around.  Check for signs of life before setting forth! 

The Pier
It's an assumption on my part that piers exist all around the world, and they probably don't.

A pier is a platform on legs or pillars projecting from the shore into the sea, usually having places to eat and entertainment at the end.

On the left is Clevedon Pier, which is one of the few original Victorian piers in existence.

Why do a posting about Clevedon Pier? Well, it's because I spent an awful lot of my youth playing around this area and it's sort of close to my heart.

I recently went to a school reunion, and I ended up here simply because I couldn't stay away; I had to visit.

I had tea and cake on the end of the pier, in the afternoon sunshine, watching the waves and the seagulls. Tea was in a paper cup and the cake had icing and a jelly sweet on top, and was served on a paper plate. The cake was ever so slightly hard around the edges. Bliss. Anything more lavish would have been wrong and not in the spirit of the thing at all!
The two small pictures on the right are old images from postcards and newspaper articles showing the original pier before the disaster in the 1970's (a disaster which is in no way connected to myself or my misbegotten youth.)

It was built in 1869 and cost £10,000 (you know how I like to try and update you on the costs of things, so this is the equivalent of £712,000 today, if you use the retail price index for your guide, and £5,980,000 if you use average earnings.)

It is the only intact Grade 1 listed pier after Brighton's West Pier partially collapsed in 2002 and then caught fire in 2003.

Clevedon is on the coast of the Bristol Channel which has the second highest tidal range in the world, so it was designed with thin legs which withstand the water pressure better than thick ones. Hence the elegant look.

I understand it was built with a job lot of steel bought from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's failed Barlow rail system in South Wales.

In 1970, following routine tests on the load capacity of the decking, the whole of the middle section fell into the sea. I remember that at the time, the council, who owned the pier, weren't going to spend money on renovating it, and wanted to demolish it, but following a public enquiry and lots of pressure from interested people, including John Betjeman, a Preservation Trust was formed and they began fund raising. They sold brass plaques which you could buy with your name engraved on, and these were fastened to the boards and seats along the entire length of the pier.

Very sadly, the Pier Hotel, literally next to the pier, and where I did a fair bit of illicit drinking is boarded up because the owners couldn't afford the repair work needed. I believe however, it's now been sold for development and is going to be a hotel and flats. I wouldn't mind one, I admit.
 In 1995 a Lottery grant enabled the full restoration to begin and it was completed in 1998; it was dismantled and taken away to nearby Portishead - where I lived - in order to restore it. It was actually opened by the great great grandson of the Chairman of the original Clevedon Pier Company, which was very appropriate.

View from the tearoom back along the pier to the old part of the town.

Gazing out to sea whilst eating cake.

Below, in the very far distance, is the new bridge spanning the Bristol Channel. It takes traffic to and from Wales. It's called the Second Severn Crossing  It's highly amusing because there's a toll to go into Wales, but it's free to come out and go into England. Why??

I put the camera right up against the planks, so you could see the gaps between them.

Not everyone likes walking on piers because of the vertigo inducing gaps. You can see the sea, and the structure whether you want to or not.


  1. Awesome mum, glad you had a small, modest cake too xxx

  2. Please will you come to Clevedon when I'm around so we can take a stroll and tea together?

  3. I have vertigo just looking at the photos, just like my childhood all over again! Was the little train still running? x

  4. I think you may be thinking of the little train at Weston super mud? The pier there burned down a few years ago, but they are rebuilding. Sadly the new pier is quite different, and decidely horrid.