Compiled by Anthony Wills
Following its disastrous fire, SOUTHEND pier recovered sufficiently to reopen to visitors on 1 December. One of the pier trains was brought back into service (the other is having a repaint from its previous, unfortunate, red colour to blue….) A viewing area was set up approximately one mile from the pier entrance and a temporary railway halt installed. Up to 48 people at a time were able to view the affected area. A Portaloo was placed on the neck of the pier and confectionery and soft drink machines were installed about halfway down in one of the shelters.
The possibility of a brand new pier at JAYWICK SANDS (Essex) has moved a stage further.
The East of England Development Authority held an ideas competition for a major landmark to put the region on the map. 234 submissions were received from all over the world and East Reef was one of four selected for feasibility studies. These have now been completed and the teams behind them are working on the essential first steps towards physical reality.
And there are plans to install a narrow gauge railway running from Halesworth (the nearest railhead on the national rail system) to SOUTHWOLD pier. The five mile section from the pier to Spring Hill will be the first to be built, but agreement has yet to be reached over the acquisition of some of the land, which will diverge from the trackbed of the former branch line. Southwold is, of course, licensed for weddings and, in the wake of new legislation regarding civil partnerships, could well be the site of the first gay or lesbian “wedding” on a pier……
Still at SOUTHWOLD, the local Council announced in December that the promenade and beach between the pier and Gun Hill would be closed to the public for six months from 9 January, while urgent sea defence works are carried out. Artificial rocks will be installed and groynes replaced in an effort to combat beach erosion. The pier itself will remain open throughout the period of the works.
The battle to save the Isle of Man’s only remaining pier at RAMSEY goes on. The Friends of Ramsey Pier have kept up the pressure on the island’s Department of Transport, who eventually agreed to seek more reasonable estimates for restoration, using modern materials where possible. The revised figure came in at £5.5 million, to which a “Manx loading” of 20% was added to cover the cost of transporting materials from the mainland. An alternative proposal, to demolish the pier at a cost of £1.5 million, was swiftly rejected. A request for the necessary funding was then put to the Tynwald (IOM parliament), who set up a Select Committee to report back. Its Chairman is thought to be sympathetic to the Friends. The report is due shortly. Meanwhile the pier continues to deteriorate.
Following the completion of a major programme of capital works costing over £2 million, and as part of preparations for its Golden Jubilee in 2007, DEAL pier has announced a design competition to revamp the café-bar at the pier head. The competition, organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), is restricted to professional architects. Apart from the café, plans include an upgrade to water, gas and electricity services, extended CCTV coverage, improved lighting, redecoration of landside buildings and renovation of the entrance gates. Up to four practices will be selected to submit design proposals for consideration the pier’s owners Dover District Council. The closing date for expressions of interest is 15 February.
SWANAGE pier had a hectic 2005, with two landing stage collisions – the first from mv Balmoral, which damaged four piles, and the second from the Army LCT110. Both are being pursued by the Pier Trust’s insurers. Various fund-raising activities took place, including a Giant Sea Serpent/Open Day and Tombola Fun Day (both in August), a Barn Dance in September, a talk on Poole Quay and its Paddle Steamers in November and a Christmas Bazaar in December. The Friends of the Pier currently have 732 members. The pier has recently been repainted. There is a new video/DVD Snapshots of Swanage pier available by mail order at £10 (video) or £11 (DVD), plus £1 postage.
The SOUTHSEA Pier to Pier swimming race took place on 18 September. Sixty contestants aged from 13 to 69 entered the race to swim the 2 km between CLARENCE and SOUTH PARADE piers. The average time taken was 25 minutes. The 2004 contest was won by Samantha Rose of Northsea.
Is this a record? On 20 October an angler on WORTHING pier caught a sea bass weighing 11lb. 8oz., using very light tackle and a small hook.
Two surfers jumped into the sea off BOURNEMOUTH pier on 29 October to rescue a 9-year old boy from drowning. The boy, William Cook, had been surfing with his father when a current dragged him on to a groyne. However, a man who jumped off CLEVEDON pier in the same month was killed.
A 14-year old North Vietnamese boy was found clinging to MUMBLES pier early in November. It is thought he may have stowed away on a ship and remained hidden during the 6,000-mile sea journey. He jumped ship into the freezing waters as it passed Swansea and tried to swim to the beach in pitch darkness, but ended up clambering on to the pier. He was taken to Morriston hospital and interpreters were called to his bedside. The coastguard made an unsuccessful search of the Bristol Channel in case there were other refugees.
BOSCOMBE pier, which is awaiting redevelopment, has been closed to the public on safety grounds. The decking and railings are deemed to be in a dangerous state. As previously reported the pier is to be shortened from 630 to about 500 feet.
BRIGHTON WEST Pier Trust has postponed the announcement of a new partnership with a private company. Their Annual General Meeting held on 28 October was deemed inquorate. The Trust currently has 900 members but fewer than 50 attended. Their reserves stood at £59,000 on 31 December 2004. Meanwhile, the remaining kiosk on the pier fell into the sea on 3 December. The kiosk (the former box Office for the Concert Hall) was hit by a freak wave at noon the previous day and hung on precariously overnight before crashing beneath the waves. Brighton Council disclaimed responsibility and the Trust’s Chief Executive Geoff Lockwood said someone would have had to come up with £100,000 instantly in order to save it. In the latest issue of PIERS NPS Chairman Anthony Wills comments “I may not be popular for saying this, but surely the time has now come to close the door on the whole sad saga, put up the money for demolition and move on”.
Two domes originally forming part of the theatre on BRIGHTON PALACE have been rescued and auctioned on the e-Bay website. The domes are currently stored at an address just outside Worthing. They are well made with timber frames covered in a zinc skin and painted silver/grey. The needle helmets lift off for ease of transport and maintenance. One is in good condition, the other is slightly damaged. The theatre itself is said to have been “lost” after being dismantled in 1986 for maintenance of the decking beneath. The owners of Palace pier are apparently not interested in acquiring them, nor is Brighton Museum. They weigh about 700 lbs and are about 200 cm. high, so would need to be transported by lorry. Ideally they should be installed on a pier once again, though they would make novel garden ornaments.
The comedienne Avril Angers, who died on 8 November aged 83, made her professional debut in concert party on the PALACE pier in 1936. And coming bang up to date, following the successful Dr Who exhibition in the summer, a Christmas Experience on the pier drew large crowds.
The death also occurred, on 26 September, of children’s author Helen Cresswell, who in 1971 wrote Up The Pier. She was perhaps better known as the author of The Demon Headmaster and Bagthorpe.
CLEETHORPES Pier 39 held a relaunch weekend on 25-27 November, with live music appearances in the Main Room plus a variety of recorded dance music genres in the Paradise Bar. The club is now licensed until 4 a.m. (2 a.m. on Sundays).
Dozens of sea lions are choosing the pontoon at another Pier 39, the one in SAN FRANCISCO, as their living quarters, owing to a plentiful supply of herring and the protected environment. Their numbers have grown since the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and can now reach 900 during the winter months.
On a more sombre note, the Times of 21 October reported that two days earlier a 23-old woman had thrown her three children, aged 6, 3 and 1, from SAN FRANCISCO’s 100 yard long Pier 7 into the waters below.
WORTHING made an early start to the season of goodwill by holding a Countdown To Christmas event on 26 November shopping event, with fireworks from the pier at 6 p.m. The Pavilion’s pantomime Cinderella ran from 10 December to 8 January, and has been followed, for the first time at this venue, by a season of films, starting with the remake of King Kong. An Open Day at the Pavilion on 15 January, with a chance to view backstage, attracted hundreds of visitors.
The RNLI dealt with over 3,500 emergency callouts during the summer of 2005, a 10% increase over last year, making it their busiest yet.
(Thanks to Tim Mickleburgh, David Cheshire, Donald Hiett, Peter Barker and Steve Wilkinson for their contributions. More contributors needed!)
MEDIAWATCH Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
The unfortunate SOUTHEND conflagration on the evening of 9 October 2005 received a fair amount of attention on the TV news bulletins and in the next day’s papers (notably The Guardian), but was totally eclipsed by a fire at the Wallace & Gromit warehouse in Bristol a few hours later. Sign of the times? Tom Michelson, in a Times article entitled Why It’s Not Time For The End Of The Pier Show published on 31 October, commended Southend Council for its determination to restore the shattered pier. The future of the resort’s famous seafront illuminations, however, seems to be hanging in the balance, according to the Southend Echo of 8 December.
Mastermind contestant Tom King scored brilliantly on his specialist subject (seaside piers!) on the BBC-2 quiz shown on 18 October, answering 15 out of 16 questions correctly. Unfortunately his general knowledge (including some particularly difficult questions) let him down, and he ended up coming last.
The BBC’s love affair with BLACKPOOL continues. After Songs Of Praise and Hotel On Sea came the dark thriller Funland, shown on digital TV channel BBC3, The Lights (a Friday Play on Radio 4, broadcast 9 December) and Magnificent 7, a drama about autism starring Helena Bonham Carter, shown on BBC-2 on 13 December. Meanwhile the Holiday programme broadcast on BBC-1 on 7 November concentrated on the resort’s appeal as a leisure destination, noting the many improvements made…. The Times of 7 October, however, had reported that the three main political parties had decided not to hold their annual conferences in the resort again. Labour is moving to Manchester and the Conservatives are looking at Wales or further north in England. The paper’s fashion section had pictured Tory leader elect David Cameron and his wife Samantha strolling down NORTH pier the previous day.
Elsewhere, a pier – possibly PAIGNTON – was briefly glimpsed during BBC-1’s enjoyable contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing shown on 7 November. The action was set in a West Country TV station, where Beatrice and Benedict were the anchor persons on the nightly news magazine, who began by hating each other and gradually fell in love.
Liverpool Playhouse’s recent production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (playing throughout October) was set on a deserted seaside pier haunted by the ghosts of circus clowns. The Sunday Times critic called the production “tough but generous”.
Brighton resident Zoe Ball and her partner Ian were out on PALACE pier drumming up support for their terpsichorean efforts in BBC-1’s hugely watchable Strictly Come Dancing (shown throughout November and December). The pair were the judges’ favourites and viewers narrowly voted them through to the finals.
Within twenty seconds of the start of On A Clear Day, the feature film starring Brenda Blethyn, a pier hove into view – almost certainly the Queens at RAMSEY, as the film, although set in Scotland, was partially shot on the Isle of Man.
Another film, Kinky Boots, starring Joel Edgerton and made by the team behind Calendar Girls, featured shots of CLACTON pier, which is credited at the end but not identified in the drama.
Vincent Crump tested the Pier Hotel opposite HARWICH Ha’penny pier in the Sunday Times of 6 November. He commended the friendly staff and the fish restaurant, but said the rooms were noisy because of container lorries loading throughout the night in the nearby port.
The Sunday Times magazine of 27 November featured a selection of pictures taken for Life magazine by ace American aerial photographer Margaret Bourke-White (born 1904), including a stunning shot of CONEY ISLAND pier taken in 1951. They can be viewed on www.michaelhoppengallery.com
The Times columnist “The Thunderer”, aka Ross Clark, had a belated dig at SOUTHWOLD pier on 7 December, claiming it had received £300,000 of EU money for its restoration (the correct figure is £75,000), and asking why Polish taxpayers should support the wealthy burghers of Suffolk, whose beach huts fetch in the region of £60,000 apiece. NPS Chairman Anthony Wills wrote a letter of rebuke to the paper, saying Polish piers were welcome to apply for similar aid!