Driving on to The Beach for the first time and seeing this beautiful, elegant structure protruding from the water against the backdrop of a glorious summer sunset took my breath away and I knew that this was where we were going to live! Twenty three years later we are still here, and every time I walk to the bottom of the road, I have that same feeling.
Last year, Clevedon Pier featured in a Guardian article ‘Ten of the World’s Best Piers’:
“The most beautiful pier in England” according to John Betjeman, and England’s only surviving Grade I-listed example, Clevedon pier is a gem. There’s a lovely tea shop at the end and a superb new restaurant that during the day offers delicious picnic-style food to eat on the pier, and at night becomes a classy food venue specialising in fish dishes. The Bristol Channel has the second-highest tidal range in the world, and watching the tide sweep in and out can be spectacular. You can spend a pleasant hour or so reading the moving and often funny memorial plaques. The paddle steamer Waverley is an occasional visitor.”
(23rd August 2018)
In the same year it was included in ‘Irreplaceable A History of England in 100 Places’. The latter was of particular note as places chosen were by public nominations and a panel of expert judges, including Professor Robert Winston, Mary Beard, George Clarke, David Olusoga, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson and Bettany Hughes.
In 2016, The Visitor Centre won the Historic England People’s Choice Award in a glittering ceremony held at the Palace Theatre in the West End of London, presented by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber
I have to say, I like living in a town which is considered to be of great historical interest and which people want to visit. With the only accessible Grade I listed pier in the country and described by the poet Sir John Betjeman as “the most beautiful pier in England” it is certainly attracting visitors from all over the world.
Over the years, we have hosted teachers from all over Europe, America, Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique and Uganda and they have without exception been awestruck by the sight of this majestic structure and its captivating history.
The Visitors Centre with its nine interactive exhibits, (Discover @ The Pier) and the dramatic full length view beneath the Pier’s deck from the Porthole Room and the ‘SeeWall’ in the aforementioned are always a focal point for any visit. The lovely café and restaurant selling delicious food, drinks and ice cream, and the beautiful shop with so many beautiful gifts, books, cards and souvenirs is also a popular attraction.
One of my most magical memories of the Pier takes me back to 11.00am Saturday 30th September 2017 when the Clevedon School Amnesty International Group of eighteen students supported by a handful of staff and the Clevedon Pilot Gig Club started their 24 hour Sponsored Rowing Challenge on the Pier. It was a wonderful experience, at times quiet and peaceful at others frantic and frenetic as we made our way from the Porthole Room in the dead of night with the rain lashing down upon us. Despite the rain, night time was extra special, being at the end of the pier, surrounded by water and seeing both coasts lit up by the moonlight. Happy memories of a very special time.
And now a little bit of history for anyone reading this who may not be aware of the Pier’s past. The Pier was built in 1869, using discarded rails from Brunel’s broad – gauge South West Railway, and cost £10, 000. Today, it is the only intact Grade 1 listed Pier in the UK which remains in regular use. Disaster struck in 1970 when two sections collapsed and it soon became apparent that it would take a massive collective effort to restore it to its former self. To this end, The Pier Preservation Trust and the Pier Supporters Club were established and in 1980 The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust was born. The Trust acquired the Pier on a 99 year lease from 1985 and undertook a major rebuilding and refurbishment scheme. The Pier was reopened in 1989 with the final restoration of the Pier Head being completed in 1998. Work for the 1.5 million Visitors Centre which included a restaurant and viewing platform began in 2014, thanks to a grant of 720,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £750,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, various monies from other charitable trusts, Clevedon Council and North Somerset Council and the a huge sum of £250, 000 from a community share scheme.
The work of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust in the success of the restoration was recognised:
‘Although appropriate professionals contributed throughout, the Trust provided the forethought, energy and perseverance to deliver the scheme’.
In the same year, it received a North Somerset Tourism Award; both richly deserved.
The Pier are currently taking part in the ‘There but Not There’ national campaign to commemorate the hundred years since WW1; over two hundred men and two women in Clevedon lost their lives. The aim of the national campaign is to commemorate, educate and heal: commemorate those who died through installations of silhouettes wherever there is a roll of honour; educate all generations particularly today’s younger generation, born nearly 100 years after the outbreak of WW1 and Heal today’s veterans who are suffering from the mental and physical wounds of their service.
Starting on Saturday August 4th and leading up to Remembrance Day on November 11th, the Pier team place three silhouettes on the Pier overlooking the Severn Estuary. Two of the silhouettes are ‘named’ each day and have a short biography; this is also replicated on their Facebook page. The third silhouette is there to honour all who survived and returned. The full list of names is published on their website. Clevedon Civic Society’s history group and the late Rob Campbell’s book ‘Clevedon’s Own – The Great War 1914 – 1918 were the source of information for the Clevedon Pier campaign.
Yet another creative, captivating campaign from the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust team.
2019 is the 150th birthday of the Pier and a time to celebrate. The festivities will start on Bank Holiday Monday 27th May, the details of which will be released soon, followed by a week of activities. Part of the celebrations will be a ‘Public Memories’ area – where people can share their stories, and see photos which show what the Pier means to them. For the first time, they will also display and showcase the Pier’s archives in the Porthole Room, which should make fascinating reading. It promises to be a fun filled, action packed week! Can’t wait!
Find out more about the Pier here: