Happy World Tourism Day 2020! One of the aims of this year’s World Tourism Day is to highlight the important role tourism plays in preserving and promoting culture and heritage all around the world and what better day to promote our town’s greatest tourist attraction, described by Sir John Betjeman as “the most beautiful pier in England”.
Our understanding of the socio-economic, cultural and political context of this unique and unspoilt Grade One listed Victorian Pier is extensive, thanks to the energy, enthusiasm and outstanding research skills of the Clevedon Pier Team, the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive, the Clevedon Civic Society and local historians Jane Lilly and her late uncle Derek Lilly. Jane and Derek have both featured as Humans of Clevedon and you can read their stories here: https://facesofclevedon.com/category/humans-of-clevedon/
We know so much about this iconic Victorian structure, from the day it opened in 1869 to receive paddle steamer passengers from Devon and Wales; through to its neglect, damage and near demolition in the 1970s; ending with the Pier’s rescue and restoration; it’s a moving story of survival against the odds.
On the 16th October, this year, it will be fifty years to the day since two spans of Clevedon Pier collapsed into the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel and local people came together to campaign for its restoration.
At 10.20am that morning, a team of maintenance men were undertaking a bi-annual load test on the structure and after many years of neglect the Pier could take no more. With a creaking and groaning noise that could be heard all across town, the Pier succumbed to the elements.
Many local people were dumbfounded by what had happened and there was a great deal of anger about a subsequent decision to demolish what was left. For ten years the community agitated and lobbied to the point where a Public Inquiry was held. At the Inquiry, with the help of Sir John Betjeman, the threat of demolition was lifted and, after a huge restoration effort, Clevedon Pier was saved for future generations – reopening nineteen years after the collapse in 1989.
On the 16th October 2020 the Pier Trust will be marking the day the Pier collapsed and celebrating the foresight and energy of those who worked so hard to save it. As Betjeman went on to say, without its Pier Clevedon would be like a diamond with a flaw. On the day of the 50th anniversary the Pier Trust will be inviting people involved in the campaign to take a walk on the Pier and share their stories.
The Chairman of the Trust, Phil Curme said:
‘….. the Pier has always been special to the people of Clevedon. Over the course of over 150 years the Pier has been at the heart of the community. Many local people have happy memories of steamer trips, late night dancing and watching sunsets from the pierhead. The people of Clevedon saved it from destruction, they enabled the restoration and they continue to support it with passion today. It is truly a ‘People’s Pier’.
To mark the occasion, the wonderful model of the Pier which was used at the Public Inquiry will be on display in the Pier’s café area for the very first time. The story of the collapse and the campaign to save the Pier will be brought to life in a storyboard which visitors will be able to enjoy as they stroll around the pierhead. The Trust will also be offering a unique commemorative fifty-year pass for sale to visitors who wish to support the Pier by investing in what is effectively lifetime membership.
The Trust is keen to hear from anyone who remembers the collapse or who were part of the campaign. For those who want to share their stories then the Trust can be contacted via http://firstname.lastname@example.org. It is hoped that these stories can be retained for posterity in the Trust’s Community Archive which already has a rich collection of material relating to this fascinating period in the Pier’s history.
Mr Curme added:
‘The pandemic has created a very different type of challenge and we are hoping that the marking of the anniversary of the collapse and the campaign that followed, will act as a reminder that without the support of the public – as visitors, supporters or volunteers, it would not be possible to generate the £100,000 annual surplus needed to maintain this wonderful Grade 1 listed Pier in current times.’
If you would like to help Clevedon Pier at this difficult time you can notify the Trust of your interest in buying a fifty-year pass by emailing email@example.com or you can:
Make a donation https://clevedonpier.co.uk/donations/
Buy a Pier plaque at https://clevedonpier.co.uk/a-plaque-for-all-occasions/ There are currently over 14,000 plaques on the Pier which can commemorate any occasion – an engagement, a marriage, a birthday, “in remembrance”, or indeed any special event that you want to acknowledge.
There’s even one marking the day spent there by One Direction when they were filming the music video for their hit single ‘You and I’ on 23rd March 2014.
Clevedon Pier has actually become very popular with One Direction fans since the release of the ‘10 Years of One Direction’ video on 23rd July which features the Pier. Fans go along and take photos and videos of the special plaque in much the same way as Abbey Road became an iconic location for fans of The Beatles.
Buy a standard Annual Pass https://clevedonpier.co.uk/shop/
If you haven’t visited our wonderful Pier, you really are missing a treat. It is currently open to visitors daily from 10.30am to – 5.00pm (with last entry at 4.30pm)
In terms of social distancing, there is a traffic light system to control numbers and a one-way system in operation using the full width of the Pier.
There is a lovely shop where you can buy souvenirs, postcards, local crafts and other gifts and The Pagoda cafe is also open for hot and cold drinks, ice cream and snacks. Be warned they are only accepting payment by debit/credit card, or other contactless forms such as Apple Pay.
Sadly, the museum, the Porthole Room and on-site toilets remain closed due to the need to maintain social distancing but there are toilets open just opposite at the Pier Copse.
You may not know it but Clevedon Pier is also available for wedding ceremonies which take place in the Porthole Room which is a lovely, intimate space with doors that open out on to the Pier.
It can also be used for commercial photography and filming which is not surprising given its unrivalled views of Clevedon’s historic seafront, Wales and The Severn Estuary. If this is something you might be interested in, you can contact the Pier Team on 01275 878846 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The beautiful banner photo was taken by locally based Clevedon photographer Paul Ruddock. This is a link to his Facebook page: https://bit.ly/3mRUjDX Paul also features in one my Humans of Clevedon stories https://facesofclevedon.com/2018/11/15/humans-of-clevedon-paul-ruddock/