The Book of Clevedon Pier is a scrapbook created by Lady Margaret Elton of Clevedon Court to keep newspaper cuttings, photos and ephemera about the rebuilding of the pier from 1970 onwards. It is 2’ high 18” wide and 4” deep. Photo 1.
On the inside cover is the coat of arms of the Elton family and a quote from Sir John Betjeman. It says:
‘The nastier the roads become, the noisier, the smellier, the more dangerous, the more valuable grows the seaside pier. The pier offers a sea voyage without having to be seasick.’ Photo 2
The first page in this intriguing scrapbook is completely taken up with one single image – most likely from the local newspaper but there is no reference to tell us where it is from. Photo 3. It shows a close up detail of the rusty cross bracing of the structure of the legs underneath the promenade deck and is headed by a large, simple, 3-word banner ‘Save the Pier’. In 1970, after the collapse of one of the pier spans during regular maintenance testing, there began a huge campaign to try and save Clevedon Pier. This scrapbook captures memories from that campaign. More to come in Part 3.
The Book of Clevedon Pier scrapbook contains many pages of newspaper clippings which record the ebb and flow of decision making, fund raising, successes and failures to do with the 10 years of saving and rebuilding of the pier. Many inhabitants of the town got behind saving the pier but not everyone was in favour of it and financing the rebuild was not straightforward. The newspaper clipping shown in Photo 4 suggests there should be a town poll if restoration is found to ‘be a viable but costly proposition’.
Photo 5 shows two newspaper clippings. One records how the decision making went down to the wire – would Clevedon UDC back saving the pier in which case the Historic Buildings Council would back it too. Photo 5 also shows how opinion was not universally in favour of saving the pier – ‘I don’t think the Council should touch it with a barge pole’ said one correspondent and another opined ‘If you stand on the pier, what have you got? A decaying lump of steelwork.’ The fight to save the pier was not an easy one.
Clevedon Festival Week took place in June 1968 – two years before the pier collapse – and the scrapbook contains pages of the Festival Magazine. Photo 6
It is a poignant reminder of the hopes and aspirations for Clevedon and its pier. It contains a message from Sir Arthur Elton which talks about the Festival as ‘showing the town to the town’ – such a great turn of phrase. It also reads: ‘The Festival……was a revelation. Clevedon looked at itself with fresh vision and detected….rich springs of community life, of co-operation, and of neighbourliness. It was the friendliest week anyone can remember.’ Photo 6A
Looking back, from the troubled times in April 2020, it can certainly be said that the rich springs of Clevedon community life and co-operation are certainly still very much alive and well and keeping the town going.
In September 1971, Lady Margaret Elton had an article published in Country Life magazine all about the pier and its history and its future. Its 3 pages of the article are copied and pasted into her scrapbook and can be seen in Photos 7, 7A and 7B below.
It makes for a great read and the final paragraph states: ‘When the proposed Severn Barrage is built, Clevedon will command an unparalled situation on an inland lake and Clevedon’s Pier will take its rightful place in the environment engineers are reshaping so drastically.’
Proof, were it ever needed, that predicting the future is a tricky artform.
Thankyou for following this week’s blog about The Book of Clevedon Pier from the 1970s. This has just been some snippets from this large scrapbook and the Archivist will hope to share more in the future. In the meantime please remember……………….