In April 1870, William Mants was appointed Pier Master by the Clevedon Pier Company. His contract of employment is a lovely handwritten document and makes a fascinating read. His salary was 12/6 a week with use of the Tollhouse to live in and provision of house gas and water. You can see the document and read its transcription on this link: https://clevedonpierarchive.com/2020/06/01/piermaster-mants-1872/
Recent investigations elsewhere into what were considered occupations for women worthy of inclusion in the Census at the end of the 19th century reminded your Archive Volunteers of the section in William Mants’ contract which says that he:
further undertakes and agrees that his said wife will assist daily in collecting the Rates and Tolls to the best of her powers and ability
Does Mrs. Mants’ daily job of collecting rates and tolls on the Pier translate into an official occupation in the Census? No doubt she worked hard at this role but the 1871 census tells us that the Beach Pier Toll House, Clevedon is occupied by:
Navel (sic) Pensioner and Pier Master
So Ann Mants has no occupation registered. The Report on the 1871 Census tells us a bit more about how women’s’ occupations are seen. It says:
As girls and women of all ages now constitute more than half of the population of England, their occupations are of vital importance. 3,948,527 are wives, and a large proportion of them are mothers. This is a noble and essential occupation, as on it as much as on the husband’s labour and watchfulness depend the existence and character of the English race. But …………. their employments are now becoming infinitely diversified; a married woman of industry and talent aids her husband in his special occupation, or she follows different lines of her own; even when she has children this is possible, for it is only in a few cases that the whole of a wife’s lifetime is filled up with childbearing, nursing, and housekeeping.
Apparently this somewhat flowery and imprecise language made it difficult for those collating census data to decide how to actually categorise and then tabulate women’s occupations. The Report on the 1881 Census aims to set this right and is much clearer. It states that women needed to be doing waged labour in one of the following categories to be listed with an occupation in the Census:
Nursing and similar offices
Laundry and other services
All other industries
So how did Ann Mants fare when the 1881 Census for the Beach Pier Toll House was taken? The transcription from that Census record shows:
Well, it seems that Ann still has no occupation recorded in the census so couldn’t even be counted in the catch-all category of ‘All other industries.’ Flora the General Servant is however listed as having an occupation.
When William Mants died in 1889, Ann wished to stay on living in the Tollhouse and working as the Pier Mistress. The Toll House is described, at this time, as being a 5 Roomed Dwelling so was probably a reasonably comfortable home. Ann’s son William writes a charming letter, now digitised and held in the Pier Archive (below). In it he asks the Clevedon Pier Company Directors to consider letting his mother stay on at the Pier. Clearly this is an issue requiring ‘man to man’ communications. Feltham – mentioned in the letter – was involved in building the Pier and in the 1871 and 1881 Census he is registered with the occupation of Pier Porter. So clearly a chap with a lot of experience and a good ‘right hand man’ for Ann.
The letter reads:
No doubt as Directors of the Pier you will shortly be considering the course to be taken consequent on my Father’s death you will therefore I trust excuse the liberty I take in writing you (in common with the other Directors) on behalf of my mother. She feels a great reluctance to leave Clevedon and hopes that, as the Pier matters are somewhat unsettled, you will in consideration of the long term of service of herself and my Father, allow her, at any rate until something definite as to the future of the Pier is settled, to remain here. She feels she could with the assistance of Feltham do all that is at present needed and that if the Directors consider a modified payment should be made for her services she would be prepared to meet them.
Trusting you will give this your kind consideration and that you will do what you can on her behalf.
I remain Sir
Yours very respectfully
W. P. Mants
Hurrah!. The letter seems to do the trick as by 1891, the census record for the occupants in the Tollhouse on the Pier, shows:
Living on Her Own Means
General Service Domestic
But…..Ann still has no occupation. She is recorded as living on her own means. This usually means that the individual had an annuity or a pension of some kind. Perhaps Ann is doing the Pier Master’s job in return for her husband’s pension from the Clevedon Pier Company and continued free accommodation in the tollhouse which, it appears, is now also providing a home for her two grandchildren as well as a servant.
Like most of these sorts of heritage interpretation investigations they end up posing more questions than answers:
Did Ann actually work for no pay?
What were her private means?
Where did grandson Henry work as a Cane Planter?
What was the 5 roomed Tollhouse like as a home?
For now we leave the story of Ann Mants having learnt that she lived and worked on Clevedon Pier for, at least, 20 years of her life during which she raised at least 1 son, at least 1 daughter and 2 grandchildren. But she was never recorded as having any kind of occupation.
Stop Press: Unpaid Pier Master’s Wife Unfair.
Nearly half a century later the issue of the Clevedon Pier Master’s salary and his wife’s contribution hit the local press. In January 1946, Nobby Clarke, a Plymouth man, ex-Royal Navy and qualified in pier building and road making was appointed Pier Master. There had been 51 applicants for the post, which had a salary of £182 per year, plus a War Bonus of £59 16s and free use of the Toll House. One of the unsuccessful applicants felt the pay was too low and the expectation of his wife’s contribution too high. He took to the press and his views were reported in the Clevedon Mercury on January 12th, 1946. The article says:
One of the other applicants wrote to the Clevedon Mercury to say of the job, ‘that the Piermaster’s post is underpaid. His wife is expected to work in the Toll House as an unpaid assistant. Working year for both is 351 days, during fourteen day holiday the one covers for the other. Duties start in the early morning and end at dusk. Wage is less than a labourer’s.
Watch this space….if we find out more we will share it on the Archive Website.
UPDATE 29th September 2020:
Thanks to Jane Lilly’s transcriptions of the Clevedon Pier Company Chairman’s personal diaries (made available from a private collection) we can see that the Chairman recorded William Mants appointment in his diary as follows:
Friday. Jan 14. Stormy, specially at night. Mants accepts appointment of Pier Master 12/6 a week – house gas water – assistance for wife at toll collecting when unusual number of excursionists & visitors on the Pier.”
Mant’s contract reads that he“undertakes and agrees that his said wife will assist daily in collecting the Rates and Tolls to the best of her powers and ability.”
As ever, trying to seek out historical accuracy requires careful research and interpretation of all the records available. Thanks to Jane Lilly.
If you have information to share please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
 Bette Baldwin, Jane Lilly, Michael Batchelor who put this blog together.
Thanks to Jane Lilly and the Clevedon Civic Society History Group the Archive is slowly gaining a complete collection of the CCS publications. Covid-19 rather got in the way but we hope to resume compiling this treasure trove of information about the history and heritage of Clevedon for inclusion in the archive. One example, from 2002, is shared below along with an abstract of an article about Clevedon Pier by Austin Davis.
This publication contains a wonderful article written in 2002 by Austin Davis – shared below – about his memories and personal reflections on the pier. Austin has a long and respected association with Clevedon Pier. He was a founder member of the Pier Supporters Club in 1970 and continued his work until the official 1998 reopening. Two years ago Austin donated his extensive archive of documentation to do with the efforts to raise money and save the pier to the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. It represents a substantive contribution to the Pier’s specialist Business Archive.
Much is owed to Austin Davis to whom we say thankyou.
We love a Captain at the Clevedon Pier Archive and there are a few of them around in our collections which help bring the history and the heritage of the Pier to life. Here are three of our favourites…….enjoy!
Captain Clevedon is the town’s very own comic hero and was heavily involved in saving the Pier back in the day. Thank you Captain Clevedon. The Archive is a proud possessor of one of the original comics thanks to the Captain’s creator, artist Kev F Sutherland. We won’t share the entire Captain Clevedon comic here online but here’s another page as a little teasing taster……
And if you’d like to get your own copy, get in touch with artist Kev F Sutherland or follow Captain Clevedon on Facebook – just wing your way over to https://www.facebook.com/CaptainClevedon and find out all the news. Captain Clevedon is still busy!
One of favourite Captains is Captain Boyton a larger than life figure who invented the rubber life saving dress. This advertising bill comes from August 1875 when, the global phenomena known as, Captain Boyton demonstrated his rubber life saving dress off of Clevedon Pier. It is a favourite item in the archive’s collection of ephemera. The bill is printed on very thin newsprint by George Caple, Machine Printer, in the Clevedon Mercury and Courier newspaper offices and it is one of the few – perhaps only – surviving examples of this advertising bill many of which would have been printed and posted up and around the town of Clevedon.
The bill shows an image of Captain Boyton in his life saving ‘dress’ (sic) and text states that:
“Captain Boynton will exhibit off the Clevedon Pier the life saving vest in which he recently crossed the Channel from France to England. Excursions will run. The gallant Captain will be in the water from Three to Four and from Seven to Eight pm”
In 1875, the pier was still owned by the Clevedon Pier Company and other records held in the Pier’s Business Archive show that Captain Boyton was charged £10 for the privilege of exhibiting his suit off Clevedon Pier, the equivalent in today’s terms of just over £1,000.
This video clip gives more on the history of the rubber lifesaving suit and Captain Boyton’s role in developing and proving its worth.
Captain Alexander Campbell was part of the successful Campbell family who built and sailed paddlesteamers up and down the British coast in the 19th and 20th centuries. What an extraordinarily well-loved paddlesteamer captain Alexander Campbell was. So much so that his grateful customers presented him with this beautiful, gilded citation at the end of 1891 season. When found it was in a parlous state and its safe resurrection and inclusion in the Pier Archive Collections is down to many people.
Here are just three. Above left, Archive Volunteer Digitiser, above centre, Archive Volunteer Conservator and above right the Captain’s very own descendant who funded the work to restore the citation.
You can find out much more about Captain Campbell and his citation on this link.
In 1847 the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act was in place to oversee the boom in marine developments. The Clevedon Pier Company had had to fulfill the statutory requirement laid down in the 1847 Act of acquiring approval from the Board of Trade in 1863 to build a pier at Clevedon.
By 1883, when the boom in coastal developments including piers was approaching a peak, there was a further development – to set up a Harbours, Docks and Piers Association. The Rules and Regulations of the Association were signed off by the Chairman of the Association, Colonel Charles Lyne at a General Meeting of the Association held at The Dock Office, Hull on February 15th, 1883. It is not readily apparent what happened to this association but, in amongst the Pier Archive’s Digital Collection, is a copy of the first Harbours, Docks and Piers Association Rules and Regulations. It is approximately A5 in size, printed on soft card and bound together with string. The images below show it is short but sweet and outlines what, in effect, would be a trade association of companies running harbours, docks and piers to come together to review new legislation and make representations to parliament if needed.
It seems that the Clevedon Pier Company weren’t in a hurry to join the new association and, in fact, may never have joined. There are no records to indicate as such and the letter below shows the new Harbour Docks and Piers Association writing to Clevedon Pier in November 1883 asking them to consider becoming members with a subsequent reduction in membership for having joined late in the year.
The Pier Archive’s Digital Collection also holds a letter from a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1883 asking for extensive information from the Clevedon Pier Company to help inform its decision on building a Harbour of Refuge between Milford Haven and Plymouth. The information they require includes:
the length, when, how and what the pier was built of
the depth of water and number of vessels that can be accomodated
if the pier is approachable at all states of the tide
improvements, if any, that have been effected by dredging
Trade, Import, Exports, Value
Titles of Acts of Parliament relating to Clevedon Pier
There is no copy in the archive of the reply but there is a copy of the letter below:
Clevedon Pier must hold a record for openings and re-openings and making a very fine celebration of each and every one. The history of the pier – in four parts – can be found on this link. Well worth a read, it covers the building of the original pier, its decline during a period of ‘decadence’ delay and collapse’, the story of the Pier being saved and coming back to life and the current lap of history – securing the Pier’s future.
Today, June 25th 2020, marks yet another in the long line of Pier reopenings when Clevedon Pier can finally open to the public once again since the 2020 Coronovirus Pandemic. The Pier has, like just about everything else around the world, been in what has become called ‘lockdown’ – the closure of public places and the self-isolation of individuals and families to try and stop the spread of Coronovirus.
A gentle easing of that lockdown has, by June 2020, begun and the Pier is re-opening with reduced hours, restricted access and careful control of how the visitor can walk on to and up and down the Pier. It is a great day and another great re-opening to add the archive of Clevedon Pier Heritage.
The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive holds a large collection of newspaper cuttings. The collection has come from a variety of sources and the work to sort and store them has been undertaken by several of our volunteers. We are hugely grateful to all those who, in years gone by, took the time to clip, store and annotate newspaper clippings and then give them to the Pier Archive. All are held in our Newspaper Collection. There is still more work to do and we would welcome anyone who would like to help out with clipping, annotating and compiling news items from current newspapers and magazines.
Do get in touch: email@example.com
At the core of the collection are many hundreds of clippings carefully sorted and stored by Archive Volunteer Philip bowman. They are in date order and a treasure trove of information for the student of Clevedon Pier.
The Book of Clevedon Pier
This collection of newspaper cuttings was created by Margaret Elton and stored in a beautiful (and very large) scrapbook. It contains newspaper cuttings about the work to save the Pier during the 1970s and the rebuilding of the Pier in the 1980s.
You can read more about this Newspaper Cuttings Scrapbook on this link.
The British Newspaper Archive is a wonderful source that has been used to help plot the early history of building a pier through newspaper reports. Thanks to local historian and archive volunteer Jane Lilly we have searched BNA and compiled a record, through newspaper reports, of the building the Pier. More on this link.
And there’s still lots to do.
There are bundles of newspaper cuttings that still need sorting and cataloguing as well as an urgent need to keep collecting reports in modern day newspapers and magazines.
If anyone would like to help please feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the many treasures held on Clevedon Pier is a Mutoscope or what is often called a What the Butler Saw device. Victorian seaside visitors would pop a penny in the slot, turn the wheel and, by bending to look through a viewing device could watch a sort of early motion picture. The effect was created by hundreds of images flickering around the drum of the mutoscope.
The image on the left is the Pier’s mutoscope which is on display in the Discovery Centre in the Tollhouse. On the right is the actual cassette of images originally found in the mutoscope. They are a little bit risqué and so the Pier introduced a rather more neutral little video clip in its mutoscope of the day pier fell down. But you can find out more below…..
A popular Mutoscope theme in the early 1900s was called What the Butler Saw and involved the household’s butler peeping through a bedroom door keyhole whence he saw the lady of the house stepping out of her bloomers. So saucy was this early erotica that all mutoscopes were subsequently nicknamed “What The Butler Saw” devices.
The Clevedon Pier Mutoscope needs much more research but early investigations have taught us that it is most likely of French origin and the photos in the original cassette seem to relate the story – as seen through the keyhole – of a man in his underclothes and a woman in her nighty applying warm wax bandages to the man’s back with the aim of removing the hair from his back. Capturing the images is difficult but the few shared below hopefully give a flavour of what the cassette pictures look like.
It all looks rather painful and at some point the poor chap is left on his own to try and wiggle and squirm to get the wax patch off.
We would love to get all of the images on the mutoscope cassette digitised and reproduced in a sort of ‘flick book’ arrangement so that the What The Butler Saw story can be enjoyed in its entirety. Any offers of help out there? Please get in touch on:
A report of the Clevedon Local Board of Health from 1885 contains an intriguing debate about whether Clevedon Beach should be used for entertainments such as Aunt Sally – an arrangement of canvas and the head of a woman and a supply of cocoanuts to throw at her head.
Right from the outset of the debate the Chairman of the Health Board made it clear that he (Sir E H Elton) owned that part of the foreshore and it wasn’t something for the Board to debate or decide. Nonetheless, a solid debate ensued. Some thought throwing cocoanuts encouraged rowdyism, others that it was akin to gambling in a public street. Again, the Chairman stated that no one could be trading on the beach without his permission. But the debate went on. One said, they didn’t want to ‘snobbify’ the beach and another that nothing should be allowed on the beach that would be offensive to the residents of Clevedon. The newspaper article, below, has been transcribed to enable the reader to follow the ebb and flow of the debate which, as the article reports ended, when ‘the subject was then dropped.’
Mr Ransford drew attention to the fact that a large space on the beach was occupied by the canvas and stock in trade of a gentleman who kept cocoanuts (sic), which, in consideration of the payment of a certain bronze coin of the realm, the public were allowed to throw at. Their beach was sufficiently limited n extent without anything of this sort to make it smaller. The CHAIRMAN (Sir E H Elton) did not consider this a matter for the board, as this part of the foreshore referred to by Mr Ransford was his (the chairman’s) property. He did not see anything objectionable in throwing at a few cocoanuts. Mr Sheldon pointed out that it amounted to gambling in the public streets. Mr Maynard remarked tht it was six to one against the thrower knowing off a cocoanut. Re. J. Hoarce considered that this sort of thing lowered the tone of the town and encouraged rowdyism. He had been advised by a solicitor tht a strip of beach between low and high water mark was under the jurisdiction of the board. If one person was allowed to do the things complained of by Mr Ransford, others might follow in their footsteps, until the beach was covered with booths and cocoanut stands. The Chairman said no one could be there without his permission. Mr Griffin did not think it desirable that the beach should be used fo such purposes. Rev J S Neumann said they did not want to curtail the beach with “Aunt Sallys” and that sort of thing. They did not want, if might be allowed to coin a word, to “snobbify” the beach. Rev J Horne remarked that a refreshment housekeeper had said he thought it was hard lines that he should have to pay rates, while others could set up a booth for the sale of eatables on the beach. Rev. J.S.Neumann observed that a unanimous opinion had been expressed by the board against the beach being curtailed and lowered, and he felt sure the Sir E H Elton would consider this, and would not allow anything to exist on the beach offensive to residents in Clevedon. The subject then dropped.
The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive holds several hundred artefacts to do with the history and heritage of the pier and the town. The Archive Volunteers aim to share them online. It is a work in progress.
The Las Vegas One Armed Bandit
For many years – right up to the time the pier was closed in 1970 – there was a dance hall with slot machines on the end of the pier. This made it a great place for young people to meet and dance and socialise. The Las Vegas, is the last remaining slot machine or ‘one armed bandit.’ It is a heavy beat approximately 3′ high by 2′ wide by 1′ deep. Its date is unknown but likely to be from the 1950s or 1960s. The coin slot clearly seen at the top above the words ‘Las Vegas’ hole at top takes old style 1d coins and when the archive team began work to store and protect it six old penny coins were found inside. They date between 880 and 1910 showing Queen Victoria as a young woman with her hair in a bun – known as Bun Coins – and later as a widow wearing a veil – known as Veil Coins. This was believed to have been one of probably four slot machines once held in the dance hall at the end of the Pier. Sadly, the others have gone but this one was found, in a sorry state of repair, in the basement of the Tollhouse before being removed to the Pier Archive.
Property of Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive.
Model of the Paddlesteamer Waverley
Clevedon Pier has a long association with the many pleasure boats and paddlesteamers that have landed on the pierhead in order to pick up or set down passengers taking a day trip to Wales, North Devon or into Bristol. The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust is very proud to hold this beautiful model of the Waverley Paddlesteamer which has called in at Clevedon Pier over many decades.
This advertising bill is dated August 1875 when, the global phenomena known as, Captain Boyton demonstrated his rubber life saving dress off of Clevedon Pier. It is a favourite item in the archive’s collection of ephemera. The bill is printed on very thin newsprint by George Caple, Machine Printer, in the Clevedon Mercury and Courier newspaper offices and it is one of the few – perhaps only – surviving examples of this advertising bill many of which would have been printed and posted up and around the town of Clevedon. Records held elsewhere in the archive tell us Captain Boyton was charged £10 by the Clevedon Pier Company for the privilege of demonstrating his rubber life saving dress off of the pier – around £1,000 is contemporary money.
The poster is approximately 3′ high by 2′ wide, framed behind glass for protection.
Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive.
Plaque commemorating opening of new pier head and landing stage.
In 1891 the pier was taken over by the Clevedon Local Board and a new pier head and landing stage were built to make the pier safer. It was officially opened on April 3rd, 1893 to great excitement and celebration and a beautiful brass plaque, approximately 2’6″ wide and 18″ deep, was erected on the pier to commemorate the occasion. That plaque is very degraded by years in the sea air and is held in the archive collections. An unusued but identical plaque is also in the collections and is as shiny and new as the day it was made in 1893. Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust.
The Clevedon Pier Company Ledger.
14” high by 10” wide. Hard covers with soft leather binding. Spine broken and needs repair. Holds the early records of the Clevedon Pier Company. First entry is on the 18th October 1864. Last entry on 10th February 1888.
Contains minutes of meetings, records of the sale of shares, information about acquiring Act of Parliament to build a pier, letting contracts etc.
Original held in a private collection. Digitised by CPHT Archive for public access.
Captain Alexander Campbell Citation
4′ high by 2′ wide framed, gilded citation to Captain Alexander Campbell following the successful paddlesteamer season in the Bristol Channel of 1891. The citation accompanied gifts to Captain Alexander and his brother Peter for their service on the Paddlesteamers Ravenswood and Waverly.
Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. Donated by Campbell family
The Old Pier Charges Board
Notice board made from what appears to be a cut down garden gate, painted green and handpainted with the charges for entry on to the pier.
4’6″ high by 3′ wide.
Date unknown. Circa 1940s or 1950s?
Includes prices for day and season tickets for adults and children; for taking a dog or cycle or motorcycle onto the pier and for fishing off the pier and charge to use the pier to embark on a Steamer.
Property of Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. Donated by R. Gregory
The Old Phone
Magneto mechanism and buzzer contained in wooden box 8” wide by 12” high by 10” deep. Bakelite handset with remains of cotton bound cord, 2 bakelite bells and bell mechanism and a hand crank mechanism (missing handle) used to activate the bells. Sticker printed with ‘Western Electric’. Date: Unknown, likely to be circa 1870s
Believed to have been one of a pair used on the pier for communication between the tollhouse and the pier head. This phone system was used from the 1870s onwards for telephones that were not on an exchange system but each personal telephone had its own battery. The crank handle on the side would work a magneto inside the box, and this would ring a bell or activate a buzzer on the other phone.
Property of Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive
Model of Clevedon Pier
When the Pier collapsed in 1970 the town of Clevedon pulled together to save it from total demolition. This model was commissioned by Clevedonians, Tony and Carole Wring, to show the Pier Public Inquiry the beauty and value of the Pier and it undoubtedly helped in the decision being made that the Pier should be saved from demolition. Tony Wring was, at the time, Chairman of the Pier Preservation Trust.
Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. Donated by T and C Wring.