New discovery from original plan of the Pier

Recently we announced some exciting news to share….and since then we have discovered some even more interesting heritage interpretation news to share with you.  So here we go…..

In a recent posting – found on this link – archive volunteer and professional conservator, Helen explained how she had carefully gone about opening and unfolding precious but very fragile engineering drawings of the Pier from the 1860s.  All that hard work was so that archive and digitisation volunteer, Michael, could go about the difficult task of photographing the large document in 6 sections and then magically – well digitally! – stick them together back into one image. 

You can read more about Michael’s work on this link.  Below he tells us a little more about the technical ‘wizardry’ he used to photograph this large and very fragile document (owned and on loan from a private collector) so that an image can be held safely in the Pier Digital Archive for future reference and made available to the local community and wider public.  

Below is the image of the 1863 drawing submitted to the Board of Trade for approval to build a pier at Clevedon. 

The very fragile document measuring 99cm by 65cm is made of a delicate tracing paper type – material which Helen has used her conservator skills to flatten and store rolled between sheets of acid-free polyester film.  With over 150 years of storage, the plan has torn in places and has split on some of the folds. 

The photographing was done in a north-facing room to reduce ambient light giving with less shadows.  To create the composite digital image, the drawing was rolled out onto a flat surface, being very careful where the paper was more severely worn.    The camera was setup on a tripod with flash and light diffuser box to minimise flare and reflections.  The drawing and camera were positioned so that several overlapping shots of the plan could be taken with a piece of card under the plan to give a consistent background.  A selection of the overlapping photos were then loaded into the photo editing software.  Through a process of ‘trial and error’, the software merges the images into one single panoramic image.  The quality of the output is dependent on how well the images match for size, colour, contrast…  This means that photos need to be retaken and remerged to optimise the final image.  Over 60 photos were taken to find the best result.  The final image is very large at 386MB (or 267 of the 3.5inch floppy discs if you are old enough to remember them !!).  Luckily it condenses down to 13MB for viewing.

With the plan finally digitised to a high quality it was possible for the Pier’s archivists to have a closer look and zoom in for a closer look at interesting features.  There will be plenty of opportunity to do this in more detail but an immediate and fascinating little point of interest emerged to share.  It also led to a bit of Clevedon sea front sleuthing to find out an interesting bit of the story of building the Pier. On the plan can be seen the outline of a house, shown cross-hatched in the image below, near the shore end of the pier.  It has a little M written just to its right and a mark on a front face of the building.

This was intriguing and apparently unexplained until a note was found on the plan which says the following:

DATUM LINE for sections 100 Feet below stone door step of house at point marked thus M on Plan.  The said step being 1 2/5 Feet below the lower edge of half round moulding on stone side pillar of Doorway thus…….. followed by a cross sectional image of the foot of a pillar with a moulding sitting on a step.  

Of course, the burning question was…..could that all important feature that defines the Datum Line for sections drawn on the plan still be there?

Michael went down to the seafront and looked at the front of the building now known as Campbells Landing, opposite the Pier Tollhouse.

And sure enough he found the pillar, with its moulding sitting on a step in the doorway at the left of the building.

Unfortunately, this did not fully confirm the story as Michael had forgotten that the plan had specified a measurement of 1 and 2/5 feet from the underside of moulding to the step.  Not having a ruler showing fifths of a foot, he converted this to 42.7cm in C21 units.

Another trip armed with a tape measure finally tied up the story, to within 0.5cm, and confirmed…that this is the doorstep used as the surveyor’s datum line or reference point when drawing up plans for the Pier in the early 1860s.

Its intriguing to think what else we may learn from the old plans of Clevedon Pier as the work continues with flattening and digitising them so that all will be able to see them in the future. The plans have been stored for over 150 years and are in the hands of a private owner who has allowed the Pier Archive to digitise them to share with the community before they are returned.

If you’d like to find out more please contact who will be happy to help if they are able.

Clevedon Pier Archive is run by volunteers and funded through grant aid and donations. 

You can discover more about what collections the archive holds by following this link to find out more from the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive catalogue held in The National Archive Discovery platform.

Conservation Work 2

Elsewhere we’ve shared information about the Archive’s Work In Lockdown including the work of Conservator Helen. We were also lucky to have Helen work on the original Pier Engineering drawings sent for Board of Trade Approval in 1864 – getting them ready for digitisation. You can read more about the digitisation on this link.

The drawings had been stored folded for over a hundred years and needed very special care and attention. Helen has offered to share a summary of that work …… see below.

Clevedon Pier Engineers Drawings

Conservation flattening report

Before commencing treatment, each drawing was examined to look for weak points, which were mainly the folds, but also one item had a particularly vulnerable area around a wax seal.

The two smaller items were dealt with first: there were gently but very gradually opened onto flat blotter sheets. As each fold was opened (often only partly at first) light weights would be used to hold the document in place (avoiding pressure on the folds themselves) and it would be left like this to relax for some time, often overnight. Then the next fold would be opened in a similar way, and so on until slowly the entire document was unfolded. As the drawings relaxed into their new shape, more weight would be added and gradually some weight moved onto the folds themselves. If necessary controlled amounts of moisture could be applied to the folds using a water brush to help them relax.

The larger items were unfolded using a humidity chamber. To create this, the drawing was supported on a layer of Sympatex over lightly dampened blotter. The Sympatex layer controls the moisture, allowing humidity to reach the document without it getting wet. This 3-layer bundle was sandwiched between two sheets of clear polythene, the upper layer gently laid on top and weighted around the edge to keep the humidity in. Because the polythene is clear, the document could be carefully watched during the humidification process. As the item relaxed, the top polythene layer was peeled back, the drawing carefully unfolded a little, and then re-covered. Eventually, the plan was allowed to slowly dry in its new gently flattened state.

One of the large drawings actually comprised three layers of tracing paper which had been attached together at the upper corner by a red wax seal and ribbon. Unfortunately, where the item had been stored folded, the layers in contact with the top of the wax seal had become adhered to it. Therefore, before flattening could commence the folded layers had to be separated from the upper surface of the wax seal, using carefully applied and controlled heat coupled with small tools.

Once each plan was gently flattened, they were laid onto a sheet of archival polyester and rolled around a tube, held in place with cotton tying tapes, for transport and storage.

Further enquiries – please contact


Lady Margaret’s Scrapbook No. 3

Elsewhere you can read about the work being done to catalogue and record the amazing Scrapbook of ‘all things to do with saving the Pier in the 1970s’ put together by Lady Margaret Elton. This work is being done by Volunteer Jane and you can read more about it on this link.

Jane has been sharing ‘titbits’ of special interest and here is another item showing how not everyone loved the pier and didn’t really think it was worth saving. From the North Somerset Mercury from the 30ths of April 1971. Full transcription on the right…………..

Our ‘disgusting’ pier

Sir, With considerable interest I have been reading last week’s Mercury and your article on Clevedon Pier. We appreciate, on this side of the channel, that Clevedon is a very attractive seaside town and enjoyable for a day’s outing from Cardiff for adults – but not so for children.

To approach it by steamer, the pier sticks out like asore thumb. As one walks the length of the pier NOWHERE could one sit down for a rest to admire the view. The seats were always disgusting – covered with splashes of blood and much from the so-called fishermen and their kill, or cutting up of bait. Disgusting pieces of newspaper with bait hanging out all on display along the SEATS.

Even after the pier was painted for its 100 birthday – no respect was paid to it by these people. If one did sit down it had to be on a covering over the seat first and one could not sit back because of the splattered filth. So if we approach Clevedon by road, we say don’t waste your money by going on the pier its not worth it – can’t even rely on getting a cup of tea.

We can’t see why your retiring lady chairman ‘loves it’ as stated last week. From a visitor’s point of view we say don’t waste your money on rebuilding it – leave it to the so-called fishermen to rebuilt it – as its NO attraction for the visitors. Money could be better used on more attractive things like a good clean swimming pool which is badly needed.

If you want to see an attractive and well kept pier – used by fishermen – visit Penarth.

Lady Margaret’s Scrapbook No 2

Elsewhere you can read about the work being done to catalogue and record the amazing Scrapbook of ‘all things to do with saving the Pier in the 1970s’ put together by Lady Margaret Elton. This work is being done by Volunteer Jane and you can read more about it on this link.

Jane has been sharing ‘titbits’ of special interest and here is an especially interesting one showing how not everyone loved the Pier and didn’t really think it was worth saving. From the North Somerset Mercury from the 30ths of April 1971. Full transcription on the right…………..

Clevedon Pier

Sir, Stand on that rocky point, just past the bandstand, and look at the pier and the coastline. Now, wipe that ‘iron tracery’ from your sight and see if that coastline is not enhanced.

It’s almost a Cornish fishing village…..almost!

Lady Elton’s Scrapbook 1

Elsewhere you can read about the work being done to catalogue and record the amazing Scrapbook of ‘all things to do with saving the Pier in the 1970s’ put together by Lady Margaret Elton. This work is being done by Volunteer Jane and you can read more about it on this link.

Jane has been sharing ‘titbits’ of special interest and here is an especially interesting one from the North Somerset Mercury from March 26th, 1971. Full transcription on the right…………..

Royal Help for the pier

When his Royal Highness Commodore the Prince Alexander Desta of Ethiopia heard that part of Clevedon’s Victions pier had collapsed, he felt it was ‘an absolute tragedy.’

The prince, a grandson of Emperor Hailie Selassie, and Commander in Chief of the Imperial Ethiopian navy, at once wrote out a cheque for £5 and sent it from Addis Ababa to the editor of the ‘Mercury’ for inclusion in any fund to save the pier.

The prince, who was educated in the West Country and is very fond of Clevedon, read about the pier in the ‘Mercury’ which is taken out to Ethiopia by Commander T H Foden of Woodrow, Edghill Road, Clevedon. He is the United Kingdome liaison officer to the Ethiopian navy.

Recalling the Prince’s words when he heard about the pier falling down Commander Foden said His Highness felt that people living a long way from Clevedon would perhaps appreciate the value of the pier as an architectural monument more than could those who lived in the town.

The ‘Mercury’ telephoned the Historic Buildings Council in London to find out if any decision had been reached about a grant for the pier’s restoration. We were told that a recommendation had gone to the Secretary of State for the Environment who will be getting in touch with Clevedon Council.

The Little Letters 2

We love sharing the transcriptions made by Archive Volunteer Margaret of our ‘Little Letters’ Collection – read more on this link. The example below shows how business got done in September 1880 when the Clevedon Pier Company was run by Chairman Sir Arthur Elton.

Sept 7 / 80

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your letter and information.

Will you please to summon a meeting of the Pier Directors for the purpose of signing a Cheque for payment of £62.9.4 to Alexander and Co for timber. Public Hall Thursday Sept 10 3 o’clock.

Yours sincerely


Bish Bosh Done.

The Little Letters 1

To find out more about the Archive project being undertaking by Volunteer Margaret to transcribe a superb collection of ‘little letters’ – follow this link to find out more.

Here is an example of one of the little letters and its transcription. It is particularly interesting because it is from the ‘Collector’ at the Pier at Weston Super Mare and is addressed to Clevedon Pier Company asking for information about regulations to do with passenger and steamboat traffic.

The Pier, Weston Super Mare, 4th August 1880


I am instructed by the Secretary of the Pier Coy (L.E.Baker Esqe) to ask for information respecting the Parliamentary powers, Bye Laws and general management of your Pier.

This Company proposes applying for a new act of Parliament and will be obliged for any suggestions you can offer respecting Passenger and Steamboat traffic.

I am, Sir,

Yours respectfully

E. Brooks


To build a Pier and run it for tourist purposes – such as P

paddlesteamer passenger trips- required an Act of Parliament. The application by the Clevedon Pier Company is an interesting read and hopefully when Lockdown 3 is over the digitised versions of these precious documents will soon be made available for public consumption.

Conservation Work 1

Conserving the Campbell Citation

The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust used a local freelance bookbinder and archive conservator – Helen  – to investigate, make recommendations and proceed with the work to save the Campbell Citation for future generations.  Read more about the citation on this link. Helen’s report is summarised below and makes for a fascinating read.  The item was conserved during May 2019 when conservation treatment was urgently required due to extensive mould visible on the item, both on the front of the citation and mount, and on the rear of the frame.

Excerpts from the Framed Campbell Citation Conservation Report


A document on card, with an illuminated manuscript citation, set within a wide mount, the mount being variously illustrated in watercolour. The whole framed and glazed in a wide carved wooden frame, with wooden backboard and inner frame nailed into place and a hanging chain fixed to the rear. The treatment option chosen included de-framing the item, cleaning and mould removal, and re-framing to conservation standards.


The first step was to carefully clean the frame of dust, dirt and insect debris as well as mould. It was found that the backboard had bowed and split into several sections. The rusted nails holding these in place were extracted so the board pieces could be lifted away. This revealed extensive mould on the rear of the mount and citation, which was removed using brushes and a HEPA-filtered conservation vacuum. Additionally, several strips of card, presumably inserted as a compensating layer, were also cleaned of loose mould and dirt and removed. These, along with the original backboard pieces, were packaged, labelled and stored for future reference.

The citation and illustrated window mount were adhered together in places, although much of this adhesive had failed, so they were carefully lifted from the frame together and dry cleaned. After this a small amount of adhesive, in the form of cooked wheat starch paste, was used to reinforce the attachment between the citation and the mount.

As the citation itself was delaminating, wheat starch paste was also used to re-adhere the layers, and as added security, two hinges of Japanese tissue were added to ensure the citation would not detach from the mount if the remaining old adhesive failed.

The remaining rusted nails were removed to allow the inner frame and glazing to be lifted out and cleaned. The outer frame required extensive mechanical cleaning (often under magnification), using a variety of tools and materials including dissecting needles – used to carefully pick out ingrained wax polish, insect debris and encrusted dirt from the deep grain and intricately carved areas of the wood. Most of the corrosion products were lightly cleaned from the hanging fittings and the fittings inspected.

During the process of opening the frame, the corner mitres gradually parted, with one completely separating. The frame mitres were found to be held together by wooden dowels only, with no trace of adhesive strengthening. The weight of the glazing plus the inner frame, citation and mount puts strain on these joints, and therefore to strengthen the mitres and reduce any risk of them opening up in future, the decision was made to add a corner bracket to the rear of each mitre.

The inner border of the frame front had originally been decorated with a thin strip of gilded wood. Much of this strip had already become detached and lost, and the remainder was extremely worn, fragile and cracked. During the treatment of the frame, the remaining parts of the gilt strip became fully detached. Some intact sections were supported on archival tissue and encapsulated in archival polyester, for future reference.

Mould on citation exposed as backboards removed

Larvae imbedded in intricately carved frame.

Mould, rusty nails, general degradation of back of citation.


The inner frame was prepared with a lining of conservation tape and re-attached to the outer frame using brass fixing plates hand-moulded to the correct shape. Conservation glazing was used instead of the original glass to reduce the amount of harmful UV light reaching the citation and decorated window mount, and thin strips of archival board were placed around the edges as spacers between the window mount and the glass.

Next, the citation and its decorative mount were fitted into the frame, with new archival board compensating strips and rear mount, followed by a layer of archival polyester moulded over the inner frame and sealed using a conservation framing tape.  This polyester layer acts as a barrier between the external environment and the object, reducing the impact of environmental fluctuations upon the citation and mount. A new backboard was fixed in place and the gaps sealed using traditional gummed framers tape.

The conserved citation was put on display in the Porthole Room following an official ‘launch’ attended by Helen and a member of the Campbell family who kindly travelled from the other side of the country to do the honours.   Now, the citation has been digitally copied and is currently stored in the Pier’s Archive awaiting the end of the Covid pandemic and hopefully the chance for it to be put on more regular display within the Tollhouse. 

Thanks also go to Clevedon Salesroom Clevedon Salerooms – Bristol Specialist & Fine Art Auctioneers ( for their ongoing support for the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive Service – in this case with the loan of a magnificent (and heavy!) Victorian easel so that we could put the Campbell Citation on display.

For more information contact:

George Double Building Contractor

George Double was the builder appointed to rebuild the Pier Head and Landing Stage at Clevedon Pier in 1891. Recently, the pier archive team have had some interesting correspondence with people trying to save another George Double structure – a bridge in Boxted, Essex.

Below are a few titbits about the reopening of Clevedon Pierhead. Further on is some information about George Double, Boxted Bridge and links to Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment in London.

The new Clevedon Pier Head and Landing Stage was officially reopened in April 1893. The Pier Archive has some interesting images and newspaper reports on the event shown below.

Brass Plaque commemorating opening of new Pier Head and Landing Stage. One is fixed to the pier. A second, unused plaque, is held in the Pier Archive.

Opening of the new Pier Head and Landing Stage April 1893 photo Jane Lilly
Clevedon Mercury April 1st 1893 provided by Jane Lilly citation: British Newspaper Archive

George Double, Boxted Bridge and Cleopatra’s Needle

The Pier was contacted by the folks of Boxted in Essex who are campaigning to try and save their village bridge built by George Double. You can read all about their campaign and their pretty bridge on this link. They would be grateful for any support or interest in saving their bridge.

For Clevedon and the Pier it is intriguing to learn that George Double also had dealings with erecting the Egyptian obelisk, known as Cleopatra’s Needle, on the Embankment in London. The Boxted Save Our Bridge campaigner, Lucinda, sent us this interesting image and newspaper clippings to share. Clearly, George Double was a busy and well thought of builder in the 1890s and travelled all over the country to build fascinating structures.

Photo of George Double and his team of 25 builders erecting Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment, London image: L deJasay, Boxted Village Save our Bridge committee

Information about ‘This Obelisk’ mentioning George Double as Manager of Works. image: L DeJasay, Boxted Village Save our Bridge committee

New Flag. New Jerseys. Such extravagance!

Local Clevedon Historian and Archive Volunteer Jane Lilly recently rootled out another bit of the story of the pier. It involves new sweaters and a new flag – a perfect story for a dull November Friday. ……………

After the Clevedon Local Board of Health took over ownership of the pier in March 1891, they had a new pier head built, at a better angle to the tide for ships landing passengers. The pier and indeed the ships, had suffered damage previously as a result of the tide slamming the vessels against the landing stage.

In June 1894, the old flagstaff from the pier head was moved to the Green Beach and erected on the point that divided Little Harp Bay from the Long Beach – that’s the beach with the Marine Lake now at the western end. For many years this was called Flagstaff Point, and only ceased to exist after the storms of the 1990s, when the flagstaff finally fell, having been replaced with what would seem to be similar to a long scaffolding pole. It was not replaced following the storm, but Ralph Fryer rescued it and it now lives with the Pier Archive! Read the full story of the life of the pier flagstaff on this link.

However, more is added to the story in the Clevedon Mercury of the 7th July 1894, when it is revealed that the local authority was feeling extravagant. They not only purchased a new flag for the new flagstaff on the pier, but laid out good coin on new jerseys for their employees, the two pier porters, Mr James Sims and Mr William Hyett.

Photo provided by Jane Lilly. 

Two men working for the pier.

Date unknown.

Wearing the jerseys of the type worn by the pier porters.

These two men were both master mariners and both from Gloucestershire. After the railway had stolen trade from both the Stroudwater Canal and the ferry at Framilode, a number of mariners had moved down the coast to Clevedon and these two were among them. William Hyett also imported coal for his father-in-law George Thomas, who ran a coal dealership at Old Church Road West End, Clevedon, travelling regularly to Lydney and Newport in his 66 ton ship the Jane – probably a trow, a type of boat particular to the Severn and Bristol Channel. You can find out more about a Severn Trow, just like the Jane, on this link to the Royal Museums Greenwich.

James Sims came from Framilode,  as did Captain John Gower Rowles, the pier master. When Sims was homeless with his wife and seven young children after a house fire in 1898, Captain Rowles started up a collection to help them rent another house. How fascinating that Clevedon didn’t seem able to supply its own mariners for these jobs, being a seaside town!