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Documents Heritage Interpretation History of Clevedon History of the Pier Saving the Pier Post 1970

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.

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Heritage Interpretation History of the Pier Saving the Pier Post 1970 Uncategorized

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!

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Heritage Interpretation History of Clevedon History of the Pier Saving the Pier Post 1970

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.

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Saving the Pier Post 1970

Archive Volunteer Jane

Jane is a well known, well loved and extremely knowledgeable local historian who is an indispensable volunteer to the Archive.  

During lockdown Jane has been supporting Bette in dealing with enquiries as well as taking on the task of cataloguing the contents of Lady Margaret Elton’s ‘Book of Clevedon Pier,’ fondly known in the archive as The Big Scrapbook. 

The scrapbook contains a vast array of material recording the story – warts and all – of trying to save and then rebuild the pier after the 1970 collapse. You can read more about the Scrapbook on this link: Save the Pier Scrapbook – Clevedon Pier Archive

Jane has been recording and listing every item, on every page of the scrapbook so that enquirers can, in future, either search to find out what is in the scrapbook or try to find particular information they are seeking.  During this task Jane has been highlighting a few fascinating snippets and these will be appearing over the next few weeks.  Here’s one just for starters…..

North Somerset Mercury
March 19th 1971

    Sir, Having seen cars running around Clevedon with ‘Save our Pier’ posters stuck in read windows, prompts me to write again to console members of our community who want to retain our historic, antique pier.

    Why not ask our councillors to seek the advice and help of the Army’s Royal Engineers.  I am sure that much bigger gaps were bridged during the last war in many places such as Burma very quickly.

     I am not sure whether such a venture would be permitted, but at least its worth a try.

Mercury August 27th 1971

An affordable ‘Save The Pier’ idea

This letter starts with the hopeful, Sir, Referring to the problem of “What to do about the Pier” I offer the following suggestion.

Read on to to learn more about the suggestion of a cable-car in the style of a ski-lift with four obvious advantages:

  1. Low Cost
  2. Practicability
  3. Uniqueness
  4. Chance to charge twice
  5. Good publicity

And here’s a link to an intriguing newspaper item in the Scrapbook about Ethiopia’s interest in saving Clevedon Pier.

Lady Margaret’s scrapbook will, when Jane has finished cataloguing, be digitised by Archive Volunteer Michael so that, when the original is returned to its owner, the public will be able to read and enjoy the contents of this treasure of a scrapbook.    Watch out for more of Jane’s Lockdown work on Lady Margaret’s Scrapbook in the next few weeks.

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Saving the Pier Post 1970

Save the Pier Scrapbook

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


Photo 1  The Book of Clevedon Pier.  Outer cover.
Source:  Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection 

Photo 2:  Inside cover of The Book of Clevedon Pier.
Source: Private Collection Image:  Pier Archive Digital Collection

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.

Photo 3: First page in The Book of Clevedon Pier Scrapbook
Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection

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 4: Newspaper clipping in Scrapbook from North Somerset Mercury October 23rd 1970 Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection

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.

Photo 5: Newspaper clippings in Scrapbook from North Somerset Mercury January 29th, 1971 Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection

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

Photo 6: Cover and inside cover of the Festival of Clevedon Magazine from June 1968. Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection

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  

Photo 6A Detail from Festival of Clevedon Magazine June 1968
Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection

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.

Photo 7: The Road to Clevedon Pier by Margaret Ann Elton Country Life September 12th 1971 Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection
Photo 7A: The Road to Clevedon Pier by Margaret Ann Elton Country Life September 12th 1971 Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection
Photo 7B: The Road to Clevedon Pier by Margaret Ann Elton Country Life September 12th 1971 Source: Private Collection Image: Pier Archive Digital Collection

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……………….

In these days of spring 2020 when the country/the world is coping with the Covid-19 virus the Pier has had to close and sadly needs your help once again. Read more on: https://clevedonpier.co.uk/