Archive News Artefacts Conservation and Preservation Work Engineering and Architecture Heritage Interpretation History of the Pier Uncategorized

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.

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!

Conservation and Preservation Work Heritage Interpretation History of the Pier Uncategorized

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.


Piermaster Mants 1872

In April 1870 a new Piermaster was appointed to be responsible for the day to day operations of the pier by the owners, the Clevedon Pier Company. William Mants would have extensive responsibilities as laid out in his contract of employment. Here are digital images and transcriptions of that contract. Apologies for the appearance of the hand in the photograph of Mant’s contract. When lockdown finishes and we can access the professionally digitised images of William Mant’s contract the hand will…..disappear!

Cover Page

The Clevedon Pier Company to

Mr. William Mants

Appointment to the Office of Piermaster, Toll Collector and Bookkeeper

Pages 1 and 2

Page 1

Be it Remembered that We the undersigned Directors of The Clevedon Pier Company Do hereby appoint William Mants of Lyme Regis in the County of Dorset to the several Offices of PierMaster, Collector of Rates and Tolls of the Clevedon Pier Company and undertake and agree in consideration of services to be rendered by him as hereinafter mentioned that they will pay unto the said William Mants the weekly Salary of 12 shillings and 6 pence.  And also will allow and permit the said William Mants to reside in and occupy (except so far as is otherwise hereinafter provided) the Toll House belonging to the said Company free of Rent Rates and Taxes and also will find and provide for the said William Mants a reasonable supply of gas and water or by mutual agreement a weekly payment in lieu of Gas and also will at any time when the traffic on the Pier shall be unusually heavy and when asked so to do by the said William Mants employ a person to assist him and his wife in collecting the Tolls.  In consideration whereof the said William Mants hereby undertakes and agrees with the said Company that he will devote the whole of his time to them and well and faithfully perform and discharge the several duties attaching to the said several Offices of PierMaster and Collector of Rates and Tolls in conformity with all and every Act and Acts of Parliament relating the conduct and management of Piers, the Clevedon Pier Orders and all Bye Laws now or hereafter to be made concerning the said Pier, And 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 – And also that he will at all times obey and carry out all Rules and Orders made and ordained by the said Company concerning the said Pier and also will at all

Page 2

times keep accurate accounts of all monies received by him and his said wife and daily enter the particulars of such receipts as well as the number of persons been on the Pier in Books to be provided by the Company for this purpose.  And will on request produce such Books to them or the Secretary by their order, for examination And will when and as often as the monies received by him shall amount to the sum of Five pounds pay the same into the hands of the Bankers or Secretary of the Company for the time being. 

And will keep or cause to be kept the working room and closet adjoining in a clean and proper state and not occupy the Waiting Room for his own use except during such part of the day as shall be permitted by the Directors.  Lastly, it is hereby mutually agreed that either party may determine the said Appointment and cancel these presents by the one giving to the other three calendar months notice in writing or in lieu of such notice by the said Company paying to the said William Mants or by his forfeiting to them thirteen weeks salary And also that in the event of the said William Mants ceasing to be employed by the said Company that then immediately on his so ceasing as aforesaid it shall be lawful for the said Company to take possession of the said Toll House and the same to have again and repossess as if this Appointment had never been executed. 

Dated the ____________ day of April, One thousand eighthundred and seventy. 

William Mants


Clevedon 1864

The New Handbook of Clevedon and The Neighbourhood. May 1864

The New Handbook of Clevedon – published 156 years ago this month – in May 1864 gives an insight into a seaside town which was pushing to having a pier erected for health, wealth and social welfare purposes. A selection of pages taken from The New Handbook are shared in this posting.

A List of Some of the Flowering Plants, Ferns, Birds and Moths in Clevedon and the Vicinity

This Appendix at the back of the 1864 New Handbook of Clevedon gives substantial lists of the flower and fauna which lived in and around Clevedon as well as what can be found in the sea. The lists of flowers, birds and moths were compiled by the Rev. George W Braikenridge who was, in 1839, appointed minister of the newly consecrated church, Christ Church. The page on Marine Zoology was written by Mr Frederick R Martin. If anyone would like digital images of these pages do please get in touch:

Next are the pages listing THE BIRDS OF CLEVEDON

Butterflies and Moths

And finally, Mr. Frederick Martin’s treatise on the Marine Zoology of Clevedon. Lots of wonderful sea creatures to keep an eye out for.

Tomorrow: Some advertisements 1864 Style

A Day’s Sport Outside the Sea-Wall

This entire chapter is based upon an anonymous letter from M- A- to Mr Dear C. It relates the tales of M-A-‘s cold day out January 1864 walking from Clevedon to Clevedon Pill to Wick Pill to Wick St Lawrence and what he saw, who he bumped into and the chats he had. It is a day out for a sport which some may find disagreeable. Here’s a clue, “I donned my roughest togs – a ‘Crimean vest’ of thickest knitting, ancient unmentionables and …. a pair of waterproof knee boots. Thus clad, and with snipe shot in one pouch, plenty of BB in a second, and a good supply of Ely’s green cartridges, I sallied out.” The reader who dips into the pages below will, in addition to the sporting references, find wonderful and interesting details of Clevedon 156 years ago.

The Stranger’s Entree

Outline of the Town

In 6 short pages, the New Handbook of Clevedon gives the stranger an ‘entrée’ to the town. The author feels that arriving by train in the old town is somewhat disappointing because the sea and more striking features of the town, for example Highdale Hill ‘whose occupants, like the Romans of old, prefer a dry soil and a pleasant prospect‘ are not immediately to view. The train station was firmly in the middle of Clevedon town by the Clock Tower as shown in the photo below provided by Jane Lilly.

Photo of Clevedon Station provided by Jane Lilly.

However, the author does accede that: ‘There is something simple and primitive, notwithstanding, about the old village which entitles it to the sort of respectful homage we pay to old people. Quite right! The images of the pages below provide a guided tour in word around Clevedon in 1864 – one which can, just about, be recognised and followed, 156 years later.

Tomorrow: A Day’s Sport

Notes. – Historical, Personal, &c (sic)

There are several pages of historical and personal notes in The New Handbook. The first four (below) go from Geological eras to the great flood of 1703 when so many lives and cattle were lost along the Severn Estuary.

It is particularly charming to see how the author links Clevedon to the descendants of Noah – after the great flood – via Armenia, the Euphrates, Brittany, Normandy, and the Romans, Phoenicians and Carthaginians who ‘introduced amongst the wild inhabitants imperfect elements of a higher civilisation. Hopefully Clevedon has now caught up in the civilisation stakes. The New Handbook notes how the manor of Clivedone is recorded in the Domesday Book (image below) and dedicates the last 5 pages of this chapter discussing the Elton family who bought Clevedon Court in 1709 – now a National Trust property open to the public.

Tomorrow. Chapter 3: The Stranger’s Entrée, An Outline of the Town.

The Climate

In these three pages the New Handbook trumpets the wonderfully healthy and health-giving climate of Clevedon for ‘pulmonary invalids and scrofula, rheumatism and convalescents from fevers’ as well as for those who, ‘without being really ill’ would benefit from imbibing ‘health and strength’ in order that ‘flesh and good looks’ are restored.

There is no chance for all of those nasty, noxious effluvia that cause illness ‘accumulating’ because, the New Handbook says, ‘The fresh breezes wafted across the broad bosom of the Atlantic, that sweep over the place continually, would effectually dissipate them.’

And if the visitor is someone who likes to be guided by the science there’s even a bit of science. ‘The presence of a large proportion of ozone in the air bears important chemical testimony to its purity.’


ArchiveInFive Artefacts No.2

What did the following all have in common in 1867?

Brewer.  Tax Collector.  Yeoman.  Blacksmith. Timber Merchant.  Confectioner.  Widow.  Carpet Warehouseman.  Civil Engineer.  Butcher.  Wine Merchant.  Postmaster.  Carriage Builder. Surgeon.  Grocer.  Spinster.  Ironmonger.  Professor of Music and Drawing.  Draper. Draper.  Tramway Secretary.  Carver and Guilder. Gas Manager.

They were all listed as shareholders in Clevedon Pier Company Shareholders book! Everyone loved the idea of a pier. Everyone loves the pier! It still needs your help:

The Model That Helped Save The 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.   Tony was, at that crucial time in the Pier’s history the Chairman of the Pier Preservation Trust. The model has now been donated to the Archive and is on permanent display at the North Somerset Offices, Castlewood, Clevedon.

Las Vegas one armed bandit.

Once part of a group of one armed bandits that graced the dance hall at the end of the pier in the 1960s. When the pier was closed in 1970, because of the collapsed span near the pierhead, all of these gaming machines were taken off and most found new homes elsewhere. This little beauty stayed hidden in the basement of the Tollhouse where it became rusty and crusty and even more loveable. When it came into the Archive it was found to contain several Victorian pennies – some showing Queen Victoria as girl with a bun and ribbon in her hair and others ….. well, not as a girl with a bun in her hair.

The Old Phone Intercom We believe that this wall mounted wooden-cased phone was used as one of a pair on the pier, for communication between the tollhouse and the pier head. The only wiring on this type of telephone was that between the handset and the box itself. This system was used from the 1870s onwards for telephones that were not on an exchange serviced by a common battery, ie, when 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. The person hearing the alert could then pick up the phone at the other end and find out what was wanted. This type of phone was very useful on the old railway systems, where for instance the stationmaster needed to contact the signalman regarding train services or changes in times, etc. Jane Lilly local historian thinks it likely this phone, from the pier, was repurposed for a similar use between the tollhouse and pierhead.