PUBLISHED: 09:51 12 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:51 12 May 2013
Clevedon's elegant pier has won the coveted Pier of the Year award for 2013. The 144-year-old seaside landmark - once described by Sir John Betjeman as 'delicate as a Japanese print in the mist' - has been award the title by the National Piers Society.
The pier first opened in 1869 but disaster struck in 1970 when two outward spans collapsed into the sea and the pier remained shut for many years.
However, a Preservation Trust was formed and, thanks to grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and English Heritage, as well as help from the public who subscribed to brass plates commemorating their loved ones, the pier reopened in 1989. A full restoration was completed in 1998.
A new era is now dawning for Clevedon Pier with plans for a visitor centre having been approved by the local authority. A grant of £720,000 has been received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £500,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund. The trust still needs to raise another £800,000 but Pier Mistress Linda Strong believes the recent award will give added impetus to the fund-raising appeal for the new centre.
“The award is a great accolade. The last time we won was in 1999 so to be able to win it on my watch is lovely.
“This is the only Grade 1 listed pier in England still intact and something to be incredibly proud of.
“The pier has survived because of the great community spirit in the town. I think the people of Clevedon suddenly realised that this iconic structure stretching out into the Severn Estuary was about to be lost and many local people played a part in the restoration by raising funds. We hope as many will continue to support us towards the new visitor facility which will enhance the experience for anyone visiting Clevedon Pier.”
The town itself is set to benefit from the project as the enhanced facilities should attract more tourists, bringing a boost to the local economy. And schools will be encouraged to explore the structure’s engineering and the local natural history. The volunteer team will be increased and new jobs will be created.
Linda has been Pier Mistress for eight years and is passionate about the iconic structure which is a favourite with film makers.
It was used as a location in the film Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley and often pops up on television programmes.
The pier has its own shop and art gallery and is also a popular fishing spot, says Linda. “My big passion is fishing and when guys come on to fish and I start talking about what they need - the bait, the rigs, a shock leader - their jaws drop because they are wondering ‘how does she know so much about it’!”
Just along the seafront, a heritage centre was opened in 2009 to mark the 140th anniversary of the pier’s opening. Open in the summer everyday except Monday the centre is free to enter and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in discovering more about the town.
“Clevedon is a very relaxing place to visit; it’s very much a sedate seaside town,” Linda adds. “We have a collection of shops in The Triangle that you would normally expect in a town centre, with some additional individual shops and we have Hill Road with its independent shops that bring a uniqueness to the town.
“To me Clevedon has a village atmosphere; people seem to know each other. And if something is going on in Clevedon most people seem to know about it!” n
For further details about Clevedon Pier, including how you can decorate your own deckchair for the pier’s charity auction visit clevedonpier.com