Western-Super-Mare Grand Pier, Somerset
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The Grand Pier is considered to be the last of the great pleasure piers to have been built. Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier was constructed, after many years of local discussion, to facilitate the large numbers of visitors arriving by train, who felt that the facilities of Birnbeck Pier were to far from the centre of the resort.

One of the features of Weston-Super-Mare is the considerable distance that the sea goes out at low tide. In fact it had always been a popular joke that it used to go out so far that it was debatable as to whether it would actually return. This was a significant factor as Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier was required to provide two things. Entertainment for those visitors arriving by train, and steamer landing facilities for passengers arriving by sea, predominantly from Cardiff. Because of the latter requirement and in view of the aforementioned tidal movement, Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier was going to have to be of a considerable length, being originally intended to be some 6,600ft (2000m) long.

Designed by P Munroe and built by Mayoh & Haley, construction work on Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier did not commence until the 7th November 1903. By 11th June 1904 the first 1,080ft (327m) of the pier and the new 2000-seat pavilion had opened. A further 1,500ft (454m) extension with a timber landing stage had been completed and opened by 1906, but the tides and strong currents meant that only three ships ever successfully moored there. In the end the chairman of the steamship company, who was also the chairman of the pier company, refused to operate the service leaving the Birnbeck Pier, further along the coast to continue as the resort's steamer pier. The original plan to extend to 6,600ft (2000m) was shelved and the bulk of the extension was dismantled between 1916 and 1918.

The Grand Pier pavilion became home to opera, music hall, stage plays, ballet and surprisingly even boxing on occasion, while the Birnbeck Pier provided the bulk of the rides and amusements. Although some light amusements were added to Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier in 1926, it was to be a fire in 1930 that changed the fortunes of both of the resorts piers. On 13th January the pavilion was completely destroyed in the blaze and when it was re-opened in 1933 it contained a large funfair rather than a theatre. This change in the pavilions role was to mark the end of amusements on Birnbeck Pier. This surviving pavilion is the largest to have been built on any pier.

Mr A Brenner purchased Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier in 1946. In 1970 the entrance area was redeveloped to provide shops and amusements on the incline leading to the entrance turnstiles and, in 1974, Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier was granted a Grade II listed status. Along the centre of the deck are glass partitioned shelters with seating on either side and a tractor pulled 'train' offers transport to the pier-head where there is a go-karting track. In 1993 a new bowling alley was added at a cost of £250,000 and in the following winter a further £350,000 was spent on a two-storey funhouse and Ferris wheel, along with essential replacement of worn decking.

Early in 2008, the pier was sold by the Brenner family to a brother and sister living locally. Michael and Kerry Mitchell spent considerable time and money refurbishing the pier, making it one of the town's premier entertainment venues. Sadly, a major fire occurred on this historic pier at around 7.00am on 28 July 2008, completely destroying the pavilion featured in the photograph above.

The new owners immediately vowed to rebuild the devastated pier pavilion, and after a two year rebuilding program an impressive new pavilion has risen from the ashes. Opening on 23rd October 2010 Western-Super-Mare Grand Pier can look forward to a bright and prosperous future.

 

Western-Super-Mare Birnbeck Pier
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Seaside PierWSM Birnbeck Pier
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