14 December 2011
The National Piers Society was formed to assist with the preservation of the nation’s seaside piers and, by implication, the heritage of the seaside town’s where they are located. It is not an understatement to say that ‘saving’ a pier is not always successful, but with a very keen and active local Friends group, it can be achieved with excellent results, as demonstrated below. If you have never heard of Saltburn, you have now!
The Saltburn Pier Company was formed in 1867 and John Anderson’s 1500 long pier was opened in 1869. The end of the pier was destroyed by a storm in 1875, but, at a reduced length, re-opened in 1877. In 1885, a bandstand was added to the enlarged pier-head.
In May 1924, the ‘Ovenbeg’ collided with the pier leaving a 210’ gap, not repaired until 1930. A small theatre building was built at the entrance to compensate for the isolated bandstand. The pier was requisitioned by the army in 1940, and ‘sectioned’ for defence purposes and rebuilt in 1947, reopening to the public in 1952. Only a year later, gales damaged the pier, with repairs not completed until 1958. Further storm damage occurred in 1959 and 1961.
An underwater survey in January 1973 concluded that the pier was only safe in calm weather! Indeed, the loss of a pile at the pier-head that June, caused the area to be closed off. With another pile lost, it closed permanently in December. 3 more piles were lost 2 months later, and a storm in October 1974 so damaged the structure, the council requested permission to demolish the pier. A public enquiry concluded that only the thirteen trestles at the end of the pier should be removed and the remaining 681 feet restored, at a cost £52,500. The pier re-opened in June 1978 with a cafe/restaurant opening the following year. The entrance building’s roof was renewed and restored in 1993 to its early 20th century condition using Welsh and Westmorland slate.
However by 1996, it was again in danger, being saved in 2000 by £1.2m Heritage Lottery funding with the refurbished pier open once more in 2001. In 2005, a new award winning lighting system was installed, giving the pier the appearance of being moon-lit. Saltburn was the National Piers Society’s ‘Pier of the Year’ in 2009.
Post by Tim Phillips, Chairman of the National Piers Society.
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