Clacton Pier (The history)

The Great British Seaside Resort: sun, sand, piers, funfairs and donkey rides. But that is only part of the attraction. If you love being beside the seaside, talk about it here!

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Postby Chief Engineer » 20 Sep 2009, 22:50

Hi Bob,

It is a shame that the poor old ‘Jolly Roger’ building has ended up with out a viable use and of course it would be nice if it could revert back to its roots and once again become an entertainment venue, but alas I think those days are long gone The Ocean theatre succumbed to falling audiences and revenue forcing a change of use, plus I don’t think it would be fair on the people who keep Clacton’s ‘Westcliff Theatre’ open to have any competition on their shrinking audience.

Of course the new owners want to make every part of the Pier become profitable to warrant the investment in the refurbishment of the different area’s and buildings on the Pier. I can share with you that one possible new use, which is still a few years away, will be in connection with the development of the old swimming pool. At the present time the pool has become locked away behind the Seaquarium. To allow the pool area to become more accessible for its future development, the present Jolly Roger building would adapt quite easily to a new aquatic and marine life experience which would also include a restaurant , although not sure if fish would be on the menu.

CE

PS Unfortunately there is very little remaining to remind us of what once was a very busy theatre. All those forgotten artistes that once trod the boards, although one remaining notice still hangs on what is left of the stage, the rest of the corner is now dismantled and long gone.


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Postby Bob » 22 Sep 2009, 16:40

Chief Engineer wrote:Hi Bob,

It is a shame that the poor old ‘Jolly Roger’ building has ended up with out a viable use and of course it would be nice if it could revert back to its roots and once again become an entertainment venue, but alas I think those days are long gone The Ocean theatre succumbed to falling audiences and revenue forcing a change of use, plus I don’t think it would be fair on the people who keep Clacton’s ‘Westcliff Theatre’ open to have any competition on their shrinking audience.

Of course the new owners want to make every part of the Pier become profitable to warrant the investment in the refurbishment of the different area’s and buildings on the Pier. I can share with you that one possible new use, which is still a few years away, will be in connection with the development of the old swimming pool. At the present time the pool has become locked away behind the Seaquarium. To allow the pool area to become more accessible for its future development, the present Jolly Roger building would adapt quite easily to a new aquatic and marine life experience which would also include a restaurant , although not sure if fish would be on the menu.

CE

PS Unfortunately there is very little remaining to remind us of what once was a very busy theatre. All those forgotten artistes that once trod the boards, although one remaining notice still hangs on what is left of the stage, the rest of the corner is now dismantled and long gone.


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I was no so much suggesting that more a music venue. Perhaps some for semi pro & amatuer bands and even some local entertainers. Its not a big venue to fill so could be viable particularly in the summer. Pehaps a small Resturant as well. With panaramic windows the views would be spectacular
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Postby Chief Engineer » 28 Sep 2009, 19:55

These days the Pier goes to a lot of trouble making sure people don’t put themselves at risk by jumping of the Pier. Of course back in the days when the Pier provided shows as part of the entrance toll, high diving acts by professionals and armatures entertained the crowds. It would certainly be nice to find out a little more information on these performers and any other acts that were held out in the open.

CE
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Circus

Postby Chief Engineer » 04 Oct 2009, 22:38

While trawling through the plan draw for something interesting I came across a couple of drawings and accompanying letter regarding a proposed Circus arena on the Pier. As you can see on the letter it is dated 1937 and the white and black plan is dated 1938, the blue print is not dated unfortunately.

I am sure a lot of people might remember when the Jolly Roger was turned into a Circus, I even looked today and you can still see fragments of red paint on the roof when the whole building was painted in bold red and white stripes to resemble a big top canvas.

However the plans below are for the Circus to be located in the undercover amusement hall where the Twist and Simulator sit today. I have never come across any mentions of a Circus on the Pier in the 30’s, so maybe these plans never came to fruition. Although the letter mentions Bertram Mills, it is not really confirmed that they might have been providing the circus acts.

CE

As a footnote I just looked up Bertram Mills, he passed away on April 16 1938.
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Postby Chief Engineer » 14 Oct 2009, 20:30

As I mentioned earlier, the ‘Jolly Roger’ theatre for its last performance paid host to Sally Chipperfields Circus in 1982.

The building was transformed into a big top complete with elephant enclosure. I do recall amongst all the green fingered staff a certain by-product of keeping elephants was keenly collected. I managed to find some pictures of the acts that stared that year and from some of the recognisable interior Jolly Roger features, I am assuming all the pictures were taken on site.

Top Row L>R

Jim Clubb,
Jim has trained an extremely diverse selection of animals: snow leopards, black panthers, elephants, giraffes, alligators, crocodiles, camels, lions, zebras, antelope, American bison, tigers, pumas, and pygmy hippos. Jim once went to move a black panther which jumped on him, sinking it's teeth into his face. It just missed his eye and left him with lacerations to his face and forehead.

Petrescu,
The Rumanian troupe, , come from a large circus family who do a perch act, a wire act, and a shooting act.


Jimmy Scott,
Jimmy died recently. Clowns are like a palate-cleansing sorbet between courses, relieving tension from the previous act, before the next dangerous performance. Many of the world's most respected comedians – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, W.C.Fields and the Marx Brothers – all initially trained as clowns.

Alex Bridgewater.

Tommy 'Professor Grimble' Fossett, Sophie Chipperfield,

Bottom row L>R

Gina Giovanni,
Belgian born Gina has followed in her hand-balancer parents footsteps. She is at present working with her sister, wire-walking for a circus in Austria. John Steinbeck has written that: "...the circus is change of pace -beauty against our daily ugliness, excitement against our boredom. Every man and woman and child comes from the circus refreshed and renewed and ready to survive. What doctor can do as much?"

Beverley Royal.

Irma Crystal,
Irma performed a hair-hang and juggling act.

Sophie Chipperfield and Alex Bridgewater.

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Swimming Pool

Postby Chief Engineer » 12 Dec 2009, 23:24

I know it’s a little chilly to be thinking about swimming, but I thought it would be nice to reminisce about one of the Piers largest attractions, the swimming pool. Although not in use today it still remains virtually intact, it has suffered a few scars along the years from changes to its original use together with the North Sea having nibble here and there but the main swimming pool still survives. It should really be thought of as an out side theatre as it not only provided filtered cold sea water to swim in but also entertained thousands of holidaymakers and locals with the staging of a myriad of different events and shows, I am sure some of you out there can add a few memories of being entertained at Clacton Piers swimming pool.

Finished in 1932 and opened on the evening of Whit Monday 1933 with a celebration pyrotechnic display and earning the title of the largest Olympic sized suspended swimming pool ever to be built, although I could never quite understand why they called it ‘suspended’ as the main pool sits on 136 concrete piles, but it certainly was an incredible achievement that it came to get built. Unfortunately along with other Pier buildings and attractions very little documentation remains on the Pier, I managed to find a blue print of the diving boards that gives you a feeling of slight giddiness of how high that top board was, jumping into just 9 feet of water, but also the side view gives a good view of the pump room that actually hangs below the pier deck level, it used to be quite unnerving attending to the pumps if the tide was in. Since the closure of the pool to the last of the Sea lions, it has been closed up with the unstoppable North Sea finding its way in, it now looks more like a underwater scene from a Titanic movie.

I have tracked down a couple of movie clips from Pathe News, the first is dated 1933, and shows the entertainment of the day. A few years later and the pool still holds a good sized audience for a summer beauty show.


http://www.youtube.com/user/clactonpier ... rgLMBc_dDM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJu2b8GC9nw

Below are some postcards and pictures taken a few years after it opened.

When the swimming pool finally hung up its towels to the general public in 1970 it still carried on the roll of providing entertainment with the opening of a Dolphinarium in 1971. The story of the pool this new roll is very well documented with loads more fantastic pictures of its past and not so nice present view on this web site:-


http://www.clactondolphins.co.uk/Pages/ ... -page.html

Just as a footnote, the new owners of the Pier are of course wishing to develop this area soon, I doubt we will ever see it back as a swimming pool, but hopefully it will once again provide a source of entertainment for all to enjoy.


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Postby Chief Engineer » 14 Dec 2009, 20:29

Here are a few more swimming pool pictures, most are taken from hand bills and programs so the quality is a little poor, but they give a good insight to all the different activities and shows that went on in and around the pool.

CE

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Postby FATBOY » 16 Dec 2009, 19:15

brilliant info mr engineer!! i remember years ago walking under the pier when the tide was out, and you could see the pool which obviously hangs below the deck of the pier. am i right in saying there are small port hole style windows dotted around the sides of the pool??? as im sure i saw these when i was under there.... aqlso caould you get any pics of this pumping room(or whats left of it)
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Postby Chief Engineer » 23 Dec 2009, 21:02

Hi Fatboy,

Glad your enjoying the history and your perfectly correct about the port hole style windows built into the side of the swimming pool. The ones on the Holland side are all concreted over now from when the strong tides smashed them through, but the ones looking under the Pier mostly survive. They are a double glazed construction but relatively quite small, I could never really see the point in going to all that trouble, unlike the ones at the Butlin swimming pool where you could look under the water from outside.

I found another snippet of film featuring the swimming pool to slip into the time line. Shot in 1961 as part of a promotional tourist film by the Clacton Urban District Council.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcC5ZXjohi4

Enjoy
CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 21 Feb 2010, 21:43

A nice newspaper article reflecting on some of the Piers earlier attractions, I don't have the date when published but according to the footnote it is from The Sunday Times.

As you will read in the first few paragraphs, the sea at Clacton is not something to be played in without caution, a message that is sadly forgotten in the summer sunshine.

The picture that accompanies the story must feature one of the first sets of dodgem cars to be used on the Pier. I am guessing with electricity still in its early days, these cars must have been run on petrol.

Apologies for the poor quality of the scan, taken from a photocopy.

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Postby Chief Engineer » 22 Feb 2010, 23:19

I am sorry for the above newspaper article being very hard to read, I did try to get it full page but with no success, I have posted it again below in its original scan, lets hope it comes out a bit larger.
CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 23 Feb 2010, 23:50

Graffiti is not normally something that we like to see scrawled on walls, but when it has a bit of history to it, it takes on a whole new meaning. While taking some photographs of what remains of the 'Jolly Roger' stage, I came across a dated 1956 chalked name 'Derek Yelding' . On a web search. Derek certainly seems to have been a very busy and talented actor judging by the number of shows he has appeared in, also he was a ventriloquist and puppeteer during his career.

It would be great to find out a bit more about the man. A restricted search of 'The Stage' theatrical archives shows a Clacton heading dated 1956, so I am guessing it was his first year in Clacton at the Roger. Sadly web searches end around 2004.

Very little in the way of programs survive for the 'Jolly Roger' theatre, I only have this one that is not dated, but does feature Derek putting on a few performances in some of the acts.

CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 06 Apr 2010, 22:55

What an appropriate moment to post up this picture of a framed print that has hung in the Pier office ever since I have worked there. I am guessing that it was probably published in the local paper in 1913, so may have hung on the wall since then. It is amusing to see that Clacton as a seaside resort has not changed that much.

A copy of the text below the picture:-


Mr. Graphic (Master of the Lifeboat)
"Now Gentlemen! If you all dig in at
the same time and pull together We ought
to pick up something worth having"


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Postby FATBOY » 14 May 2010, 20:27

hi ya mr engineer! whats all this i hear that oscars is coming back for a one off night??? ive heard the ghost train is going??? and a bowling alley is to be built in its place??? would be great if you could confirm this and get pictures of the removal process and the empty space afterwards!! would love to see what the room looks like in daylight...
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Postby Gary » 15 May 2010, 07:58

..I just hope this whole thread keeps running and running..I really do. It's over 6 years old now and still active!!

I believe that this should be advertised as the longest running Seaside thread anywhere but not just long running for "The Mousetrap" long running sake..I've said it before and I'll say it again..This has got to be one of the most interesting threads anywhere..

Nick, Perhaps it should be advertised elsewhere on the net as The definitive Clacton Pier Thread!! :)

At one point I was going to email all concerned and ask if I could somehow turn this into an article for themagiceye..but then I thought.."Why?"..

Leave well alone.

The thread is an attraction in itself and best seen on these boards

Here's to the next 6 years :D

Cheers

Gary
Please pass through the turnstiles if you are riding again.
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