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 faro » 06 Jul 2010, 10:04

great pictures!i always think its such a shame the steel stella never survived.
it would certainly draw people to the resort if it was still there.
my mum took me on it when i was very little and i can hardly remember much about it!needless to say i haven't been back to clacton since,but would have gone back just to revisit the stella if she was still there!!!many of these resorts don't know what these old coasters mean to people
thanks for sharing the photos.
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Postby Chief Engineer » 07 Jul 2010, 21:53

Hi faro,

Glad your enjoying the pictures and of course I am also glad that like me you are able to put your hand up and say ' I rode the Steel Stella' . It was my first coaster ride and I can still remember lots of little details about the ride as well as thinking I would get my head chopped off when the cars criss crossed through the centre of the ride.

Unfortunately I think if the fire had not ended her days, old age and deterioration would have eventually took their toll.

Some more pictures of her to follow soon after I covered a few more interesting area's of the Pier.

CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 08 Jul 2010, 21:14

The end of the Pier has certainly welcomed and paid host to many different vessels and one of the most famous has to have been the 'Queen Mary' ................. ok I jest, the real Queen Mary would have found it very difficult to have got along side the berthing arm, but only a year after the full size Queen Mary's maiden voyage, on the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York route on 27 May 1936 a scale replica was proudly on display in an exhibition on the Pier in 1937.

I will let you of the 2d for having a look and I believe the model is now stored at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.


CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 09 Jul 2010, 22:16

These days we take the magic of a light bulb as a fact of every day life, but back in the dark days when probably a lot of people still used gas as a means of lighting one can only imagine what a wonder the Pier must have looked like all lit up. Two very early night time shots of the Pier amongst this collection of snaps including a fantastic night shot of the 'Steel Stella' all lit up.

CE
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Postby Gary » 10 Jul 2010, 07:25

Is it me or are these Clacton posts just getting better and better..?

:D
Please pass through the turnstiles if you are riding again.
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Postby Chief Engineer » 11 Jul 2010, 00:10

A couple of aerial photographs taken of the Pier dated 1932. The swimming pool looks like it is already open but the new 'Blue Lagoon' dance hall is still to be built, the original Blue Lagoon hall on the eastern side of the entrance is still standing. The ships docked at the end of the Pier are the unmistakable Laguna Belle from her bow markings although given the date she may be still under her old name of 'Southend Belle' and behind is the 'City of Rochester'

Across from the Pier is the first Pavilion building looking very impressive , the third regeneration of the building is currently underway.

CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 11 Jul 2010, 23:22

With Clacton's annual carnival just around the corner it seems like a good opportunity to pop back to 1931, when it would appear that the Pier held its own carnival. Looking at the crowds at the front of the Pier, it certainly looked well supported.

Sadly no names to any of the pictures but I am sure that the picture capturing the 'Ramblas' out door stage will feature many of the artistes performing in that year and I am sure the two little girls probably won their prizes for best fancy dress, Pierrot clowns maybe!

Lets hope the sun shines for this years Clacton carnival street procession.

CE

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Postby Chief Engineer » 13 Jul 2010, 00:14

A little look back at some of the rides that featured on the Pier. I can certainly remember the 'Speedway' a very fast ride if you managed to line up your car properly on the straights, or make the tyres screach with the handbrake. Another ride that I first enjoyed riding on then actually ending up looking after its maintenance till quite recently when the Harrison family sold it on, was the 'Caterpillar'. It did undergo a few transitions in its time on the Pier, its last change being to the 'Starfighters' ride before leaving the Pier. It did live on at Gulliver's Kingdom.

Water dodgems, now there is an electricians nightmare, I am sure it was totally safe along with the more traditional dodgem/bumper car which I would love to find out how it was powered.

CE


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Postby Chief Engineer » 16 Jul 2010, 23:01

Time to take to the air again, a year on from the last aerial photographs posted up.

Dated 1933/4 , the first picture shows a very dry swimming pool with the new addition of raked concrete steps on the two seaward sides which allowed a lot more extra spectator seating and also created changing rooms underneath.

A bumper boat type ride now occupies the majority of the new concrete slab on the front eastern side of the pier, the dodgem boats with the pickup poles that featured in a previous post, appear a little later on the pier.

The Jolly Roger has also acquired two new sets of stairs leading to the promenading walkway around the first floor.

Enjoy
CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 17 Jul 2010, 22:37

They say a picture paints a thousand words and I think all the pictures posted so far have show the evolving story of how Clacton Pier has developed over the years that words could never have portrayed, however for this posting it's a thousand words that hopefully will conjure up the image of a Pier in the late 1930’s and of a man who brought Clacton Pier to life.

This is a newspaper article from around 1937/8 that Peter Kingsman kindly forwarded to me a few days ago. It has certainly confirmed a few more facts about the Pier, but also added a few more brush strokes to the life portrait of E. Kingsman.

One fact that is confirmed in the article was that the Circus did come to town in the 1930’s and found a home on the Pier, as my previous post hinted from the seating plans. Still no pictures of performers or acts unfortunately apart from a cartoon from a picture collage of cartoons of the year depicting various Pier activities, taking the elephant for a bath on the east beach being one.

Interestingly from the article, Kingsman possibly paved the way for Butlin to set up camp in Clacton offering cheaper fares than the trains and busses from London.


CE
PS I find newspaper clippings are hard to read in picture format, so have retyped it for an easier read.


How to run a Holiday Pier, by Joe Paris c1937/8

The English pier needs a dust-down. I say that after walking the boards of half-a-dozen typical ones.

On most British piers you get more draughts than are to be found on two street corners, and your surroundings combine the worst features of a railway platform and a bundle of damp firewood.

Then there are notices forbidding people – I am not quite sure why - to detach mussels from the bodywork of the pier, warning them against bait on the pier seats and admonishing them to keep their dogs on a leash, and “pay here for the Skylark”
And there is not much else needed to outfit a typical British pier; except a Mr. Kingsman. Every British pier needs him.

Kingsman, his wife, and his son Barney own just one pier (Clacton, it is) and in four months of every year mouths of every year, I estimate, the three of them take not less than £100,000, just from that one strip of boardwalk. If only the other pier managers could copy them

His Riviera Villa,
Father, Ernest Kingsman, is a slightly built white-haired, blue-eyed grandfather with a Debrett’ nose and a voice that, means business. In summer suitings, he looks smart enough to join any yacht club terrace; except that, for pier wear, he wisely chooses a beret Perhaps he picked up that idea in the South of France where he has a villa at Ville franche, bought out of pier profits; the villa in turn provides him with little dividends in the shape of home-grown orange marmalade and olive oil
Kingsman pier shows that it be done, I mean that 2,500,000 people can be induced to walk, on and off the pier of a moderate size seaside town. To lure his customers, his swimming pool has a special diving display, his concert party hidden talent contest;, his waxworks have a theme Crime and punishment. There is a Pets’ Corner .and a switch back. There are sub-machine guns -to shoot with and a ‘real lifeboat to watch; Channel steamers too.

Klingsman’s road to success was- a loop-way detour. He started first of all in the hotel business, which led him to buy a large tract of coastland near Lowestoft . His idea was to start a racecourse to tie in with the Yarmouth races, making a kind of Suffolk Fortnight.” - The clergy objected.

Then Kingsman - it was just after- the War bought; up some Army huts with the idea of starting the first holiday camp But he needed cheap fares to make it pay. The railway company offered only a’ return ticket at 33s. 60. the bus companies countered with 28s. 60. Then Kingsman heard that the Belle Line of coast-steamers was being liquidated; the Government did not need- them for mine sweeping any longer. He eventually bought the whole concern, together with five piers they used. And one of the piers was Clacton .

Kingsman never went on piers in those days. Clacton pier was then 3Oft. wide and “as fiat as a dead bass:’ He used to hear families saying “What shall we do now?” as they left it.
Nowadays the pier is about 300ft. wide, and by the time you get oft it there is not much else you want to do.

Kingsman has spent £200,000 on his pier, but the money comes back all right. A switch- back, costing over £2.000, has paid for itself in two years with 6d. rides. A. home-matte doughnut stand takes over £10 on a good day. One football game brings in £10 a day, and a “3d. Mirror Maze” accounts for another £20. A theatre with seats from 1s. 3d. pulls in £800 in a good week. A trick radio-robot pays over £200 -in return for standing room on the pier; a small shed, £750. Fifteen hundred people can cram into the Blue Lagoon ballroom, where dancing is 2s. a session.
In a good week £1,000 drops into the turn stiles, and on an average day they need £100 in coppers for change for the pin tables. You can add another £100 for the coppers people have in their own pockets.
Altogether the pier holds 25,000 people under cover.

On the other hand the Kingsman’s face a wage bill of £2,000 a week, and wooden decking (which you must have in order to convince people that they really are over the sea) wears out very quickly. Repainting costs perhaps £1,500 a year, and the borough council want their rates just as if the pier were on dry land.
Other piers pay higher or lower figures according to their drawing power and to the length of their season.

Glass-Brick Flat,
During business months Kingsman lives with his family on the pier itself. His fiat, built of those new glass bricks, stretches right above the turnstiles and nearly across the whole breadth of the pier.
His five or six rooms face inland, and as he gets up in the morning he can watch the early visitors “clocking in.’ Along the back of his fiat rums a passage with a gap at the top of its outer well, and Kingsman has a look over the top of that wall any time he is walking from his bedroom to his bathroom or from his bathroom to his office. And there’s plenty for him to see.

At one end, his gallery overlooks the ball room where the show-girls of the theatre practise their dance routines in the morning and the couples “swing it” at 50 bars to the minute in the evening. At the other end Kingsman overlooks his circus, where there rare, maybe, five lions in action.
“It is almost the perfect balcony. But for one thing: the walls are not big enough for Kingsman’s favourite pictures. He collects large Dutch oil paintings of farmyard poultry, and is so much attached to these that he has two in his private office on the pier though he knows that sooner or later the spray from the North Sea waves will rot the canvas.

When the season is over he usually leaves Clacton,
Part of the time he spends with his Parliamentary agent (for an Act of Parliament is needed for every pier extension). Piers for some reason or other are controlled through the Ministry of Transport, who have to agree to make a provisional order before you can present your Bill. The Marine Department of the Board of Trade are interested; too they want to know if navigation will be affected by your pier. The Admiralty will want to mark your pier on their charts, and the Brethren of Trinity House will have to agree as to how you are to light it.
On top of that you may have to buy up some of the bed of the ocean; the Crown owns the sea bed below medium tide-mark and. the three-mile limit. Negotiations are carried out through the Marine Department of the Board of Trade.
Not all of the sea-bed under the pier is sold, but only those parts of it in which the piles of the pier are to rest, so that the waters underneath the pier still remain technically part of the High Seas.


£1,500 Ocean-Bed Site.

A surveyor of the Inland Revenue department decides just what the bed of the ocean site is worth. Kingsman had to pay £1,500 for a site for the supports of his swimming pool. He has had nine Acts of Parliament passed about his pier and each leaves him with an extra. Battle-scar. A Lords committee man once asked him what he’d got to say for his “collection of huts.”
“I say that if I could build the shelters on my pier of Aberdeen granite or best marble, I wouldn’t,” answered Kingsman. “The bank- clerks I’m out to entertain work in those places, all the week and hate the sight of them.”
In the winter, Kingsman has his engineer to consult and also, perhaps, biologists at the Natural History Museum , who tell him the life history of the animals that attack pier woodwork.
He also tours the Continent for ideas, One day his family dragged him to a cinema in Monte Carlo (He hates movies). But, when he got inside, he found that the chairs were sprung in an unusual way. As soon as he got home, he sent an order to his chair-maker for 1,200 new seats for his theatre.
Then there is his Riviera villa. He is gradually buying up the land round it. “I like to choose my neighbours when, I’m there,” he says. But it was not as easy as that. One special hectare that Kingsman wanted be longed to several different owners, none of whom could agree on what was a fair price; negotiations became as long-drawn-out as an cid movie serial. When he saw how things were, Kingsman decided it, was useless to hurry.
Ring up my notary when you’ve finally agreed on a price among yourselves,” he eventually said.
It was ten years after Kingsman had bought the villa that the telephone call finally came through. And while the were waiting, the Kingsman family had taken nearly £1,000,000 in hard cash.

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Postby Chief Engineer » 20 Jul 2010, 22:48

Time to take to the air again, the early 30's saw an incredible growth in the Pier. This picture c1935/6 has the western extension to the Pier nearing completion, the new Blue Lagoon Dance Hall building is up and the new berthing arm has the Laguna Belle docked alongside

This is basically the outline of the Pier as we know today. Kingsman had plans drawn up which would have seen both the eastern and western sides of the pier extended up to the head of the Pier, but for whatever reason this never happened, of course there was still a lot of building work still to undertake, the new undercover building and frontage on the eastern side of the Pier is already in the planning stage.

CE
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Postby Chief Engineer » 21 Jul 2010, 22:10

I still at times cant quite comprehend the incredible achievements on some of the projects undertaken by Mr. Kingsman that made Clacton Pier that slightly bit different than all the other Piers. The swimming pool has to rate as one of the most difficult constructions, these few photographs taken towards the end of its build only really show a fraction of how hard it must have been to build this structure over the North Sea.

In the first picture is what I believe to be the piling crane, it looks like the jib has possibly been already removed in preparation to be moved off the Pier, its job of sinking the pre-cast concrete piles that support the pool now completed. The concrete for the pool was mixed on site as you can see from the cement mixer standing where the diving board will eventually be located. It can be easy to forget that the pool was built nearly 80 years ago, a horse and cart making a delivery is a hint to how things have changed and I certainly don't think there was any risk assessment done on Health and Safety if you had to work on the edge.

CE
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WOW!!

Postby DolphinBoy » 23 Jul 2010, 22:06

Fantastic photos Mr Engineer!!!
What an archive this thread is turning out to be, being a Clactonian myself this is so interesting looking at these never before seen photos.
Love the swimming pool construction ones, brilliant!
Thank you for sharing
DB
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Postby Chief Engineer » 27 Jul 2010, 22:17

Glad your enjoying the photographs, likewise on your site as well, some fantastic photos donated by the people who owned, worked and entertained on Clacton's iconic Pier, without which we would not be able to share in this fantastic period of Clacton's history.

Unfortunately the strive to bring even better entertainment and new facilities to the Pier meant old buildings being demolished to make way for the new.

The new Blue Lagoon in the first picture taken in 1935 is being uncovered with the removal of the old timber entrance buildings .

In the last two pictures from 1937 we can see the removal of the original Blue Lagoon dance hall, it must have been interesting having to dance around the flag pole.


CE


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Postby FATBOY » 28 Jul 2010, 19:28

excellent pictures!!! absolutly mesmerising. just a quick question, in the picture with the 2 steamers in, on the front seaward right hand side of the pier is a crane like contraption? was that used for piling???? as im sure that thing was there in the 80's and featured in the petshop boys "it couldnt happen here film???" actually i will dig the film out and have a look...
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