Birnbeck Pier on the Bristol Channel in Weston-super-Mare, England
© Stephen Davies/Adobe Stoc
End of the pier?
This peaceful but derelict pier, on England’s south-west coast, was a hub of activity back in its heyday. Designed by the famous pier builder Eugenius Birch, Birnbeck Pier – sometimes called the Old Pier – opened in Weston-super-Mare in 1867. Victorian day trippers would arrive on steamships to enjoy fairground rides, a travelling cinema and skating rink. Welsh visitors would turn up to buy a drink in the pier’s bars on a Sunday, a day when the sale of alcohol was banned over the border. The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world and the island offered a good launching point for its lifeboats, which might otherwise have been cut off by mudflats at lower tides.
Birnbeck Pier is the only British pier which connects the mainland to an island and its light structure, based on 15 groups of iron columns, has helped it weather 150 years of battering by the sea. But the end of paddle steamers in the 1970s, the opening of the Severn Bridge linking England to Wales, the boom in foreign holidays and competition from a rival pier marked the beginning of the end for the Old Pier which finally closed to the public in 1994. The elements have long battered the Grade II listed structure and it was added to Historic England’s at-risk register in 1999.