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Birnbeck Pier: a brief history

Birnbeck Pier is unusual as it connects the mainland to the island although the pier itself is a comparatively recent edition to the town which grew up as a result of the railway in the 19th century.


1200: In Old English the island was called Bearn Back which translates as the spring brook island. Before the pier the island was used for fishing as it was still connected to the mainland until the seas eroded the link.
1696: John Pigott of Brockley and Lord of the Manor of Weston-super-Mare becomes the owner when it was known as Berne Island (later Bairn Beck Island)
1845: Plans were published for a suspension bridge to connect the mainland to the island were published by James Dredge while a committee was formed to raise the cash needed.
1864: Work began on the bridge after £20,000 was raised.
1867: The pier was opened and although there was little to visit on the island around 120,000 vistors flocked to the pier that summer.
1872: The pier saw improvements including those to the shorter north jetty so steam ships could dock.
1880s: Steamers from Wales brought an increase in income prompting the further development with refreshment rooms, a concert hall, reading rooms, an extended pavilion, a lifeboat station and a low-water jetty.
1897: Fire destroys much of the buildings.
1898: Replacements were constructed by the autumn with designs by Hans Price.
1902: A new Lifeboat station was built.
1903: Storms damage the pier prompting more improvements including a renovated north jetty.
1910: The low water jetty was reopened after six years.
1910-1932: The Golden era when the pier attracted tens of thousands of visitors for the funfair and various attractions with steam ships arriving with day trippers from Wales and elsewhere to experience the delights of the pier.
1933: The Grand Pier opens offering alternative attractions which begins the decline of the pier.
1941: World War II and the Admiralty took over the island when it was known as HMS Birnbeck during hostilities and fears of a German invasion along the Somerset coast.
1962: P&A Campbell take over ownership.
1971: Regular steam ship visits end although the Waverleigh returns occasionally until 1979.
1972: John Critchley buys the pier.
1989: Phil Stubbs becomes the owner. His redevelopment plans come to nothing.
1992: The pier closes to the public.
1998: The pier is sold at auction for £50,000.
1999: The RNLI build a walkway along the pier so to continue using the island for the lifeboats.
2006: Urban Splash buy the pier. Their plans come to nothing.
2011: CNM Estates’s Wahid Samady and Michael Ross buy the pier.
2015: With no obvious improvements to the pier the group Let’s Save Birnbeck Pier is formed.
2016: The Birnbeck Pier Regeneration Trust starts fundraising.
2020: North Somerset Council issue Compulsory Purchase Order.
2021: CMN Estates sell the pier to a company Samady heads.

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