Shanklin Pier, Isle of Wight, UK

1 Conversation

Shanklin is one of the oldest towns on the Isle of Wight, and lies on the southern end of Sandown Bay. It was hard to access by land and undiscovered until 1817, when Keats enjoyed the town and wrote several poems there. The first hotels opened in the 1820s, but it wasn't until the Ryde - Shanklin railway opened in 1864 that Shanklin became a popular watering hole. The population increased twenty fold in the next decade.

By the early 1870s, Shanklin had over 40 hotels, and the Shanklin Esplanade and Pier company was formed and applied for permission to build a pier. In 1874 the Act was passed, and in 1878 the Shanklin Esplanade and Pier Company issued a
prospectus and advertised shares for sale. The plans for the pier were drawn up in 1880, yet the funds necessary to build the pier were not raised until 1888, by which time it was necessary for Parliament to approve a second Shanklin Pier Act in 1886.

The Pier

In August 1888, work on building the pier started, and the pier, when finished was 1,200 ft. long. It was raised from the esplanade to allow bathing machines to pass beneath, and had pagoda-style toll booths at the entrance. The pier opened on the 18th August 1890, and the first steamer to visit was the Flying Falcon. In 1891 the pier was even more popular when the Shanklin lift, a
hydraulic lift to the esplanade from the cliff top above, was opened, making access to the esplanade easier from the town. By 1893, a band-stand like pavilion had been built, and water polo was often played at the pier head.

In 1899, Shanklin Urban District Council bought the pier, and in 1909 built the Grand Pavilion in the centre of the pier at a cost of £4,000, and was the largest pier pavilion on the Island. The original pavilion continued to be used as a bandstand.

The Two World Wars

Shanklin Pier in the 1970s

During the Great War, cruises to the pier ceased as the Admiralty commandeered the steamers. In 1915, the piers landing stage was damaged and removed, and the pavilion sadly was destroyed in 1918. After the war, the pier was bought from the council by Mr Terry Wood. A new centre pavilion, called the Casino Theatre, was built and opened in June 1927, followed by a new landing stage in 1931, allowing steamers to once again call. Cruises around the Island, to Brighton,
Eastbourne and Cherbourg in France were available.

The small pavilion on the pier head was re-built as the "Dancing Over The Sea" dance hall in 1932, and in the 1930s, Regattas and Water Carnivals were popular. The pier was used for a number of activities, including fishing and clay pigeon shooting, and there
was always entertainment from local stunt men such "Professor Wesley", a one-legged man who dived into the sea from a flaming tower on the pier.

In the Second World War, the pier again suffered damage. It was bombed by German aircraft, and was sectioned to prevent it being used as a landing stage.

The pier was also used as part of the PLUTO1 project.

After the War

Shanklin Pier after the 1987 hurricaine

The pier re-opened in 1947, along with dances, bands and boat trips.2 In 1959, a record-breaking Pollock was caught off the pier.

By the 1970s, though, it was becoming hard for the shows at the pier's theatre to compete with Sandown Pavilion, and attendance to the theatre's shows dropped. By 1974, the pier was owned by Haven, and had dodgems, an "astroglide" ride, a
disco and bar. The Casino Theatre was renamed the Showboat Theatre. In 1976, the pier was bought by a local businessman, Fred Sage, who was one of the founder members of the National Piers Society, dedicated to save seaside piers from decay and demolition. Shanklin Pier's Theatre and two original ticket booths were listed as Grade II buildings.

In 1980, the television series "The End of the Pier Show" was filmed at Shanklin Pier, the plot centred around the fictional pier of "Smallhaven". By 1986, plans to transform the pier into a multi-million pound leisure and conference complex were underway.

Yet on 2am on the 16th October 1987, the largest hurricane to strike England on record hit Shanklin Pier. The pier was ripped into three parts, with large sections torn away by the winds. South Wight Borough Council authorised the demolition of the remains of the pier, with much of the remains of the pier recycled to make sea defences.

1Pipe Line Under The Ocean - a project that delivered oil over to France during the Normandy landings. There is an exhibition about the project at Shanklin Chine.2One incident that occured during the plans to re-open Shanklin Pier was the painting of the pier, giving rise to the landmark Contract Court Case Shanklin Pier Ltd v Detel Products Ltd [1951] 2 KB 854. Shanklin Pier Ltd. bought paint from Detel, a paint manufacturing company, on condition that it would be suitable for the pier, and then stipulated in a contract with the contracted painting firm that they were to use Detel's paint. The paint turned out to be unsuitable for painting piers with, and so Shanklin Pier succesfully sued Detel, creating the rule of tri-partite collateral contracts.

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