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Wednesday 22 September 2010

The Beauty of the Old Technologies - and Haiku #268

In my recent whimsical post on our five day break to Clevedon (here) I included a threat to return to the subject in more serious vein. Ah, you thought you'd escaped? Not so, this is it.

I had not visited that part of the country -- the English side of the Severn above Weston-super-Mare -- before, and knew practically nothing about it. I am not a great fan of piers, but my first reaction on seeing the pier at Clevedon was one of admiration for its elegance. (My title is not intended to take anything from the new technologies, incidentally.) Later, much later, I would discover that I was in good company, for Sir John Betjeman had said of it that in his opinion it was the most beautiful pier in England. I, however, am sticking to my accolade of elegant. That seems to be to be the most fitting adjective. I was also told that it is the oldest, but have not been able to confirm that. However, all the piers (there are still over 70 in England) were built within a very short space of time and so none are appreciably older or younger than any other. It is, though, England's only fully intact Grade 1 listed pier.

Naturally, Bill -- one of the two friends accompanying us -- and I decided to explore the pier. We paid our dues at the toll house/gift shop and walked out onto the boards. These, we immediately noticed were inset with small brass plaques at regular intervals bearing names and detail. Obviously sponsors of some sort. To one side were information boards, one of which gave details of the pier's construction, and, it seemed to me, partly explained its elegance. (I say partly, because much credit must also be given to the designer for the proportions of the spans.) They

and much of the supporting structure were constructed from second hand railway lines purchased from Isambard Kingdom Brunel. For the spans, the rails, which were U-shaped, were used in pairs and welded together on their open sides as shown in my sketch. Where they were used for fixing they were welded at the base of the U. There are eight of these spans making the pier is nearly 750 feet long.
I didn't discover the full story behind the brass plaques until after we had returned home. In October 1970 the insurance company insisted that the spans be subjected to stress testing, during which spans 7 and 8 collapsed and the pier fell into disuse. The local authority decided that they wanted to demolish it, but a vigorous campaign was launched to save it, supported by Sir John Betjemen and culminating in the sponsored planks referred to above. There are 10,000 of these.

There is very little on the pier. No entertainments. Just a cafe at the far end and one level up. Seats down either side - the backs of which form the only barrier, and so there are notices to adults in charge of children that it would be dangerous to allow them to climb on the seats - as if that is not obvious! It is popular with anglers (of course) and from the very end it is possible to see the new and new old Severn Bridges. On the day we were there the newest (and nearest) showed up dark against the background whilst the further - and older - bridge was catching the sun and appeared through the suspension in somewhat ghostly fashion.

It might have happened
that crossing of The Red Sea
the computers say


Jeanne Estridge said...

What a lovely thing. I'm glad they saved it.

Windsmoke. said...

The parting of the Red Sea is pure fiction and always will be until science proves otherwise. Very grand looking pier, looks well built and sturdy.

Kass said...

These are great photos.

Raj said...

elegant it is. the pier and the haiku.
the haiku, did it derive inspiration from the pier?

Unknown said...

Yes great photographs

Dave King said...

Yes, but my snaps hardly do it justice. Thanks.

They'll never prove it happened. They say they have proved it was possible as a result of natural causes. - Computer simulations bear them out, they say.

Much thanks.

Thanks for both comments.

No, there was no connection.

Thanks again

Unknown said...

Very different to the piers at Gt. Yarmouth that I remember from seaside holidays and remarkably uncluttered!

Gerry Snape said...

the thing is ...until it's proven...it might not be fiction1

Dave King said...

Absolutely. Totally uncluttered.

Isn't that why they call it myth?

Dick said...

Good to find a pier that has been accorded the same conservational respect as manor house or abbey. All too often the beauty of the engineering and the simple sense of being able to, as it were, walk across the sea are buried beneath the kiosks selling krap and the gaming arcades.