The new look Southport Pier – Not to be missed...
Report by Natasha
ARE you looking for something exciting to do? Then take a trip down the fully restored Southport Pier. It is an ideal day out for families, couples and friends as it offers something for people of all ages and is completely free. The new look pier has been open to the public since May 4, 2002 after undergoing a £6 million facelift and boasts a splendid open-air viewing platform at the pier-head and a unique modern pavilion equipped with a cafeteria and bar offering open views out to the beach and the sea. The pavilion also has an informative display area, which illustrates the pier’s history and the local natural environment. Bird watching enthusiasts can take part in ‘Birdwatching for All’ events and family fundays held throughout the year on the pier, which are an excellent way to learn about the wildfowl and waders that live along the Southport shoreline and the Ribble estuary. Soon, visitors will also be able to cruise to and from the pier-head aboard a luxury train.
Southport Pier is the second longest pier in the country, stretching 1,107 metres out to sea and, which thousands of visitors have enjoyed since it first opened to the public on August 2, 1860. Nicknamed the country’s first true ‘pleasure pier’; its history spans three centuries, the showmanship of dare devil stuntmen and four serious fires, which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage. In Victorian times, the pier attracted many illustrious visitors, including HRH the Princess Mary of Cambridge and her husband the Duke of Tek. In 1865, it was fitted with a steam driven tramway, which was later modernised in 1903 and replaced with an electric system and again in 1950 when it was fitted with a diesel alternative.
The pier’s survival is owed to hard work of the ‘Southport 2000 – Save the Pier Group’ who campaigned to have it restored following the council’s 1990 application to have the, now Grade II, listed building demolished due to its rising debts and escalating repair costs. In 1998, the application for a heritage lottery grant to restore the pier failed.
However, various bodies donated cash so it could survive into the 21st Century. Local residents have also contributed to saving the historical pier by sponsoring the pier planks for £50 each; eventually the decking will names and messages inscribed to it.
The new look pier is already extremely popular with Southport’s residents and visitors to the town. Southport teenager Sam Reeve, 13, used to go down the pier as a child and now enjoys visiting it regularly with his friends. He said,
“I like the pier as you can see the sea from it, which you can’t do from the promenade. I think the new pier is better than the old one, except the other pier had an amusement arcade so there was more for younger people to do. Perhaps they should take away the information stands and put something there to entertain kids.”
Geraldine Myer, who lives in Crosby has been travelling to Southport on day trips for decades and is extremely impressed with the new pier, she said,
“I think it is splendid and has been long awaited for. This is the second time I have been here since it reopened and I definitely plan return with my grandchildren, especially when the train is running. Compared to the old one, I think there is no contest, it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Since it first opened in 1860, Southport Pier has undergone many changes and tragedies.
Its fate has been subject to damage by fires and gales and a fatal accident, which occurred on the tramway in 1865.
During the war years the pier escaped being sectioned and was installed with searchlights to help to destroy enemy aircraft. When first built, the jetty had six stages of extension so that boatmen could dock at the pier-head at any stage of the tide. Steam liners could also land at the end of the pier and regularly took passengers across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man. Unfortunately, due to silting in the channel, even small boats became unable to reach the pier-head and by 1929, all boat services had ceased.
In its heyday, fearless showmen, who named themselves ‘professors’, also used to dive from the pier, performing daredevil stunts trying to outdo each other. The divers became local celebrities and attracted crowds of people eager to watch their dives, which they staged from highest points of the pier-head. Stuntman, Professor Osborne, specialised in cycling a bicycle off the end of the pier and diver Syd Smith, whose stuntname was Dare Devil
Tootzer, dived from the pier train whilst it was still in motion. Of all the fearless performers, the most impressive was the one-legged champion swimmer, Professor
Gadbury, who would regularly dive from the pier-head into a sea of flames.
It is unlikely that the 21st Century pier will attract such daredevil entertainers, however, local resident Steven Rhodes still enjoys fishing off the end of the pier, which he has has been doing since the 1960’s. He is impressed with the new design and said: -
“The width of the pier-head is ideal for fishing as it catches the current well; I’ve managed to catch some flounders and flatfish over the past months, which I take home and eat. Yet, I think the pier should be open earlier as it only opens at 11am and I think the council wasted money building so much of it overland. Instead, it would have been much better to build it further out to sea, which would have made fishing much easier.”
The new look pier may not be as impressive as it was in its heyday, however, it offers a different day out for visitors both young and old and is a historic landmark in Southport. Whether you wish to take a leisurely stroll down to the pier-head, fish for your dinner, spot wild birds or sit in the cafeteria staring out to sea, Southport Pier definitely offers something for everyone. During the summer the pier, it is open 11am-5pm, Monday to Sunday and 11am-9pm on Bank Holidays. In the winter, it is open 11am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Primary Care Trust Board Meeting
- THE next meeting of the Board of Southport and Formby Primary Care Trust
will take place on Wednesday March 5th, at 1.30pm at the Family Life Centre,
Ash Street, Southport and is open to the public.
- Topics will include:-
The Freedom of Information Act - how it will affect the NHS from 2005
Waiting Lists - no patient waits more than 12 months
Proposed Pilot for a Children's Trust in Sefton to provide improved,
integrated protection services.