The Pier Flagstaff

Having a flagstaff on the end of the pier was part of the earliest plans. In June 1863, plans were submitted to the Board of Trade for approval and in 1864, the Clevedon Pier Order was passed allowing the building of a pier.  As a structure jutting into the sea consideration had to be given to the safety of ships moving up and down the Bristol Channel.  By May 28th 1867, the Board of Trade approved the plans for the new Clevedon pier. They included a drawing of a large and very visible flagstaff at the end of the pier. Photo 1.

Photo 1: Close up of flagstaff detail. 1863 drawings submitted to Board of Trade. Held in a private collection. Image: Clevedon Pier Digital Archive Collection

The Pier Archive also holds a small, pencil drawing of the proposed flagstaff – provenance and date unknown – but probably nearer to 1869.  It gives the dimensions of the proposed new flagstaff as being 56’ high and 16’ across with a drawing of a flag on top. The flag is intriguing. It shows the letters C – P – C representing the Clevedon Pier Company quartered with the Union Jack. Photo 2. Its not known if such a flag was ever commissioned or used on the end of the pier.

Photo 2: Small pencil detail of proposed flagstaff on end of pier circa 1869. Provenance: Unknown Image: Clevedon Pier Archive Digital Collection

When Clevedon Pier was officially opened in 1869, the flagstaff was taking its prominent role on the end of the new pier. It can clearly be seen in an engraving of the new pier from the time made by Newman & Co of Watling Street in London and entitled The New Pier Clevedon. Photo 3.

Photo 3: Newman & Co etching of Clevedon Pier circa 1869 Image:Jane Lilly

The Pier Archive also holds a very small but exquisitely beautiful glass paperweight containing a hand painted image of the pier including the flagstaff at the end. Photo 4 shows the paperweight held at an angle to enable the viewer to see the flagstaff with its wonderful bright red flag. Also note the archivist’s thumb for scale.

Photo 4: Glass papereweight showing flagstaff at end of pier circa 1870.
Provenance: Private Donor Image: Clevedon Pier Digital Archive

Neither of the flagstaffs in Photos 3 and 4 look quite like how the flagstaff was intended in the original drawings. Zooming in on Photo 3 gives an idea of how it must have looked at the time, unless Mr Newman of Watling Street’s engravers employed too much artistic licence. Photo 3A.

Photo 3A. Close up of flagstaff in Newman’s engraving 1869.

The flagstaff was used on the pier head until its rebuilding in 1893, after which time it was removed and set up by the thrifty Local Board of Health on one of the points along the coast of Clevedon, by the Bandstand near the Green Beach. The Cotterell family, who lived in Coleridge Road at that time, used to compile and post a newsletter to other family members and their June 1894 letter reported: ‘The flagstaff that was on the pier at Clevedon is now fixed near the Green Beach’. This part of the Clevedon seafront was known for many years as Flagstaff Point and the Copse Road Chapel held their children’s Sunday services beside it for many years. Photo 5.

Photo 5. Copse Road Chapel Special Service for children held around the base of the old flagstaff on Flagstaff Point, Green Beach. Image: Jane Lilly

At some point, a new flagstaff was placed at the end of the pier and Ralph Fryer, long time chairman of the Clevedon Piers Supporters Club, is fondly remembered for always making sure the flag was raised every time a boat came into the pierhead. Photo 6 shows Ralph raising the Union Jack as the famous paddle steamer The Waverley – funnels just visible in the background – is sitting alongside. This flagstaff was lost off the end of the pier during a very bad storm but Ralph managed to rescue the flagstaff and carried it home for safekeeping to his garden where it stood for many years.

Photo 6 Ralph Fryer raising a union flag on the flagstaff. Date unknown. Image: Jane Lilly

And like the very best of stories the story of the Clevedon Pier Flagstaff has a happy ending because, one day, after its long and adventurous life the pier flagstaff finally ‘came home’. When Ralph Fryer passed away his family decided to donate the old flagstaff to the Pier Archive. Ralph’s daughter Jackie and hubby Steve carried the flagstaff down to the seafront where it was stored for a short time at Waterloo House. It was decided to give the flagstaff a permanent new home. Now it can be seen in Pier Copse just above the Pier Ice Cream kiosk opposite the Pier Tollhouse. And it is still flying a flag – the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust flag. Photo 7.

Photo 7: The Clevedon Pier Flagstaff proudly flying the Clevedon Pier Flag in Pier Copse park. Image: Bette Baldwin

We’d love to hear your stories or see your photos, newsclippings etc. that you might have about the Clevedon Pier Flagstaff and its rich and varied history. If you have anything to share please contact:

Special thanks to Jane Lilly for help with compiling this story.

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