Piers and Public Health

For centuries the British coastline, and piers like our own at Clevedon, have been seen as important economic, social and health resources and nowadays, the pleasure of enjoying a nostalgic, heritage experience is added into that mix.   

Image: Wikipedia

Richard Russell, an 18th century physician, (photo above) is generally attributed with promoting the idea of sea water and the seaside as being ‘good’ for us.  George III, bathed at Weymouth and his son George IV favoured Brighton and fashionable society followed their lead. The idea that a trip to the seaside was good for public health put down deep roots in the national consciousness.   Seaside towns and villages capitalized on this.  They advertised that coming to the seaside and having a walk on a pier, if they had one, was good for you as well as being fun and, if you were one of the lucky Victorians with enough cash, you could go further afield by taking a boat trip from the pier.  Clevedon Pier was built with precisely this in mind.  In 1834, Clevedon was advertising itself as “an unrivalled watering place” (Bristol Mirror) and by the late 19th century was a buzzing hub for swimming, boating and taking healthy walks along the pier. (Images below:Private Collection).

However, the link between piers and public health hasn’t always been a rosy one.  John Hassan in his study ‘The Seaside, Health and The Environment in England and Wales since 1800’ discusses the impact of early epidemics and how seaside resorts became seen has part of the problem as well as the solution.  He says,  “…resorts had given the impression that they radiated good health, but in the aftermath of cholera epidemics in the 1830s and 1840s Devon resorts were driven to consider the implementation of costly public health improvements…..”   Going to the seaside, bathing, boating and walking on the pier ironically became both a good thing and a not so good thing. 

Now, in May 2020, the world is caught up in the Covid-19 epidemic and people are being asked to do two things and the irony for Clevedon Pier is back. Firstly, the population is asked to stay indoors and practice ‘social isolation’ and secondly, to get at least one hours exercise a day out of doors and in the fresh air to maintain good health.  During the Covid-19 epidemic, just when people would love to take their one hour of exercise having a health-giving walk on Clevedon Pier, the pier has had to take its public health duties seriously and shut down during one of the biggest public health crisis ever faced in the United Kingdom.  It is, as we write, quiet, closed and empty and, sadly, at risk. A risk you might be able to help with.

The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust is looking to raise £10k per month to help plug the c£70,000 loss in visitor income it would normally have expected during the April – June period. The Archive is full of photos, documents and business records which show how over the 150 plus years the pier has been in existence the challenge of keeping such a fragile and beautiful piece of architecture maintained and repaired is never ending and expensive. Even though the pier is closed during the 2020 ‘Lockdown’ the weather isn’t and the damage caused by the tides, storms and sea air is always with us. Thanks to peoples’ hard work and generosity the pier has always come through its trials. The ‘call-to-action’ to save the pier in 2020 is the…..

Clevedon Pier Needs You Campaign

Click On or follow this link to find out how you can help https://clevedonpier.co.uk/2020/04/03/clevedon-pier-needs-you/


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