The building of Britain’s seaside piers was a direct legacy of the industrial revolution. The fruits of that revolution, often harshly exacted and only slowly shared, were wealth, leisure and new demands for entertainment and travel.
Until the Severn Tunnel was opened in 1886, Brunel’s Great Western railway line from London to South Wales took the ‘Great Way Round’ (via Swindon and Gloucester) – Clevedon’s closeness to the main line from London to Bristol and the South-West, and the opening of the branch line to Clevedon from Yatton in 1847 offered the exciting possibility of a faster route to South Wales by steamer from a pier at Clevedon. Such a scheme would supplement the existing route between New Passage and Portskewett which had been operating further upstream since 1863.
A pier for Clevedon had been under consideration for some time. Indeed a partly constructed structure had been destroyed by high winds and heavy seas in November 1837. However the idea was revived and on a Wednesday in November 1866, a meeting took place at the Public Hall, Clevedon. A proposed scheme for a pier was accepted and The Clevedon Pier Company was formed, the board of directors made up of Sir Arthur Elton, Richard Godwin, Samuel Ransford and John Maynard. By July 1867 work had begun.
The first physical sign of the pier was a buoy bobbing 800 feet out into the channel. It had been placed there by Mr James Bullock, a resident mariner, under instructions from Mr Charles Lempriere, Shairman oif the Aberystwyth and Tynmouth Pier Company. On the basis of this survey it was suggested that Clevedon’s pier should be 840 feet long.
The actual construction work was entrusted to Hamilton’s Windsor Iron Works of Liverpool. Two engineers, John William Grover and Richard Ward were engaged. They opted for an openwork structure, providing minimum resistance to the wind and waves. A marriage of beauty, utility and economy.