Support for Restoration Grows
In the subsequent months, it became evident to local people that the Pier would not be repaired without a concerted effort to make things happen. Both the Pier Preservation Trust and the Pier Supporters Club were formed in 1972. Meanwhile the pierhead (now an island) continued to deteriorate. Its’ only visitors were seagulls and local council official Roy Lovelock who would visit the structure periodically in order to reset the tidal measurement equipment still in situ on the decaying landing stage.
Meanwhile the owners, Clevedon Urban District Council, were becoming increasingly concerned that the structure posed a danger to shipping. It was clear that there was a growing appetite to demolish what was left of the Pier rather than waste time on the seemingly hopeless task of restoring it.
As political pressure began to mount, so did the determination of many local people who wanted to see the Pier saved. Foremost amongst this group were Mike Hedger, Peter Cowley and Tom Foden. A year after the initial collapse Mike used his boat to get access to the pierhead at high tide. He and Peter erected a 3ft by 18ft hardboard banner on the gable end of the derelict dancehall whilst Tom kept watch on the foreshore. The banner had been prepared in 3 sections in Mike’s garage and transported to the seafront in his car. Some 26 years later, at the reopening of the Pier in 1998, Sir Charles Elton identified this moment as the point when the public mood swung towards restoration of the Pier.
Death Sentence & Reprieve
The efforts of Tom, Mike and Peter along with active championing by the Trust and the Supporters Club failed to convince Woodspring District Council to commit funds towards a restoration and in the summer of 1979 the Council voted to demolish the Pier.
The decision caused consternation and a Public Inquiry was called in March 1980 the Preservation Trust engaged Paul Chadd, Q.C., a Bristol barrister, to present the Trust’s case.
Paul adopted a ‘hearts and minds’ line of attack. Firstly he presented the large number of depositions received in favour of saving the beautiful and historic structure. One of these was voiced by the then Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman. In a recorded message Sir John spoke of “Clevedon being the most beautiful pier in England” He said that demolition would be a tragedy” and that “Clevedon without its’ Pier would be like a diamond with a flaw”.
Secondly Paul Chadd presented the results of an earlier feasibility study completed before the Inquiry. Funded by the Pier Preservation Trust, under pressure from Mike Allman (latterly Chairman of the Trust but at this point a new Trustee), Keith Mallory (architect) and Richard Fenton (engineer), this showed how the pier could be restored, with proper costings. Known as the Pier Technical Group, this small body supplied extensive supporting documentation to the Inquiry.
The arguments held sway and supporters of the pier were jubilant when judgment was given in their favour. The Technical Group formed a new Trust which was joined by Lady Elton, Mike Hedger and John Topham. This was to be a turning point in the history of Clevedon Pier. Along with the highly active Clevedon Pier Supporter’s Club lead by personalities such as Alan and Hilary Tinkling, Hilda Baker, Austin and Margaret Davis, and Ralph and Irene Fryer the vast majority of townsfolk in Clevedon were overjoyed that the Pier would be saved.
Next: The Pier comes back to life