In March 1980, almost ten years after two spans of Clevedon Pier had collapsed into the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel, there was an air of anticipation at the Clevedon Community Centre. After three days of passionate debate the local community were about to hear the results of a Public Inquiry which would determine whether Woodspring District Council would be able to follow through on their plan to demolish the Pier. When the outcome was announced – and it became clear that the Pier would be saved – members of the Pier Supporters Club and the Pier Preservation Trust were ecstatic. Many hard miles lay ahead but the immediate threat of demolition was gone.
With the ground work by the local community done, it fell to three ‘star performers’ to win the argument at the Inquiry. The first was Paul Chadd QC, the barrister appointed by the Clevedon Pier Preservation Trust. He took a ‘hearts and minds’ approach, combining dispositions from local people with compelling technical evidence. The second was Sir John Betjeman. Sir John had first expressed his feelings towards Clevedon in his book First and Last Loves published in 1952. Sadly he was unable to attend the Inquiry in person because of ill health – however he sent an audio recording. Of Clevedon Pier he said:
It recalls a painting by Turner, or an etching by Whistler or Sickert, or even a Japanese print. It is fitting that such an attractive structure as this is the foreground to gabled Victorian villas and makes a unique gem on the coast. Without its Pier, Clevedon would be a diamond with a flaw.
The third omnipresent star performer was inanimate and silent – but it was a silence that spoke volumes – a large scale model of the Pier. It had been commissioned by the Inquiry, and Tony Wring, a long-time campaigner for the restoration of the Pier, had found the man for the job. David Carruthers, who had previously made a scale model of the Royal Yacht Britannia for the Queen, was an inspired choice. The model that he constructed was truly spectacular – technically perfect and beautiful to look at.
The model, which is now in the care of the Clevedon Pier & Heritage Trust Archive is normally displayed in the foyer of the North Somerset Council offices at Castlewood, Clevedon. However, to mark the start of the campaign to save Clevedon Pier it will be ‘coming home’ and will be available for viewing in the space normally occupied by the Pier’s Glass Box restaurant from Friday 16th to Sunday the 18th October.