140 years of Clacton Pier

The Pier was officially opened on 27th July 1871 when the SS ‘Albert Edward’ called, bringing with it a party of directors from Woolwich Steam Packet Company and around 200 guests. When it opened it was just 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide.

Clacton Pier was originally built mainly as a landing platform, a jetty to accommodate the movement of manufactured goods, products and many other items. They thought that some passengers may visit but the owners could not have dreamt of such an overwhelming footfall. With The Piers and Promenade offering a new type of day out at the sea Victorians were simply flocking to Clacton. It was soon realised, as the numbers continued to grow, that there was money to be made from the holidaymakers. Word spread about this tourist hot spot so buildings and shelters were slowly added.

The first major alterations to the Pier took place In1893, it was lengthened to 1,180 feet and a theatre and the Pier Pavilion (later called the Jolly Roger), was built by architects Kinipple & Jaffrey at the sea end.

During the First World War, in around 1922 Ernest Kingsman purchased the Pier after it had gone into administration and set about turning the Pier into a leisure and entertainment centre. By the outbreak of the Second World War he had invested around a quarter of a million pounds into The Pier’s redevelopment. Building the Ocean Theatre, the Children’s Theatre, the Blue Lagoon Dance Hall. the Crystal Casino an open air swimming pool, open air stage for the Ramblas Concert Party and the Steel Stella roller coaster (which was later destroyed by a fire in 1973). During the war the pier was damaged by enemy action and was also breached to prevent Its use by an Invasion force. By now the Pier had helped to establish Clacton as one of the leading seaside resorts in the country.

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By 1971 the pier was under the control of Barney Kingsman (Earnest Kingsman’s Son) and had fallen a little behind with the times, with visitor numbers falling the decision was made to sell the Pier and it was in this same year that it was sold privately to Mr Michael Goss. The Goss family were no stranger to seaside pleasure Piers and already had the majority share in neighbouring Walton Pier, Mr Goss ran the pier as a successful amusement centre until he eventually grew frustrated with the lack of support from the local authority and their understanding of what was required to bring new visitors to the town and so decided it was time to sell up and retire.

August 1981 see’s local businessmen Francis McGinty, John Treadwell, Denis McGinty and David Howe take ownership of the pier from Michael Goss with plans for a major redevelopment of the Pier including the possibility of a bar and disco, reintroduction of the dolphins to the dolphinarium and an upgrade of the pier ride offering.

The proceeding years saw major additions to the pier at varying stages including the Whirlwind roller coaster, a Circus, Ice rink and a Roller Rink and even a water slide, unfortunately not all of the additions were a success and the pier company struggled financially on a couple of occasions until eventually in around 1993 the then operating company went into receivership which is where it remained for around about one year.

Towards the end of 1994 a local business family. The Harrisons, bought the pier and embarked on a refurbishment programme that would see most of the Pier rides upgraded and the whole pier cosmetically improved, the Harrisons ran a successful operation at the pier until they made their decision to exit the leisure industry and sell the pier to the current owners with the deal completing in March 2009.

Since the takeover “The Clacton Pier Company” has been steadily investing in the Pier in an attempt to restore the pier to its former glory and in the last two years since the takeover locals, day trippers and holiday makers alike will have seen a gradual upgrading of the piers facility’s taking place. The former Cockney Pride pub has seen a total redevelopment and now stands proudly on the front of the pier as the Boardwalk Bar & Grill, the Casino Royal amusement hall has been completely upgraded and now houses all of the latest in slot machine equipment, new rides and guest rides have been introduced, probably most noticeably the traditional Helter Skelter and the all new Stella’s Revenge Roller Coaster, the pier neck has seen the addition of a new adventure golf facility and a two new eatery’s; The Ocean Diner and Fish and Chips at the Pier have recently been opened. Recently opened is the new Lanes 10 Pin Bowling Lounge and Bar which is a spectacular addition to the pier.

Heres to the next 140 years…

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