This is the Britannia Pier at Great Yarmouth which has had a very chequered history,
suffering a series of disasters over the years.. The original pier was built in 1858
at a cost of £6,000 but, just one year later, was partially demolished by a schooner
which reduced it’s length by around 50 feet. In 1868 it suffered yet another collision
which removed more of the structure. In 1901 the original wooden pier was replaced
by a new one, constructed out of steel and wood, and the grand 2500 seat pavillion
was built, works which cost over £60,000. Officially opened in 1902, the pier attracted
huge crowds until, in 1909, it was sadly destroyed by fire. A replacement was built,
opening in 1910, but this building suffered the same fate just 4 years later when
it too burnt to the ground. The fire was believed to have been started deliberately
and it was rumoured locally to have been the work of suffragettes! A third pavilion
was built along with a new ballroom in 1933 and managed to avoid damage during the
heavy bombing raids which Yarmouth suffered during WW2, although a hole was blown
in the pier decking in 1940 as a precaution to prevent the enemy landing. In 1954
the pier and buildings were destroyed by yet another fire. The fourth pavilion was
opened in 1958 and is the one which survives to this day.
Another photograph looking down over Britannia Pier and towards the Wellington Pier.
The land in the far distance is now occupied by the famous Pleasure Beach. A huge
banner on the side of the Britannia Pier is advertising an appearance by the professional
wrestler George Hackenschmidt who was born in Estonia. George, nicknamed “The Russian
Lion”, was a real celebrity of his time as wrestling was the major sport of the Edwardian
era, and he drew huge crowds to his tournaments which were held all over the world.
It is also worthy to note that this and the previous photograph were taken from the
Revolving Observation Tower which had opened on Marine Parade in 1897 and was a remarkable
feat of engineering in it’s day. After paying the admission fee, one would walk onto
a platform which would slowly rise in a corkscrew fashion over 130 feet into the
air - from the description, it sounds like a giant nut and bolt! Once at the top
you were rewarded with magnificent views out to sea, across the town and inland over
Broadland. It was said that on a clear day you could see the spire of Norwich Cathedral.
The tower was demolished at the outbreak of WW2 as part of the Governments requisitioning
of metal for the war effort.
The beach and Promenade at Gorleston in 1904. This whole area of the seafront was
remodelled over a five year period between 1898 and 1903 by the borough surveyor
J.W. Cockrill. The beach gardens were laid out, the cliffside was grassed, Marine
Parade was extended and the shops on the Promenade were built. A ravine was cut into
the cliff with a bridge across the top and ornate “Roman Shelters” were constructed.
Many new hotels and other buildings were also erected. Straight ahead, in the centre
of the picture, you can see the Pier Hotel which was completed in 1897 and replaced
the Hope and Anchor fishermen's pub which had stood on that spot. In the background
on the left is the Pavillion Theatre which was opened in 1901.
Another photograph of the Pier Hotel and beach . The railway had arrived at Gorleston
in 1903, bringing even more visitors to this already popular seaside resort. It
was said that the population doubled over the August Bank Holiday and that “No Vacancies”
signs were to be seen in every hotel and boarding house window.
This magnificent building was the Cliff Hotel which opened on the seafront at Gorleston
in 1898. Sadly it was burnt to the ground after a fire on Boxing Day in 1915.
The Cliff Hotel, the Promenade shops and the beach donkies at Gorleston in 1904.
Winifred Shields and her cousin Bob enjoy a donkey ride on Gorleston beach.
Another paddle steamer, as yet unidentified, entering the harbour at Gorleston. This
is a much smaller vessel than The Walton Belle, and was probably operating day trips
out of Great Yarmouth.