Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Short History of St. Anne’s Pier

There’s something about St. Anne’s pier that smacks of Pepperland; of orchestral quartets and manicured bowling greens, and salad days, and moustachioed gents with canes and pork pie hats and stripy blazers, and women dressed up to resemble meringues and pin cushions and stuff.
That’s probably because it hails from a golden era. Well…it was golden for some. The kids stuck up chimneys and the back-to-back grime-riddled, T.B. infested terraces of the working classes that were propping up the aristocracy probably didn’t consider it very ‘golden’. Nonetheless, the building itself has an unsurpassed charm, as the photograph below demonstrates:

How about a few facts, then? Well, originally it measured nine hundred and fourteen feet in length. (It’s not quite as long now. Piers have a nasty habit of catching fire round this neck of the woods and being cut off in their prime. And Saint Anne’s Pier puts the others to shame when it comes to horizontal infernos. Insurance fiddles? We never said that…and for reasons of not wanting to be sued, we’re not going to either.)
It originally cost £18,000 to build (which was quite a lot of money back then…to be honest, it’s quite a lot of money nowadays when you haven’t actually got any, like us), was designed by A. Mawson, commissioned by the Land and Building Company Ltd, and was opened by Lord Stanley (one of my own ancestors, although via a route circuitous enough to ensure that I didn’t reap any financial benefits from such an aristocratic legacy) in 1885.
In 1904 a 1,000 seat 'Moorish' pavilion was added, along with several ornamented kiosks and the mock-Tudor entrance that still stands to this day, complete with imitation wooden beams and gables. (Doesn’t seem quite so glamerous now, does it?)
Six years later (that’s in 1910 if your mathematics aren’t very good) the Floral Hall completed the construction at the pier’s sticky-out end, where it remained until destroyed, perhaps not surprisingly, by fire in 1982. (Believe it or not the pier has suffered three major fires in its lifetime…more of which later.)
What…you want an older photograph of it? Fair enough…we always try to oblige.

To quote from one of the websites devoted to the pier’s history (probably at the risk of infringing copyright, but we’ve gone beyond caring now): “The whole ensemble provided a select rendezvous for the town’s residents and visiting clientele, an oasis of potted palms and tinkling teacups, all to the strains of a light orchestra. The pier facilities have played host to many famous performers including Gracie Fields, George Formby, Rus Conway and Bob Monkhouse.” (All of whom, no doubt, kept the pier’s heritage alive by sticking rigidly to their ancient historic jokes and antiquated vaudeville acts.)
In 1954 an amusement arcade was added to the entrance, and in 1962 the pier was bought by the ‘Amalgamated Investment & Property Company’ for the sum of £240,000.

But let’s get back to those fires. In 1959 the first of several conflagrations damaged the ‘children’s area’. In 1974 fire destroyed the recently refurbished Moorish Pavilion, the Floral Hall and the jetty. An application was made to the council to partly demolish the end of the pier, but was refused, and the owners subsequently went bankrupt. (We’re not saying anything without our lawyers present.) Not that it mattered, because in 1982 the bit that the previous owners had wanted to pull down was destroyed by yet another inferno anyway, along with the Floral Hall (again), foreshortening the pier to six hundred feet.
One last modern-day photograph, then? Okay…don’t ask me to explain what’s going on with this one. Michelle took it and I reckon she was in one of her ‘arty’ moods:


Jayne said...

Great photos and article.
So, I'm guessing there weren't many tackle boxes and rods being flung, willy nilly, by the genteel ladies?

Brian Hughes said...


Is it just me, or has there been an upsurge in innuendoes and Carry On style comments around this board of late?

Jayne said...


Brian Hughes said...

Ah...must be just me then. I've been reading too many of Phil Barker's cheeky Blackpool Postcards recently. I'm starting to read double entendres into everything. Makes note to self: 'Must go and read some proper literature again!'

Ozfemme said...

I think it would have been the gentlemen flinging the rod and tackle around because gentlewomen weren't encouraged to fish.

But the article did mention "the clientele" - usually clientele hanging around a jetty means something quite different here.

Feral Beast said...

I like it Brian, lets just hope shes not in one of those arty modes again.

Brian Hughes said...

"...usually clientele hanging around a jetty means something quite different here."

The trawlers have come back home and the fishermen are flogging off the whiting at knock down prices, Bella?

Mr. Beast,

I always try to encourage Michelle when she's in one of her arty moods. Trust's a lot better than her being in one of her 'I've just woken up and I haven't had a decent cup of coffee yet' moods, any day...

JahTeh said...

I like the old style pier. A bit like the Brighton Pavillion only a bit north and further west.

JahTeh said...

You will note the temptation to innuendo away was resisted.

Brian Hughes said...

And a bit less oniony.

(Temptation to resist innuendoes noted, Missus...oh er...)