Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fleetwood Pier: From Cradle to Cremation

We all saw its demise on the news. Well, the British readers of this board saw its demise on the news at any rate. Was it vandals? Was it an un-insurance scam so that it’s current owner could get round the building laws in the historic end of Fleetwood and erect his previously declined luxury apartments? Was it kids arson around? Was it one of the numerous pigeons that used to roost in the struts underneath spontaneously combusting?
Whatever it was that caused the fire, Fleetwood Pier is now no more. So here’s our obituary to it, with accompanying photographs.
There it is look, all fresh and grey faced.
Yes, believe it or not, that’s the entrance to Fleetwood Pier back in the good old days when there wasn’t quite so much of it. (Although, obviously there’s even less of it now…but you know what I mean.) Not much more than a couple of seafront shelters with ambition really.

Despite the fact that the pier was Edwardian, originally it was known as ‘Victoria Pier’. It was built by Gradwell’s of Barrow in 1910, measured five hundred feet in length, and had an additional two hundred feet worth of wooden jetty stuck on the end of it for steamers to berth against.

Those were the halcyon days of men in boaters, women in bustles and cod-heads with jobs.

Let’s have another photograph, this time showing the structure maturing into the pot bellied adolescent that had all the historians who’d conveniently overlooked its modern rebuild in floods of tears recently.
Now anybody reading this who’s visited the pier in recent years might be thinking, “Did it really look like that? For some reason my recollection of it was as a boarded up white plastic box on rusted stilts, all very cubist and unpleasant and stuff.” Well, yes it really was that grand…originally.
However, true to the nature of Fylde Coast piers, on August 25th 1952 a fire started in the cinema and, helped by a strong westerly wind, rapidly spread to the rest of the structure. Eight fire engines were called to the scene but couldn’t control the blaze.

Unfortunately, unlike the more recent inferno, nobody was on hand to capture the event on film.
The following day, however, the local children (also true to form) went rummaging amongst the charred and smouldering ruins for ‘strings of coins welded together by the intense heat’.
But we’re wandering from the point. Didn’t it look grand before it was gutted?
The architect of the original pier was Mr Lumb of Blackpool. Following the blaze of 1952 (the flames of which were impressive enough to be seen twenty miles away, apparently) the pier remained in a state of abandonment until 1958, when, once again, it reopened its doors to the public.
Then, in 1967, the pier was overhauled into the structure we’d recognise today…or rather yesterday…all of which explains the footage of the Edwardian snug used by the BBC that jarred so much with people’s memories.

For all that, however, and the fact that it had been closed and almost derelict for at least two years, it was still a shame to see it go. In the early hours of…whenever it was…a few weeks ago…can’t remember the actual date now…whatever the case, in the early hours, once again the pier caught fire.

By mid afternoon it was almost completely destroyed, as Michelle’s photograph below demonstrates.
That’s one overdone pizza bar.
Forty-eight hours later and the bulldozers moved in for the final chucker.

Fleetwood Pier. 1910 to 2008. Her ashes are now scattered by force ten gales to the four corners of Morecambe Bay.

15 comments:

RVB said...

We all saw its demise on the news.

Yes, Sarah Palin isn't that popular. Thankfully.

For some reason my recollection of it was as a boarded up white plastic box on rusted stilts, all very cubist and unpleasant and stuff.

I don't think there's anything wrong with cubes, rusted stilts or white plastic boxes - although it depends on how it fits into the local environment.

Brian Hughes said...

Reuben,

In the Fleetwood environment, unless said cube contains a local chav, two tons of lead and has been chucked into Lune Deeps wrapped up in chains, it doesn't really fit at all.

Jayne said...

It was really quite sweet, originally.
Sad to know it's not going to be replaced, even if just for the local tourism industry.
Hope hideous apartments don't burst forth after all.

RVB said...

Local? I thought CHAVs were univeral.

Andrew said...

'Tis unfortunate but I can't get past an architect in Blackpool. The Blackpool professional population has clearly changed.

colin said...

If we are going to build on this site it has to be the original pier from 1910. Lets put a bit of class back into Fleetwood and not Blower glass.

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

There's a lot of local opposition to any hideous new apartments. They would be completely out of character with the rest of the surroundings and I just hope nobody in the planning department has any fanciful ideas along the lines of, "Well, when Turner painted his haystacks nobody liked 'em either..."

Reuben,

Chavs are international. Unfortunately Fleetwood pier wasn't...which was probably why the place went under. Vote Hughes at the next election, "Offering Local Solutions for Local Problems."

Andrew,

I'm not sure Blackpool has a professional population any more.

Colin,

I'm one hundred per cent behind you on that, at least as far as the exterior goes. I realise that piers simply being piers just don't attract the crowds nowadays like they once did. However, I'm sure with a bit of ingenuity, somebody somewhere could come up with an idea (a cinema complex, perhaps, or something else that would be popular) that could be housed within a structure built to the original Edwardian plans.

John said...

Sad, for sure. Hopefully something nice will replace it by the time I get over there, and hopefully someone will remmeber to put up a nice bronze plaque in the original pier's memory.

As for piers not being popular, who doesn't like to stand with the salty breeze in their faces and stare off into a horizon of possibilities? The problem is, we don't always have the time to enjoy such things these days, but it's sure nice to know they're there when you need 'em!

I can't comment further, not being a local, but if America is used as an example, prime real estate and beautiful views will go to the wealthy few, with a high fence and cctv to keep the rest of us out.

Bugger that, I say. Fight the good fight, and protest those apartments! Chain yourself to a seagull if you have to, but don't let it happen!

Maybe the Fleetwood Gazzette will sponsor a contest so school kids can design a nice new pier? The council will eat that up, wouldn't they?

Good luck, and Good Night, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

"...who doesn't like to stand with the salty breeze in their faces and stare off into a horizon of possibilities?"

Or in Fleetwood's case, John, the Cumbrian Mountains on the other side of Morecambe Bay.

"The council will eat that up, wouldn't they?"

Probably not. Wyre Borough Council's mainly Tory, whilst Fleetwood is a Labour voting town. As a result, places like Poulton and other Tory voting centres get all the money from the council tax...allegedly. You never know though, we might have our own council again shortly and then...well, who knows?

John said...

Brian,

Might you be running for Council, then? That's a bit of work, innit?

Thanks to you, I had a nightmare that I was on a pier in England last night, watching a boat sink and peopl egoing under. Everyone stood around watching, but not helping, so I called 911 on my cell phone, but noone answered.

Which leads me to ask, what IS the emergency number over there? If I ever needed help in the UK, do I dial 911 or something else?

Anyway, good luck with the election. I volunteer to make posters for you, but someone else has to staple them to the phone poles.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

I've got enough to do with the archaeology stuff, let alone stand for council (although, I ought to say, I have actually been asked).

The emergency number over here is 999. (It harks back to the days of the old circular dial public telephones...the 9 was the easiest number to find in the dark being it next to the metal restrainer.) I believe that dialing 911 works as well nowadays though.


"Thanks to you, I had a nightmare..."

Don't thank me...I didn't burn the pier down.

John said...

Brian,
Thanks for the 411 on the 999. Appreciated.

Tell your Mum that I agree you should run for Coucil. Noone should be in politics who wants to be...

As for the nightmare, i ain't blaming you, but i find it odd that I should be standing on a pier in England watching people drown on the same day that I read about a pier burning down in Fleetwood. I'm sure the Mind Doctors could explain that one.

Speaking of Doctors, i finally saw Torchwood II, and loved it. Now I can't wait to see WHO IV.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

"...i finally saw Torchwood II, and loved it..."

I suppose somebody has to otherwise they wouldn't keep making it.

JahTeh said...

That was a really pretty little pier which morphed into something horrible. Keep us posted about the next monstrosity they want to build there.

Brian Hughes said...

Witchy,

Hopefully they'll just leave it alone now and let us have the beach back.