The Old Pier - Minehead

Looking North from the Lifeboat Station you will see a decaying hulk of concrete and steel, the structure is all that remains of Minehead’s Pier. Completed in 1901 it served as a terminal for the passenger vessels that ferried people around the various ports of the Bristol channel providing a vital passenger transport hub for the area and it played an important part in the town’s development as a holiday destination. It also enabled the locals and visitors alike to take in the brisk sea air as they perambulated back and forth along its length.

A rare aerial shot of Mineheads Pier, the towns gas supply tank and gas works buildings can be seen on the right of the photograph.

My great uncle Francais served as Pier master for a time in the 1940’s, at the outbreak of World War 2 the pier came under scrutiny after two 9 inch naval guns where installed on Minehead Harbour. At the time it was thought that the pier would obstruct the guns line of fire - so it was demolished and the metal work shipped to Newport in south wales where it remained and eventually all but rusted away. Ironically the guns where only fired a handful of times in practice as the shock produced was found to have damaged the harbour wall so they lay silent for the rest of war.

The house like building in the centre of the photo were used to disguise the two 9 inch naval guns on Minehead Harbour.

At low water on the biggest of the spring tides you can walk around the back of the structure, as youngsters we would go out armed with gaffs in order to tease out the conger eels that sheltered in its interior. One particular occasion 3 of my friends anchored a fishing boat uptide of it and let they’re lines drop back as close as possible to the wreckage. The end result was several congers up to 45lb being caught, on one low water foray one of us spotted a pair of antennae moving through the shallows on the inside of the pier which turned out to be a lobster - after a chase through the murky water the lobster avoided capture and we just ended up very wet and disappointed. A word of caution if anyone does decide to venture out to view the pier at low water there are patches of soft blue clay in which you can get stuck so be careful.

Latterly there have been a couple of efforts to bring it back to life and rebuild the pier but neither have come to fruition - sadly. Whether the victorian piers still hold the same interest now as they did when they were built is a matter for discussion, many think it would work as a terminal for a more modern day ferry service to bring holiday makers over from South Wales to Butlins holiday camp. It would certainly improve the carbon footprint and alleviate a lot of congestion from the road network. A new pier would also prove very useful to the local charter boats enabling them to operate at most states of the tide - therefore improving trade and employment opportunities.

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