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Cleethorpes’ Pier: 150 years and still standing

4:20 pm, Wednesday, 2nd August 2023 - 10 months ago


There is no finer example of Cleethorpes Victorian architecture than our beautiful seaside pier. For 150 years this iconic structure has stood strong against the elements, inspiring countless visitors to venture out to sea. But how much do you know of its history?

The Cleethorpes Promenade Pier Order was approved in 1867 and planning began on developing the town’s sea front. At the time, the pier cost of £10,000 which was raised by selling shares to local businessmen. It was designed by Messrs J.E. and A. Dowson of London and built by Head Wrightson of Thornaby on Tees

Cleethorpes pier opened on 4 August 1873, ten years after The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR) Company officially opened the line to Cleethorpes in 1863, having brought the railway to Grimsby in 1848. 

Imagine the day – the pier was officially opened by Mr A.W.T. Grant-Thorold, Chairman of the Cleethorpes Promenade Pier Company, and just on that first day, nearly 3,000 people paid to walk on the pier! Cleethorpes was now a thriving seaside resort, with the beautiful pier at its heart.

A concert hall was built in 1888 on the new pier head, and was home to a myriad of concerts and variety, but that was short-lived as a fire destroyed the hall in 1903. However, the benefits of the pier were well known, and a new pavilion building was built closer to the shoreline, along with a café at the head of the pier to attract visitors.

In the inter-war years, the pier was sold to the local council (Cleethorpes Borough Council), and in the early part of WW2, a large section of the pier walkway was deliberately destroyed to stop enemy invaders from using it as a landing stage if they made it between the Humber forts. Post-war compensation from Government wasn’t enough to restore the pier, so it remained at the length you see it today – one third of its original length.

Did you know – Most of the salvaged timber was used to build a new grandstand at Filbert Street, the former ground of Leicester City Football Club!

The current pavilion had around £50,000 spent on it in the 1960s, to make it one of the most modern pier buildings on the East Coast. Since then, the pier has been owned by many different people and organisations. It remained as a club and concert venue for many years, and in the 1970s featured family favourites such as The Nolan Sisters, Cannon and Ball, Tony Christie and Mike and Bernie Winters and was a key venue for Northern Soul.

In the 90s and 2000s, it’s the musical heydays of the previous century revived as the likes of Blur, Five, A1 and Billie Piper pack out the pier building.

After a major renovation in 2015, the pier reopened as a high-quality restaurant and tea room and was named national “Pier of the Year” in 2016 by The Piers Society

Later in 2016, Papa’s Fish & Chips, bought the pier, retaining the food theme, and created the world’s biggest fish and chip restaurant, which now attracts around 2 million visitors a year and employs more than 100 staff. Fish served at Papa’s is processed through Grimsby Dock and the potatoes which make the chips are grown in here in Lincolnshire.

So there you are. The pier has stood through war and fires, has seen musical acts from variety to Britpop, and has served food to millions of visitors over the years.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the pier, a free commemorative brochure and postcards have been produced. You can pick up your copy from The Resort Hub on Central Prom, Cleethorpes Library or Papa’s Fish & Chips on Cleethorpes Pier.

In September, there are two exhibitions to mark the special occasion:

  • A two-day exhibition taking place titled ‘A Prince, a Pier and a Castle’ at Cleethorpes Town Hall on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September, part of Heritage Open Days and supported by the Townscape Heritage Project
  • The following weekend, a new exhibition opens at the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre entitled ‘Tracks, Smacks and Sunhats’, which looks at the impact of the early years of the railway on Grimsby and Cleethorpes. It opens to the public from Friday 15 September.

Cllr Hayden Dawkins, Cabinet member for heritage, said: “The pier stands as a marker of great Victorian architecture and is one of the focal points of our resort. It’s rich history mirrors that of the whole resort, and we should be very proud to have it still standing!”

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