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Victoria Pier, Colwyn Bay
Colwyn Bay, Conwy, Wales, UK
Victoria Pier, Colwyn Bay
associated engineer
Maynall & Littlewood
date  1899 - 1900, opened 1st June 1900
era  Victorian  |  category  Pier, seaside  |  reference  SH852792
ICE reference number  HEW 1285
photo  © Graham Taylor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Victoria Pier in Colwyn Bay is one of the last late-19th century seaside piers. Located on the north coast of Wales, it has a traditional cast iron substructure, with steel deck beams. Now in a dangerously poor state of repair, the Grade II listed pier has been closed to the public for many years. Its future is uncertain, hovering between demolition and restoration.
Manchester engineers Maynall & Littlewood designed this pier on the Promenade at Colwyn Bay for the Victoria Pier Company. Unlike others on the Welsh coast, it was intended as an entertainment venue rather than a landing point for passenger ships. When completed it was just 96.3m long.
In common with other seaside piers of the period, it is founded on cast iron screw piles, the first of which was installed on 1st June 1899. The piles carry cylindrical cast iron columns of 286-311mm diameter braced horizontally with bullhead rails, and diagonally with 25-38mm diameter iron tie bars fixed to collars, tensioned by turnbuckles. The columns support 1.5m deep steel deck girders of open lattice construction, topped by timber planking.
The promenade deck is generally 12.2m wide with rows of three equally spaced columns at 13.7m centres. On the east side, the pier widens to 38.1m over a length of 59.4m to accommodate a pavilion. The original timber building had seating for 2,500 people and featured operatic and ballet performances. Both pier and pavilion were lit by electricity.
In 1903, the pier was extended seawards to its present length of 228.6m. The deck widens slightly at the pierhead. Construction is similar to the landward section of the pier, except that the rows of columns are set at 12.2m centres. In 1916-7, a 600-seat theatre for light entertainment was constructed on the pierhead.
In 1922, a fire destroyed the original pavilion. The following year, Colwyn Bay Urban District Council bought the pier and constructed a new pavilion on the site of the first.
In 1933, the second pavilion and the pierhead theatre were destroyed in separate fires, after which strengthening girders were added to the deck. A third pavilion opened on 8th May 1934, and still stands. Every effort was made to ensure that it was fireproof. The steel frame and concrete construction used lightweight pumice aggregates, with floor and ceiling were protected by covered asbestos sheeting. The Art Deco interior is decorated with murals painted by the official war artist Eric Ravilious (1903-42).
Substantial replacement of the corroded steel deck girders has been carried out in two phases ó in 1954 and from 1964 onwards. A large proportion of the timber decking was relaid in hardwood around 1960.
In 1964, a survey of the structure revealed that the columns had a metal thickness of 24-29mm. A bituminous coating had protected the lattice beams and upper parts of the columns but the lower column sections were encrusted with marine growth. Some of the tie bars had been replaced by channel sections, possibly in 1954.
In 1968, the local authority sold the pier to Trust Houses Forte Ltd. During the 1970s, under the new owners, the original toll booths and entrance gates were removed and a new amusement arcade constructed. The pier was Grade II listed in August 1975. The following year, Trust Houses Forte applied to demolish its seaward end but was refused permission by Colwyn Borough Council.
The pier was sold to Parker Leisure Holdings Ltd in 1979, but its condition continued to deteriorate. In 1987, the seaward end was closed to the public, and in 1991 the whole pier closed.
In late 1994, ownership passed into private hands and some restoration work commenced. The pier opened for a while during 1995, changed hands in December 2003, and re-opened temporarily in 2004. From July 2008, ongoing legal battles over ownership have prevented maintenance from being carried out.
Inspections by engineers in 2010 and 2013 show continuing disintegration. Shore Thing and Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for grants to restore the pier.
In May 2013, the fund approved a grant of £594,900 for Conwy Council to develop project plans for full pier restoration. However, discussions over the relative expense of restoration and demolition could not be resolved to the satisfaction of all. On 12th December 2013, Conwy County Borough Council voted in favour of de-listing the pier (removing its Grade II status).
In February 2014, the council formally declined the Heritage Lottery Fund grant. In March, the councilís cabinet approved plans for demolition, on the grounds that restoring it would be too costly.
On 20th May 2015, the Heritage Lottery Fund declined a Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust application for a £9.6m restoration grant. The planning application for demolition awaits a decision (June 2015).
Contractor: Widnes Foundry Company
Research: PD, ECPK
"Piers of Wales" by Martin Easdown, Amberley Publishing Ltd, Stroud, 2013
reference sources   CEH WalesSurvSPSPd

Victoria Pier, Colwyn Bay