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A BRIEF BIRNBECK TIMELINE

AD1461 - The first documentary evidence relating to a Birnbeck fishery.

1696 - John Pigott of Brockley becomes Lord of the Manor of Weston-super-Mare and the owner of the island. It was then known as Berne Island (later Bairn Beck Island).

Prior to 1822 - An artificial shingle causeway between Birnbeck Island and the mainland was constructed.

1845 - A committee was formed to promote the need for a pier and landing place at Birnbeck.

1846 - Work starting on a suspension bridge out to the island. However, this proved problematic with strikes and bad weather forcing the project's engineer into bankruptcy and the project to be abandoned.

1864 - A foundation stone for a new pier was laid, following a successful campaign to raise £20,000.

1866 - The main bridge to the island was completed.

5th June 1867 - The pier was officially opened - the day was declared to be a public holiday in the town.

1872 -The original North Jetty was used for the first time.

1882 - The first lifeboat was stationed on the island. This was hung from davits, possibly on the South side.

1885 - 1890 - Amusements and Fairground attractions were added to the island.

1888 - The first permanent lifeboat house was built on the North side of the pier.

1892 to 1898 - The South-West Jetty was proposed, designed and constructed. This structure was also known as the 'Low-Water Pier Extension.

Boxing Day 1897 - Most of the structures on the island were destroyed by fire.

Circa August 1898 - Replacement buildings, designed by Hans Price, who was responsible for many of Weston's most notable buildings, were completed.

1902 - The second lifeboat station on the South of the island was opened.

1904 - Weston Super Mare's more central Grand Pier opened for business.

10th September 1903 - The original wooden North Jetty was practically destroyed by the 'Great Gale'. The Low-Water Jetty was also severely damaged.

1905 - The present North Jetty was opened, having been now built of steel and extended to 300 feet in length, this being said to have been 45 feet longer than its predecessor, although some photographic evidence seems not to bear this out.

1909 - The pier was extended by constructing a large concrete platform on the South side, extending the pier area by over an acre. The Low-Water Jetty was finally repaired

1916 - The Low-Water Jetty was taken out of service.

1923 - The Low-Water Jetty was finally dismantled.

1941 - The pier was taken over by the Admiralty, being commissioned as HMS Birnbeck. It was used as a secret facility for weapons testing by the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development (DMWD).

1943 - A navalised version of Barnes Wallis' bouncing bomb concept was constructed and tested by DMWD, having already been used by the RAF against the German Ruhr Valley dams on 16–17 May 1943. A track is laid at Birnbeck but not used. A second track is built and used for testing at the end of Brean Down.

1962 - Steamer company P&A Campbell purchase the pier.

1972 - John Critchley purchases the pier. It then has a short-lived period of normal activity.

1974 - Several of the structures are either Grade II or Grade II* listed by the Department of the Environment.

1979 - The last scheduled sailing from the pier, by the MV Balmoral. This brings to an end 92 years of service by P&A Campbell.

1989 - Businessman Philip Stubbs purchases the pier and announces a multi-million pound 600 berth marina project. These plans were halted by the Nature Conservation Council.

1990 - The pier suffers extensive storm damage.

1994 - The pier is closed by the local authority.

1996 - The Friends of the Old Pier Society is formed.

1998 - White Horse Ferries purchase the pier.

2000 - Pier View, a small land-side building, is restored. This building was formerly the offices of P&A Campbell and thereafter Muffins Café, prior to WHF ownership.

2006 - Urban Splash purchase the pier. They hold an international architectural competition in 2007 to design a new modern mixed-use complex on the Island.

2010 - A set of trestles (consisting of four pier 'legs'), the third set from the island, are restored, funded by an English Heritage grant.

2014 - The present owners, CNM Estates, headed by Wahid Samady and Michael Ross, purchase the pier following their earlier acquisition of the derelict Royal Pier Hotel. This building was completely destroyed by a major fire in September 2010, following a slightly less serious one in June 2009.

SOURCES:

The Archaelogy Data Service

The Friends of the Old Pier Society Website

'Birnbeck Pier - A Short History', by Stan Terrell (2014 edition)

'Birnbeck Island - A Timeline of History', by Charles McCann

'Somerset at War', by Mac Hawkins, published by The Dovecote Press (ISBN 0 946159 54 8)

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