Pier and Jetty, Part Three
Featured in the June 2008 handbook.
The work on the Rennie designed stone Pier began immediately, but before the actual construction could get underway there was an immense amount of preparation required to draw up plans and acquire sufficient stock of materials, and it wasnít just for the pier involved either, as it had been decided to carry out remedial sea defence works in stone at the Parade. A prodigious amount of stone and timber was needed and enough of this had been gathered together to allow the Harbour Commissioners to start building work in April 1810. But the job was fraught with problems for Rennie as his preferred choice of Whitby stone was unavailable, so Perbeck stone had to be substituted, and there was the problem too of a shortage of shipping to transport it due to our conflict with the French. And the local architect William Edmunds, who the Commissioners had appointed to carry out the building work to Rennieís design, tried to make changes to it, much to Rennieís ire! Somehow the job limped on, but the war of wills between Rennie and Edmunds came to a head in 1811 when, during yet another fierce storm, a large section of the new work collapsed. Edmunds had criticised Rennieís depth of piling as being inadequate, and Rennie had frustrated attempts to install longer piles, and now disaster!
And if that situation wasnít fraught enough, in 1812 the decision was taken to severe the involvement of the towns Harbour Commissioners and form a new Pier and Harbour Company with the sole purpose of building the Pier and running it once completed. And in April 1813, Rennie insisted that Edmunds be dismissed, despite the fact that it was him and not the great man who
had to wrestle on a daily basis with the problems of subsidence and fresh water springs. Despite Edmunds dismissal, arguments continued with Rennie, the outcome being that he too was
dismissed and Josias Jessop appointed as engineer with Edward White as his assistant. Between them these two finished the Pier in 1815, the last work being the building of an elegant lighthouse at its seaward end, this structure being supported on a circular nest of timber piles within the Pier walls. The Pier itself was not solid stone but rather a series of stone boxes filled with rubble. The total cost of the project had been £100,000 and by 1820 the Pier & Harbour Co. were forced to admit that Edmunds had been wrongly dismissed and paid him compensation.
It had always been a problem that the Harbour dried at low tide, requiring passengers arriving by sea at anything less than half-tide to be landed in small boats, a far from ideal situation. In 1824 work began on a new low-water landing place behind the stone Pier. Built of English Oak to a very eccentric design of Dr. Jarvis, the Pier & Harbour Company Chairman, this 1,200 feet long structure spent much of the time underwater at high tide. And this is where the name jetty first arrived here. Having already got a stone Pier, to avoid the confusion of having to number the new one number 2, it was decided to borrow from the French - hence the name Jarvisís Jetty - and it was as simple and logical as that. But being partly submerged at times and of Oak there were obvious drawbacks to the Jetty. It was not only prone to damage from storms and vessels, but provided a handsome feast for that voracious marine wood-borer the Teredo Worm. The life of Jarvisís Jetty was brief. Just 18 years after it was built, and thousands of pounds had been reluctantly expended on repairs to keep it standing, work began to replace it with a new Jetty of iron.
Designed by the Victorian Pier engineer supreme Eugenius Birch, the new structure employed the then novel technique of using the screw piles invented by blind Irish engineer Alexander Mitchell and the first pile of what proved to be a very protracted construction was screwed into the chalk in May, 1853.