Pier and Jetty, Part Four

Featured in the July 2008 handbook.

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The iron Jetty of Eugenius Birch was a solid piece of engineering. Whereas later piers presented an impression of lightness and curves, this pioneering project looked like it was meant to withstand the elements. The supporting piles of the main neck were of 16 inch diameter, grouped together in clusters of 5 strongly braced, and there were 14 of these supporting the two massive 4 feet deep girders of the side parapets to the decking. Longer at 1,240 feet than the Jarvis’s wooden Jetty, the new structure had a rectangular landing stage with a staircase giving access to lower levels of landing platform to cope with any stage of the tide. The job of construction was estimated to require 18 months to 2 years, andBirch design was put out to contracting engineers for tenders. One Samuel Bastow of Hartlepool, put in a bid of only £10,750, some £12,000 less than his nearest rival, and the Pier & Jetty Co. letting their greed overcome judgement, accepted it. That decision was to cost the commerce of the town dearly as, due to the chaos caused by Bastow’s terminally slow rate of progress, the passenger numbers arriving by steam boat plummeted because of lack of Jetty. Despite many optimistic forecasts of the opening dates which came and went with monotonous regularity, Bastow was still plugging away in April 1856, when he was sacked having already spent £15,400. Now 3½ years into the project the designer himself was forced to step in and oversee the completion and in the summer of 1857 it was finally finished.

In 1829 the Pier & Harbour Co. had decided that the Lighthouse and Droit House were rather too plain for their tastes, so they commissioned new designs. The designs submitted by Edmunds were selected, and the Droit House of today, as pretty a piece of Georgian architecture as you will find is a replica of the original, that having been destroyed by bombing in WW11. His lighthouse was a huge thing in the form of a Doric column with an ornamental gallery and lantern on top. there was much concern expressed in 1829 that the structure, much heavier than it’s predecessor, had been built on the same circular nest of timber piles with no strengthening, and predictions were that it wouldn’t last that long and would tumble. As it happens, it did tumble, but not for a very long time.

Despite the occasional remedial work needed after violent storms, the stone Pier proved the basic efficiency of Rennies design, and Biorch’s Jetty served admirably too. If there was an Achilles Heel with them though, it was that they both sprang off the land at too low a level, making them prone to damage from storms on top of big spring tides. The landing stages at the Jetty head underwent several stages of enlargement and improvement, and the entrance to the neck at the landward end underwent rebuilding after it was demolished by a drifting wreck in 1877. In 1898 slipways were opened on either side of the Jetty to house the towns two Lifeboats, a great improvement on the old method of launching with horses from the sands. With the addition of a Pavilion and Bandstand to the jetty head the original landing stage blossomed into a first-rate pleasure pier, but the sea took its regular toll during storms. In December 1897, both Pier and Jetty suffered serious damage, the Droit House being Cracked from the bottom to top, and in 1937 another storm tore up a lot of the Jetty decking. In 1953 the great Storm demolished the Lighthouse of 1829 when the foundations gave way, and buildings on the stone Pier were reduced to rubble and the Jetty pretty well wrecked. A fire in 1964 destroyed the Jetty Pavilion, and in 1978 the Jetty was completely destroyed in that years Great Storm, the sad remains not being finally cleared away until 1998.

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