Photo by Visit Isle of Wight
The Pier’s Tale
Yarmouth Pier extends north from the town square of Yarmouth, known as Pier Square, and from Yarmouth Town Conservation Area and the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty into the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation.
In 1931 Yarmouth Pier became the responsibility of Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners and in 1975 it received Grade 2 Listed status, recognising its local and national importance for its unique design and its wooden construction at that time.
Back in 1870, Yarmouth Corporation had first discussed the possibilities of constructing a pier, as a deep-water terminal for the cross-Solent passenger service to Lymington. Two years later it seemed that the railway company had lost interest in the project, however, the Yar Pier Order was passed by an Act of Parliament in 1874 and the Corporation received permission to construct a pier 700 ft long (213m), to be built out from the shore at the bottom of Bank Street. The pier was designed by Denham and Jenvey and built by a local contractor J. Denham of Freshwater at a cost of £4,000. The first pile was driven in June 1875, and it was opened on 19th July 1876.
Soon after its opening, the pier was damaged when a ship drifted into the structure after breaking loose from its moorings. In August 1877 the Corporation put in new gates to restrict access, despite substantial local opposition to the plan. The disagreement arose because the gates would also restrict access to the beach from where many local people launched their boats, and this would affect their livelihoods. Shortly after the gates were installed, they were forcibly removed by members of the local community, and they were never replaced.
In February 1891 the Yarmouth Town Trust took over administration of the pier and one of their first actions was to improve access by demolishing buildings on the western side of Bank Street, creating Pier Square. The pier suffered damage again when the barge Shamrock’ crashed into the structure and in 1916 the Yarmouth Town Trust spent £250 on replacement piles. The offices and a waiting room (now the café Gossips) were built at the shoreward end in 1927, at a cost of £2,000.
Pier And Harbour Commissioners
After the passing of the ‘Yarmouth Pier and Harbour Order, 1931’ the pier came under the control of the Pier and Harbour Commissioners. At the time the pier was well used by steamers and tourists but following the construction of the new slipway in the harbour in 1938, the use of the pier significantly reduced. In 1975, the pier was awarded Grade 2 Listing by English Heritage (now Historic England), as a structure of historical and architectural interest. The timber construction, lattice design of the handrails / balustrade and the roundhouse were all noted to be of special interest within the Grade 2 Listing.
Yarmouth Pier is just one of the responsibilities of Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners and it is rarely used as a landing stage other than the occasional visiting heritage vessel. This means that the pier is no longer a key element of the Commissioners’ business, but it remains a very popular heritage asset and local amenity and requires daily upkeep to keep it well maintained and functional for visitors.
Photos by Visit Isle of Wight