Clevedon Pier is an unusual seaside pier in Somerset. Opened in 1869, it is situated on the English shore of the Severn Estuary, a body of water with the second highest tidal range in the world. This factor had a great influence on the pier’s design, and its construction method makes it both beautiful and unique among British piers. It was described by poet Sir John Betjeman as “the most beautiful pier in England.”
The pier is just over 1,000 feet long, standing 48 feet above high water. Its long and slender arched legs required a relatively narrow platform. It’s made of eight 100-foot spans supported by steel rails covered by wooden decking. The tidal range means that the legs of the pier are largely exposed when the tide is out but mostly hidden at high tide.
Unlike typical British Victorian piers that are usually made from over-engineered cast iron, the legs are mostly made of second-hand “Barlow rail,” rolled iron rails originally designed in 1849 for use as trackway on light railways. Rails are also used for the longitudinal bracing. On the pier head is an attractive pavilion and lovely stone toll house where tickets are sold.
The pier was built to attract tourists but also to provide a ferry port for passengers to the other side of the estuary in Wales. (This second goal was unsuccessful, thanks to the construction of the Severn Railway Tunnel.) It continued to flourish as a popular attraction (except during the First and Second World Wars, when it was closed) until the 1960s. However in 1970, spans 7 and 8 of the pier collapsed during stress testing. The pier was dismantled for restoration and reopened in 1989. This beautiful pier once again is a popular destination for visitors.