As the first major construction of the new town named Clacton on Sea, the Clacton Pier has a major tourist attraction since its early days. Once known as Clacton Beach, the spot was formerly just a little used sandy area close to the village named Great Clacton, located about a mile inland from the Essex coast.
The Clacton Pier opened to the public in 1871, in the days of the paddle steamer. Peter Bruff founded the town and built the pier of Clacton on Sea. Peter Bruff had envisioned the advantage of the potential port space and he knew that there was financial gain that could be realized by connecting market power of the steamer cargo with that of the railway.
Peter Bruff received permission to bring the railway to Clacton on the Sea. Despite his great ideas for Clacton on Sea, Peter Bruff almost lost the right to develop the area because he waited until the five years were up that he had been given to develop the area.
The Railway Engineer and The Steamer Company Chairman
William Parry Jackson was the chairman of the Woolwich Steam Packet Company. He decided to finance the operation in return for having the right to run his steamers with Clacton Pier for a base. After the steamer named the Queen of the Orwell came to call at the pier in 1871, Peter Bruff began facilitating trading activities between the sea and land. Early examples of the type of paddle steamer cargo that passed through the pier include gunpowder, corpses and musical instruments. By the 1880s, the Hot and Cold Sea Water Baths and the Pier Dining Rooms were drawing a steady paying crowd. For a price, visitors could walk on the pier.
Since that time, for over 130 years, the Clacton Pier has been providing visitors with a place to have fun and sightsee. In the 1880s, there were many shops catering to the tourists and visitors to the seaside. When the pier first opened, the size of the Clacton Pier was 160 yards long and 4 yards wide. The Pier expanded in 1893 with the addition of the Pier Pavilion and a theatre. The Pier Pavilion later became known as the Jolly Roger. At that time, the Pier was lengthened almost by three times to just over 393 yards.
The slot machine was a popular attraction for visitors in the early 1900s. The now antique slot machines were a fun innovation for the public to enjoy. The quaint design of that era has its own unique and timeless quality.
The Kingsman Era
After buying the Clacton Pier in 1922, Ernest Kingsman, his wife Ada and son Barney worked on the place and by the 1930s, the Clacton Pier had major attractions such as a the Crystal Casino, Blue Lagoon Dance Hall, an open air stage, the Steel Stella roller coaster, the Ocean Theatre, the Children’s Theatre and a swimming pool. All the Kingsman family work paid off and the pier became one of the top seaside resorts in the entire nation.
The Pier In Decline
Two events changed the popularity of the resort. After the 1950s when the British began leaving the country for their holidays, the resort was not as popular and in 1971, Ernest’s son Barney sold the pier. The Ocean Theatre and the Steel Stella closed in 1971 because of fire. Things were bleak for the pier until the new owners, the Harrison family, began to redevelop the property in 1994. The donkey rides which had been at the pier since 1886, left the pier in 1997.
The Pier Is Popular Again
Since the Clacton Pier was first built, people have enjoyed a walk on the Clacton Pier and visiting its many attractions at different times in its history. The Clacton Pier has risen in popularity to become an important seaside attraction and resort once again. The Clacton Pier draws over 2 million visitors every year today with its many attractions, scenic walkways and amusements.