Llandudno Pier can be found in the welsh town of Llandudno on the north wales coastline. It’s location in a natural coastal bay made it geographically ideal as a purpose-built Victorian seaside town for Victorian families to holiday and visit.
Originally opening at a mere 242ft in 1858 the pier was constructed by the St George’s Barbour and Railway Company and was just 16 wooden piles. During a storm on the 25th October 1859 which claimed 223 boars and 800 people, the pier sustained extensive damage and although repaired lasted only 16 more years. The pier proved just too short to provide access to the increasing number of steam ships who could only access the pier at high tide.
The decision was taken to replace the pier and so the Llandudno Pier Company commissioned Walter Macfarlane of Glasgow to create a more suitable structure using iron castings from the Glasgow Elmbank Foundary. The design was by Charles Henry Driver in conjunction with James Brunlees, engineer.
Taking just over 1 year to construct the new pier was opened to the general public on the 1st August 1877. The new pier was 1,234ft in length and was initially made up of a traditional seaside promenade deck with a 60ft “T” shaped head. The head was flanked by 4 pairs of kiosks along the pier neck. There where than an additional 3 larger octagonal shaped kiosks that sat on the pier-head itself. Ornate wrought ironwork was used to decorate the pier including the magnificent balustrades and lattice style railings.
The shore end of the pier took an additional 6 years to complete and included a spectacular pavilion, swimming pool and an extension that passed the Grand Hotel to the promenade. This took the piers overall length to an impressive 2,295ft.
1891 saw the construction of a landing stage which underwent initial reinforcement at the start of the 20th century before receiving further updates in 1935 and then re-construction in concrete in 1969.
The Trust House Forte group acquired the Llandudno Pier in 1968 and during their ownership the pier didn’t change that much.
The pier at 2,295ft is Wales’s longest pier and the 5th longest in England and Wales and is unusual as it has two separate entrances. The first is on the promenade at North Parade and the second is the piers original entrance on Happy Valley Road. Situated between the two entrances in the Grand Hotel.
The way the pier looks makes it the perfect choice for film and television scenery, including the 2002 filming of the Forsyth saga.
The wooden decking is regularly replaced and the metal work is repaired and maintained at regular intervals. Perhaps the most unusual feature of the pier is its shape, from above it resembles the letter Y, it has the long straight piece out to sea and then it splits both left and right.
The unusual shape allows you to look both inland and out to see from a wider aspect then if the pier was simply straight. The wider aspect allows more people to look straight out to sea, while also allowing great views of the hills surrounding Llandudno.
The pier owners in an effort to take full advantage of the Llandudno’s increasing popularity as a seaside resort took the deicion to replace the seaward sundeck pavilion with a more suibable purpose built pavilion theatre. The ever increasing number of visitors who came to see the musical receitals meant that a pavilion at the shore end of the pier was commissioned.
Beginning in 1881 the 3 storey 2,000 seater structure was constructed in the extravagant Victorian style of the era and was comlete with it’s intricate veranda, made from cast iron, which ran along the seaward aspect of the theatre
A strange an unusual incorporation was a swimming pool in the basement of the pavilion, the largest indoor swimming pool in Britain at the time! Sadley for the pier company problems with water quality meant that this unique feature had t be filled in shortly after opening.
Initially the pavilion was due to be open in Spring 1983, however a devastating storm in January of that year caused the glass roof to be extensively damaged. This incident led to the pavilion architects being both embarrassed and subsequently dismissed before a rework of the design to incorporate a more traditional and sturdy lead roof.
This change of plan involved a major rework to the structure and this pushed the opening to September 1886 when it was officially opened. The pavilion was just over 200ft long with it’s width varying from between 84 – 104ft.
Rivière’s Orchestra at the Llandudno pier pavilion was an instant hit and within a very short period of time had more than doubled in size. The Orchestra helped to cement the promenade concert as a British summer event that was enjoyed by visitors to costal towns around the UK.
As public taste changed then so did the pavilions entertainment schedule. From 1936 variety shows replaced the previous orchestra recitals although a shrunken down version of the orchestra carried on until it’s final disbandment in 1974.
This new variety show era heralded a new beginning for the pavilion and made it a firm favourite for the major artists of the time. People such as George Formby, Petula Clark, Cliff Richard and the Beverley sisters where just a few of the household names that performed at the pavilion.
Following world war II the pavilion maintained it’s popularity as thousands of holidaying families returned to this popular Welsh tourist town each year. The availability of cheap foreign package holidays and the popularity of television in the 1970’s had a direct impact on the number of visitors wanting to come to the variety shows and as such they declined.
The Llandudno Pier pavillion was sold in December 1983 for £10k to the LLandudno Pavillion company.
Despite the change of ownership attendances continued to fall resulting in the decision to shut the pavillion at the close of the 1984 summer season. The curtain call show at the theatre was ‘Startime Follies’, and the variety production featured Kay Carman, Lynda Lee Lewis, Tommy Trafford and the ever popular Marie Ashton Dancers. The show had performances at 8:00pm each night and a day time matinee at 3:00pm during the high season. Tickets were available from £2 – £2.60. Unfortunately due to reduction in audience numbers, increased costs of repairing and maintaining the pavillion the pavillion closed after being entertaining crowds for 98 years.
Despite a short lived respite as a horror walkthrough waxwork exhibition the pavilion was finally closed in 1990.
The seaside pavilion changed ownership again in 1992 but the ambitious plans to restore the structure never actually came to anything. The lack of any external repairs or even basic security of the theatre structure led to an inevitable arson attach in 1994 which destroyed the main theatre structure.
The site has never been cleared properly and remains an eyesore until the present day. Attempts by Conwy County Council to redevelop the site have been constantly rebuffed by the current owner, a Worcester businessman called David Taylor.
The present pier is owned by Six Piers Ltd who also own the three piers at Blackpool as well as Eastbourne and South Parade Piers on the south coast. The grade II listed building won the national pier society’s pier of the year in 2005.
The marvellous structure has various attractions and facilities to entertain the modern day family as it visits this seaside treasure.
The modern pier features a fairground at the shore end whilst a walk along the deck leads to spectacular sea views.
A boat landing platform for cruises and tours
Fish and chip shop
Rides and attractions
Fishing (subject to purchasing day licence)
Ice cream kiosk
For the hungry visitor you have the option of a stroll with some traditional fish and chips or can take shelter for a sit down meal in the café or bar. The ice cream kiosk gives a choice of around twelve different ice creams to enjoy or alternatively you can choose from numerous holiday fudges, sweets and biscuits that are also on sale.
If the thought of fishing attracts you there is the tackle shop to get all you need, including the days fishing licence you will need to fish from the pier.
If after all this expense you have a few pennies left there is always the gambling machines and arcade games to entice you. Threes also a selection of traditional seaside fair rides such as dodgems and children’s rides.
Summer 8 is till 11pm
Winter 8 am till6pm
Open every day except Christmas day
You can call 01492-876258 for further information.