Today, Walton-on-the-Naze pier, the 3rd longest in the UK, is a must for all the family, providing hours of fun with amusements, rides, childrens soft play area, ten pin bowling alley, restaurant and bar. The pier also provides a great days fishing and hosts Walton and Frinton’s lifeboat.
The first 150ft pier at Walton-on-the-Naze was built in 1830 opposite ‘The Hotel’ which was later to be called Kents Hotel and Dorlings Marine Hotel, which is now the site of The Dorlings. The pier was lengthened to 330ft in 1848, and was one of the earliest piers built in the UK. Its purpose was for the landing of passengers and goods for Walton. Paddle steamers would operate between London and Great Yarmouth/ Ipswich, and Walton became a very popular destination for holidaymakers, using the once-per-day Belle Steamer service. In 1880, a severe storm washed the first pier out to sea.
In 1869, a second pier measuring 530ft, was built by Peter Schuyler Bruff, at the location of today’s pier. It still only allowed steamers to berth at high tide. In 1897, it was sold to The Walton Pier & Hotel Company. This company went bankrupt and the new owners, The Coast Development Company extended it to 2610ft being completed and opened in August of 1898. This new length allowed steamers to berth at any state of the tide, thus bringing a much more efficient service to the town. At this time, Walton Pier was the second longest pier in the country, after Southend. The title has since been taken by Southport Pier, Merseyside. Walton pier today is now the third longest in the UK.
Walton has been influenced by the hands of the sea for hundreds of years. The old church fell into the sea in 1798. In more recent times, in 1978-79, storms battered the East coast and severely damaged the wooden structure of the pier, eventually causing a 108ft section to fall into the sea.
The pier was never intended to be an entertainment centre. It was bought in 1937 by Charles Goss, who formed the New Walton Pier Company. At the time, the pier was home to a pavilion at the seaward end, plus an amusement arcade and the ‘Seaspray Lounge. There was also a tent that served as a theatre. Since the purchase, and especially since 1946, there was a steady expansion of the amusement facilities.
Today there are around 5 acres of amusements, including a ten-pin bowling alley, and a childrens soft play area making it one of the largest undercover funfairs in East Anglia.
The original piers had no transport – passengers would walk to the end. Once it was lengthened in 1898, it operated a 3ft 6in gauge electric tramway. In 1935/6 it was replaced by a pneumatic-tyred battery car, running between two wooden beams. Part of the pier, the pavilion and battery car were destroyed by fire in 1942. After the war, contractors repairing the pier laid a 2ft gauge railway track for a diesel locomotive to transport materials to the end of the pier. This was retained and used for pleasure rides. The railway ceased operating in the 1970s. Currently a “Dotto train” operates at peak times.
The Walton and Frinton lifeboat has been moored at the pier since 1900. The first Walton RNLI lifeboat was the “Honourable Artillery Company” but the first lifeboat to be moored at the end of the pier was the “James Stevens No.14”. On 1st May 2005, a new berth with wave break was opened with added maintenance and storage facilities, at a cost of around one million pounds. The current lifeboat, the “Kenneth Thelwall II” was put into service in 1990.
Walton Pier allows keen anglers to cast their lines out to sea for a mere £5 per day (9am – 5pm) or if you are die hard fisherman then an annual licence can be purchased for £60 which gives 24hr a day access to the pier.
A live webcam stream can used to be supplied by Frinton and Walton lifeboats but has been offline in recent months.
Many thanks to Marie and Gerald Hornsby for providing the article and associated images.
The pier is free to enter and is open every day until 10pm