Photographs by Robert Morgan and Colin Price, as indicated; thank you as well to Eve Morgan, who provided a copy of the "Llandudno Hydropathic Establishment" leaflet. Historic image taken, also with thanks, from the Library of Congress. Text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer or source and (2) link your document to this URL. Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Central pier-end pavilion on Llandudno Pier, Conwy, North Wales. © Robert Morgan.
The first pier here, built for the utilitarian purpose of coal-shipping, was destroyed in the terrible storm of 1859. The present iron one, a Grade II* listed structure, was designed by architect Charles Henry Driver (1832-1900), with distinguished civil engineers James Brunlees (1816-1893; later knighted) in partnership with Alexander McKerrow (1837-1920), and built by John Dixon. 1876-77. The first part opened on 1 August 1877, in time for the summer holidays. There are four pairs of kiosks on the pier, with three kiosks at the seaward end, of which the Indo-Gothic fantasy shown above is the principal one. Another elaborate pavilion of 1883-84, connected to it at the shore end and incorporating a theatre for shows, and (for a while) a huge indoor swimming pool, unfortunately burned down in 1994.
Left: View from the shore, a photomechanical print from the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue, repro. number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-07444. This shows the two approaches to the pier, and the stone pier-head lodge. Right: View of the pierhead pavilion from another angle. © Robert Morgan.
The longest pier in Wales, it extends 2295' to a 60' wide T-shaped pierhead, and is supported by cast-iron columns and a "wrought-iron lattice-girder framework" (Cragg 26). Driver was well-known for his use of iron-work, notably at Crossness Pumping Station in London, where he collaborated with Joseph Bazalgette. Brunlees's most important work was in railways and docks, but he designed several piers, including those at New Brighton, Merseyside, and Southend — the latter reputed to be "the longest pleasure pier in the world" ("The History of Southend-on-Sea").
Showing the length of the pier, with the Great Orme headland to the north-west. © Colin Price.
"The pier runs straight NE from a stone lodge on Happy Valley Road to a polygonal platform at the seaward end" (listing text). Llandudno grew exponentially after the arrival of the railway, and this was one of its great attractions. In the listing text it is described as "the finest Victorian pleasure pier in Wales."
Left: Showing the landing-stage at the pier-end. Right: Showing the pier against the Little Orme headland to the east. Both pictures © Colin Price.
Looking across the pier-end towards the wide sweep of the bay from the Great Orme. © Colin Price.
As an early brochure for the Llandudno Hydropathic Establishment on the seafront Parade said: "It is favourably situated on the Welsh coast, sheltered by the two headlands — the Greater and Lesser Orme," and the air was (and hopefully still is) "clear, dry and invigorating." By the 1870s Llandudno already had, as the brochure claimed, "a most enviable celebrity" as a holiday resort and health spa.
The wind farms arrived in 2012. © Colin Price.
The kiosks at Llandudno, with their canopy roofs, especially the one at the pier-end with its additional ogee dome, still make a splendid seaside attraction in their nautical colours. But the arrival of the wind farms has, to some minds at least, blighted the natural beauty of the seaward view. Installation began in late 2011, and offshore cables were laid in the following year. Between May 2013 and the end of the same year, over a hundred turbines had been installed at what is known as the Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm. The sacrifice of the view to the production of clean energy has, it seems, to be accepted as one of the costs of modern life.
- Hydro Hotel on the seafront at Llandudno
- Review of London: Hidden Interiors, showing Charles Driver's fabulous ironwork at Crossness
- The Seaside in the Victorian Literary Imagination
"1873: Llandudno Hydropathic Establishment and Winter Residence" (leaflet available at the present Hydro Hotel).
Cragg, R., ed. Wales and West Central England: Civil Engineering Heritage. 2nd ed. Ashbourne, Derbyshire: Landmark Publishers, 1997.
Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm, North Wales. Power Technology and Market Analysis. Web: Energy News and. 16 June 2020.
"The History of Southend Pier.". Southend-on-Sea Pier Museum. Web. 5 April 2014.
"Obituary. Sir James Brunlees, 1816-1892." ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) Virtual Library. Web. 5 April 2014.
The Pier, including Stone Lodge, Pier End Pavilions, Kiosks and remains of Pier Pavilion. British Listed Buildings. Web. 16 June 2020.
Last modified 16 June 2020