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ISLE OF WIGHT PIERS: TOTLAND BAY PIER: THE ONCE FASHIONABLE STRUCTURE RECENTLY REPRIEVED FROM DESTRUCTION

This week we return to the Isle of Wight Piers series and in this 3rd edition, Island Echo examines the long and varied history of Totland Pier, which was once fashionable before falling into disrepair.

In the mid-19th century, Totland was a small community of farmers, fishermen and longshoremen.

Jenkinson’s Guide to the Isle of Wight describes Totland Bay as follows:

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“Beautifully smooth sands suitable for bathing, a lifeboat, fishing boats, bathing machines and an old, wooden pier erected for the purposes of serving the Needles lighthouse.”

In 1873, a new road was built connecting Totland with Colwell and Yarmouth. A regular steamer service between Lymington and Yarmouth also brought a regular stream of visitors to West Wight.

Local landowners set up the Totland Hotel and Pier company. In March 1880, a new pier was built to a length of 450ft to replace the dilapidated wooden structure formerly in place. At the same time, the company built the hotel on the hill above the bay: the largest in the West Wight.

The guests at Totland Bay Hotel were clearly well-heeled. Victorian photographs of the pier and beach show fashionably dressed tourists on shore and heading for the steamers on the pier. Rows of bathing machines sat along the water line with numerous small boats available for hire.

Totland-pier Vintage Colour
Totland Bay pier in its heyday

Ward Lock’s Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to the Isle of Wight stated:

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“The clientele of this modest watering place is of a distinctly distinguished kind, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Totland Bay became a popular port of call for tourists. Steam ferries from Lymington called 5 times a day. A bus service also connected Totland with Freshwater Railway Station at a cost of 6d (2 1/2p).

Pleasure cruises frequently called at Totland Bay Pier. In 1903, a Round-the-Island cruise cost 4s (20p). The fare to Bournemouth was 2s (10p) – £30 in 2023 values.

Totland Pier Vintage
A paddle boat calls at Totland Bay pier

During the First World War, some visitors to Totland were under the misapprehension that a passport was required to visit the Isle of Wight. Visitors to Waterloo Station in London – intending to travel to Totland via Lymington – had been informed they needed passports from the Foreign Office.

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The newspaper London Opinion was forced to write the following:

“There is no permit needed for British subjects going to the Isle of Wight. There is a frequent boat service to and from the mainland, and the passage is quite safe.”

After World War I, Totland Bay pier fell into a state of disrepair. At the end of the 1927 summer season, the ferry service ceased, though pleasure cruises continued until 1931. The pier was sectioned during World War II as a defence measure, and Totland Bay Hotel was converted into a military hospital.

Following the end of War War II, the pier re-opened on 17th June 1951 when it received its 1st steamer for 20 years: the Lorna Doone.

Totland Bay pier was eventually sold to Trinity House in the early 1970s for £10,000. The National Physical Laboratory installed a data-gathering centre there in 1975.

Between 1975 and 1992, the increasingly dilapidated pier changed owners several times. The amusement arcade was damaged by fire in August 1978 and – following a safety inspection – the pier was closed.

Totland Pier Dilapidated
Totland Bay pier in a sorry state of disrepair

The structure suffered minor damage in the Great Storm of October 1987. A Mr Henry Leeson bought the pier in late 1992 for just £1,000. MV Balmoral called in May 1993, attracting much attention as the 1st ship to dock for many years. However, although the renovation had begun, its progress was hindered by vandalism.

In 1999, the pier was bought by Mr Derek Barran – an artist who used the main building on the pier head as a studio – for £20,000. He then spent £30,000 on restoring it before putting it up for sale for £100,000.

The pier was purchased by Farnham Developments in 2012. The following year, vandals set fire to the pier cafe. The new owners then produced proposals for a new restaurant.

Restoration got underway in 2017, thanks to help from Totland Parish Council and the Isle of Wight Council. Then, in July of that year, Totland Pier Cafe was reopened. In January 2020, a planning application was submitted to build a 2-storey restaurant at the end of the pier.

The partly renovated structure was again put up for sale in January 2022. Meanwhile, progress had been made towards the construction of the new restaurant, which is expected to seat around 120 guests. However, no end date has been given for the project’s completion.

Totlandpier
The restaurant at the end of the pier

The renovation project for Totland Bay pier has recently been called into question with the announcement that the café could be replaced by holiday rental rooms.

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The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.
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Wayne
Wayne
10 months ago

And some people still think you need a passport to come across today

Hopkins-Willey
Hopkins-Willey
Reply to  Wayne
10 months ago

And hundreds of thousands ‘realise’ you DON’T need a passport now to come to live for free forever more into the UK, all to our demise.

Trevor
Trevor
Reply to  Hopkins-Willey
10 months ago

That’s the Tory Government for us, they are allowing
them all in and putting them up in 5 star ☆☆☆☆☆ Hotels
compliments of us the Tax payers.
Yet many of our own ex servicemen live rough on street homeless.

Trevor
Trevor
Reply to  Wayne
10 months ago

You just need a big wallet to pay the extorninate Ferry Fares.

 

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