Mumbles Pier, 2010
Source: LAC/85/A19 Richard Burton Archives
Reports in the local press today show that re-developments on Mumbles Pier and the Lifeboat Station are going well, and further progress will be seen in the New Year. Plans include a new hotel and spa and a new boardwalk. A video of the first launch on the new lifeboat slipway is available here.
Archives in the South Wales Transport Collection at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University, show that it’s not the first time it’s all been in need of a good repair. As well as being a comprehensive resource for the development of transport in South Wales, and particularly the famous Mumbles Railway (said to be the Worlds first passenger service), the collections (ref no LAC/10 and LAC/85) also include records relating to Mumbles Pier and Lifeboat Station.
Amecco (or Amusement Equipment Company Limited) have been involved with the running of the Victorian pier for over 60 years, from 1938 as sub-lessees from the South Wales Transport Company, then as owners from 1971. The records of the South Wales Transport Company include documents concerning the history of the pier, from the original plans approved by the Board of Trade, to its sale to Amecco.
In 1889, an Act of Parliament was obtained incorporating the Mumbles Railway and Pier Company, who built an extension of Mumbles Railway to Mumbles Head, and a new deep water pier. The new line and pier opened on 10 May 1898. In 1899 both Mumbles Railway and the Pier were leased to Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company. This lease was later transferred to the South Wales Transport Company, who sub-leased the pier to Amecco. In 1959 the South Wales Transport Company purchased the pier, hotel and railway from the original owners Swansea and Mumbles Railways Limited and Mumbles Railway and Pier Company. While the railway was soon after abandoned, South Wales Transport allowed Amecco to continue their lease of the pier, before they eventually purchased it.
In 1952 the Pier was closed and declared unsafe. Files kept by the company’s secretary include reports on the negotiations between the lessees and sub-lessees for the repair and plans of the proposed new jetty. There is also a folder of plans and correspondence with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution about a new lifeboat station and an extension to the slipway in the 1920s, and the establishment of an inshore lifeboat station in the 1960s.
There are a large number of deeds from the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company in the collection, including some agreements for facilities and amusements for the pier in the 1900s. These include agreements with a Pierriot troop (they would appear every day except Sundays), a company supplying a Mutoscope Machine (an early motion picture device), a company supplying a confectionary machine, the lessees of a photographer’s shop and a fancy dealer’s shop.
One of the main attractions at the Pier was the Pier Hotel, which included a dance hall. A dispute over the lease of the hotel in the 1940s reveals how the hotel was enjoyed by people during the Second World War. Officials of the South Wales Transport Company described how goodwill and increased business was brought about by the war. There were more troops in the area, Mumbles was felt to be at greater safety from bombing compared to Swansea and travelling restrictions meant that more people were staying local for holidays. War dances were held every night except Sunday, with one of the inspectors stating that people seem to have ‘gone crazy on dancing, drinking and any form of amusement during the war’. Visitors to the war time dances were made up of American troops, a large number of merchant seamen of all nationalities, some British troops and munitions workers.
These papers also show the inherent link between the railway and the pier, with one inspector estimating that 90% of people attending the dances would travel there and back on the railway. The trains ran every 16 minutes, and sometimes the driver was unable to stop until Oystermouth because the carriages were so full. With this in mind, it would be interesting to see if there has been, or will be, any talk of proposals to bring back the Mumbles Railway, to complement the planned rejuvenation of the pier.
MA Students at Swansea University produced a website based on the Swansea and Mumbles Railway collections http://mumblesrailway.wordpress.com/
*This post is a re-hash of one from the Powering the World project*
*Title lyrics come from Clement Scott’s ‘The Women of Mumbles Head’*