Friday, 18 October 2013

Amused at Southsea

Clarence Pier, Southsea in 2013
I recently gave a talk in Portsmouth to the local National Trust centre and I popped along the road to Southsea to see if Billy Manning's amusement arcade was still there. As children in the early 1960s we used to spend a day and all our pocket money there. I can remember a paddle steamer circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight and a speedboat trip in and out of the warships at anchor. We were very impressed by passing under the overhang of  the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and seeing the fledgling hovercraft service running up onto the beach.
Hovercraft arriving, Southsea c.1964
Hovercraft loading, Southsea c.1964

What I did not realise was that the amusements were built on a pier, the Clarence Pier. It was opened in 1861 to serve the paddle steamer service to the Isle of Wight but was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in 1941. Reconstruction was started in the 1950s and the pier re-opened in 1961. It is unusual in that rather than running out to sea, it seems to run along the coast -- it is much wider than its length.
Well, the pier and the amusements are still there. I don't think that it is a listed building but that architecture is so distinctive that I would not be surprised if something was done about it in the future.

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