OPENED on June 5, 1867, Birnbeck Pier was the Victorian equivalent of a theme park.

During its life the pier, in Weston super Mare, featured attractions such as water slides and fairground rides and was busy with passengers from steam ship services to and from Cardiff, Minehead, Lundy Island and more.

But the story of Birnbeck is chequered with tragedy and shattered dreams.

On Boxing Day 1897, a fire destroyed most of the buildings, a trigger for turbulance in the story of the seaside landmark.

In 1904, the Grand Pier opened for business, but while the old pier remained a firm favourite among tourists and residents alike, the newer structure eventually became the primary hotspot for holiday fun.

During World War II, Birnbeck was taken over by the Admiralty and closed to the public.

It was commissioned as HMS Birnbeck, a secret facility for weapons testing.

Serious damage was caused to the island when a Wellington Bomber, operating out of nearby RAF Locking, inadvertently released a dummy mine.

The landmark never really recovered.

Ownership changes and failed bids to bring the structure back to life ensued, but it has never since returned to its former glory and stands as a symbol of the changing patterns of British holiday life.

Efforts are ongoing to bring the pier back into use...

Now, Somerset Camera Club member Keanu Drone has visited the pier and the images below give a stunning look at an iconic county relic...

Somerset County Gazette:
The pier opened in 1867

Somerset County Gazette:
At one point, it housed attractions including a water slide and concert hall

Somerset County Gazette:
An RNLI boat house is still housed at Birnbeck

Somerset County Gazette:
A walkway buzzing with throngs of holidaymakers seems a million miles away now...

Somerset County Gazette:
There have been several bids to bring the pier back in to use

Somerset County Gazette:
The pier is on the 'at risk' register compiled by English Heritage

Somerset County Gazette:
The pier now serves as a haunting reminder of summers long gone...

Somerset County Gazette:
But there are hopes it could one day be returned to its former glory

Somerset County Gazette:
For now though, it remains an iconic shell...

All pictures copyright Keanu Drone.

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