Clacton Pier - A History in Photos
Postcard of a beached whale on Clacton beach (pre-war)
Beached Minkie Whale on Clacton Beach (Pre-War)
Clacton Pier in August 1985 with the two main attractions, the Lido Water Slide & the
Whirlwind Rollercoaster
The Whirlwind Rollercoaster - Easter weekend 1983
The Blue Lagoon (1950's)
Ariel photo of Clacton Pier before the Steel Stella fire (1973)
The Steel Stella from the sea
Big queues for the Steel Stella main attraction
Pleasure boat trips with the Steel Stella in the background
Steel Stella seen from the front of Clacton Pier
The Steel Stella rollercoaster (1954)
A view from the top of the Steel Stella with a car on its way up (1950's).
The lift house fire on the Steel Stella Rollercoaster (4th August 1973)

During a show at the Ocean Theatre on 4th August 1973 at 9pm a pier worker ran onto the stage, grabbed
the microphone and said "Dont panic, the pier is on fire" Pianist Len Abbott first thought it was a joke but
comedian Russ Abbott soon realised it wasn't and took control and asked the audience of about 800 to leave the theatre quietly. A witness remembered seeing comedian Jim Bowen at the back of the theatre helping
the usherettes show people out. There was no sign of panic and pier staff later praised the public for a
swift and quiet exit. In all approximately 3000 people were evacuated from the pier before the Clacton,
Frinton and Weeley fire services turned up to put the rest of the fire out.
Pier workers had formed a bucket chain from the dolphinarium to the fire, their fire fighting attempts
where hampered by the dolphins as they dipped the buckets in for water, apparently they thought
this to be an extension of their play time and grabbed the buckets by the handles and swam off with them.
A number of the buckets were recovered from the bottom of the pool the next morning.

Pier manager Ken Ashdown scrambled up the 50ft rollercoaster in vain in an attempt to contain the fire
(you can see him on the right in the photo above). Pier staff and some young lads got onto the roof
of the Ocean Theatre to damp it down to prevent the fire from spreading as there was alot of sparks and
hot ash blowing about. The fire was thought to have been caused by an electrical fault in the pull up
hut that housed the electrical machinery, the Steel Stella had been a landmark since the thirties and
survived the war, sadly the end of its life had come.

In November 1973 workmen moved in to start the huge task of dismantling the rollercoaster, the wood
from the Steel Stella was placed outside the entrance of the pier and offered as firewood for free to the
public, with a winter of terrible gales and the threat of powercuts, this was very handy for some.
I wonder if anybody out there still has a piece of the Steel Stella or did it all go up in smoke?
In December the final section of the Steel Stella was pulled down and the 36 year old ride was no more.

Skyliner ride
High Wire act (June 1972)
The high wire act was performed by german acrobat Johann Traber, the 21 year old did stunts
including hanging by his feet and standing on his hands while swaying side by side 135ft in the air
on the thin pole.
The act which had been in the Traber family for more than 300 years was staged twice a day
on Clacton Pier and was the first time seen in the UK.
Dick Emery was one of many stars who put on summer shows at the Ocean Theatre on Clacton Pier
On the balcony of the Jolly Roger (year unknown)
East Essex Gazette (30th March 1979) courtesy of Michael Goss
Special thanks to Michael Goss for these rare and fantastic photographs
(Photographs are not to be used without permission from the owner)

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