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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Torquay Part 2 Princess Pier

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JUNE. 27, 2021


Part two of my walk around Torquay is entirely on the pier. As I explained in part one, all the photos will be shown in the order taken on the walk.


A bit of background to Torquay.


The town's economy, like Brixham's, was initially based upon fishing and agriculture, but in the early 19th century it began to develop into a fashionable seaside resort. Later, as the town's fame spread, it was popular with Victorian society. Renowned for its mild climate, the town earned the nickname the English Riviera.


Torquay's name originates in its being the quay of the ancient village of Torre. In turn, Torre takes its name from the tor (A rocky outcrop), the extensively quarried remains of which can be seen by the town's Lymington Road thus giving this the original name of Torrequay, then Torkay, Torkey and Tor Quay before joining the words together to Torquay.


Hand axes found in Kents Cavern have been dated as 40,000 years old, and a maxilla fragment, known as Kents Cavern 4, may be the oldest example of a modern human in Europe, dating back to 37,000–40,000 years ago.


So tourists have been coming here for a long time before the pier was built. Work on the pier commenced in 1890 as a simple mass concrete groyne. A steel lattice girder and timber structure was added in 1894, followed by a landing quay on the seaward side of the pier-head in 1906. A shelter, built to a modern design, dates from 1965.


There have been various restoration projects undertaken on the pier in the last ten years.




Torquay Marina is sheltered by the pier. There was little development until the early 19th century, when Lawrence Palk, 2nd Baronet built a new harbour here. Much of the later building in the town was done by his solicitor, William Kitson, who was put in charge of the Palk estates in 1833. At this time the town started to attract visitors in ill health as a winter resort because of its fresh air and mild climate. Its population grew by over ten times in the first 50 years of the century. Later in the century, Torquay became a favoured resort for the upper classes. In 1870, Lawrence Palk, 1st Baron Haldon built another new harbour for the town which made it popular with yacht sailors. It was also extensively used for importing coal and wool from Australia.




Below is the Marella Explorer, which has spent most of the last eighteen months taking shelter in the bay.


Marella Explorer is a Century-class cruise ship owned and operated by Marella Cruises. Before joining TUI she cruised as MV Galaxy with Celebrity Cruises, and later as Mein Schiff with TUI Cruises. She was laid down at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on 25 May 1995, was launched in May 1996, and was delivered to Celebrity Cruises on 10 October 1996. She entered service on 21 December 1996. She was renamed Mein Schiff (English: My Ship) on 15 May 2009, Mein Schiff 1 in November 2010, and Marella Explorer in 2018.

The ramp section below is a modern addition enabling access to the end of the pier.


Below the Dart Venturer is providing sightseeing tours of Torbay with a backdrop of the MS Queen Victoria.


The Victoria has also been taking refuge during the Covid period at this and other locations along the south coast.


MS Queen Victoria (QV) is a Vista-class cruise ship operated by the Cunard Line and is named after the former British monarch Queen Victoria. The vessel is of the same basic design as other Vista-class cruise ships including Queen Elizabeth. At 90,049 gross tonnage (GT) she is the smallest of Cunard's ships in operation. Her facilities include seven restaurants, thirteen bars, three swimming pools, a ballroom, and a theatre.


Queen Victoria departed the Port of Venice on 24 August 2007 to commence her sea trials, and, after handover to Cunard, arrived in Southampton, United Kingdom, to fanfare and media attention on 7 December; much of the coverage was focused on the ship's superlatives, and represented Queen Victoria as "Cunard's most luxurious ship." The same day, the ship was officially named by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, continuing the tradition of Cunard "Queens" being named by royalty. The bottle of champagne failed to break upon impact with Queen Victoria's hull, which according to nautical superstition is a bad omen. However, a backup bottle was immediately successful.





There are three slipways visible in this view of the inner harbour below. The one on the right is the current slipway used for launching small boats. The two darker concrete slipways in the centre are not in use, as they are the preserved D-Day landing craft slipways of World War II. A large part of the D-Day landing force departed from this harbour. I will show these in more detail in a later post.

This is the cast iron beacon light at the end of the pier dated 1893, looking back at Princess gardens with the present day Ferris wheel.


This is an original Capstan now beyond repair and just a relic of former years. A capstan is a broad revolving cylinder with a vertical axis used for winding a rope or cable, powered by a motor or pushed round by levers. Traditionally wooden stakes were placed in the holes to create a winding handle which sailors would push around to wind heavy chains or ropes.


Capstan cigarettes was originally launched by W.D. & H.O. Wills in 1894, and was one of the most popular brands of cigarettes in the early-twentieth century. It was W.D. & H.O. Wills' answer to Player's Medium cigarettes. Capstan Full Strength contained, by a margin of 0.21 mg/cigarette, the highest nicotine content (3.39 mg/cigarette) of any brand, and the second-highest tar content.


Various advertising posters were made for Capstan cigarettes, including one to encourage female workers in factories during World War II to smoke Capstan to relax at the end of a working day. One of the most well-known slogans at the time was "Time for a Capstan". Another popular slogan after the end of WWII was "Have a Capstan". A few celebrities advertised this brand, such as English actress Evelyn Laye and British star David Niven.


The chief selling point of Capstan was that they were strong and the competitor brand advertised that they were "Navy Cut". Cigarettes were definitely associated with manly pursuits like sailors, and of course cowboys in the case of Marlborough.


The furthest reaches of the pier were working quayside which is unusual for a seaside pier. This means the cast iron railings end and there is no safety rail.

This bench seems to have escaped all the recent makeovers and obviously hasn't seen a paint brush in quite some time. Having said that it is on the most exposed outer edge of the pier where it experiences the worst ravages of the sea.


The Dart Venturer on it's return journey around the bay. It's a relief to see holidaymakers enjoying the sun and the sea air, doing something more normal again.

The Red Ensign or "Red Duster" below is the civil ensign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is one of the British ensigns, and it is used either plain as seen here or defaced with a badge or other emblem, mostly in the right half. It is the flag flown by British merchant or passenger ships since 1707.




A lot of public works were going on, on the day of my photo walk, including the hanging of the pier lights. Sometimes when you ask permission to photograph working people in action you get a grumpy or a suspicious no, on this occasion I got a very cheerful yes. So a big thank you to the electricians, it all adds to the story.


At the entrance to the pier you can look up in more detail at the Royal Terrace Gardens.


The Royal Terrace Gardens to the north of Torbay Road comprise a series of three principal walks terraced into the south-facing Waldon Cliff. The walk is retained above the level of Torbay Road by rustic stone walls which are planted with ornamental trees, shrubs, and specimen cordylines. This narrow retained bed contains several low rustic ornamental cairns, one of which retains a collection of ferns. To the north of the walk further rustic stone walls retain ornamental planting with an exotic and Mediterranean character. Bench seats are set in recesses at regular intervals in the south-facing wall. The upper terraces and slopes are planted with mixed ornamental shrubs and trees including mature specimen pines and Monterey cypress. The trees and shrubs retain some herbaceous and bulbous underplanting. To the west and east the upper terraces are terminated by lengths of sheer cliff and picturesquely exposed rock, while both upper terraces are carried over shallow clefts in the cliff face by picturesque timber footbridges; the present bridges are late C20 reconstructions.




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