Wednesday 30 October 2013

Island 209 - Knightstone Island, Weston-super-Mare

I have been undecided whether or not to include Knightstone Island in my island 'collection', as it is now firmly joined on to the northern end of Weston-super-Mare's seafront.  However on a map dated 1806 it is shown as a separate island with a tidal causeway.

 Plan of Weston-super-Mare showing Knightstone Island in 1806.  
From The First Guide to Weston-super-Mare 1822, edited by Ernest Baker and reprinted in 1901.

Knightstone Island was acquired by the Pigott family in 1696 (they later became the Smyth-Pigotts) and they owned it until the early 19th century.  The island was used for fishing and as Weston-super-Mare's first coal yard.  It was purchased in 1820 by Mr John Howe from Bristol.  He constructed the first medicinal baths there, which were rented in 1822 by Benjamin Atwell.  There were hot and cold saltwater baths, a lodging house, public refreshment rooms and a reading room.  At that time the island was connected to the mainland by a natural pebble ridge, which was covered at high tide.

Reverend Thomas Pruen bought Knightstone in 1824. He commissioned the construction of a causeway to the island, which was built above the high tide level, and a low pier, which was used by pleasure boats.  He also built an open-air tidal swimming pool on the shore, which was replenished by seawater at every high tide.  This was extended into the current Marine Lake in 1929.

Dr Edward Long Fox (1761-1835), a physician from Brislington, bought Knightstone Island in 1828. He thought that sea bathing was a good treatment for both mental and physical illnesses. He and his son Dr Francis Ker Fox (1805-83) carried out further developments on the island, including raising the level of the causeway using Cornish granite, building a lodging house for patients and a new bath house (1832). 

The island changed hands several more times after 1847 and the buildings on it were rebuilt or re-modelled several times. In 1880 it was bought by Mr Griffiths, who enlarged the open air pool and built a covered pool for women on the north side.  In 1894 Arthur's Tower and the other lodging houses on the island were demolished.

The island was eventually bought by the Weston Urban District Council c1896.  They enlarged the island by building a new retaining wall on the north eastern side.  They built a new swimming pool and a Pavilion, which both opened in May 1902.  The Pavilion was designed by the architect J.S. Stewart and included refreshment rooms, a reading room, a billiard room and a theatre.  It had electric lighting and a hot water heating system.  Seawater was used in the swimming pool and a huge settling tank was constructed underneath the pool and Pavilion.

In September 1903 hundreds of people were temporarily marooned on the island and Eddie Bryant, the Pavilion's electrical engineer, was drowned when the causeway was swept away in a storm during a performance at the theatre.

Band concerts, plays, operas and other shows were performed at the Knightstone Pavilion and films were shown but the stage was too small for large productions.

By the 1970s Knightstone Pavilion was struggling financially and it finally closed in 1991.  There were plans to convert the site into a leisure complex but these never came to anything and the buildings on Knightstone Island gradually deteriorated.

In 2006-7 the whole island was redeveloped.  The Bath House and front section of the ground floor of the Pavilion were converted into commercial premises.  The rest of the Pavilion and the swimming pool were converted into homes and two new apartment blocks were built on the island.

The Queen visited to re-open the island's perimeter walkway on 20th July 2007.  The Coronation Promenade was first opened in 1953 to celebrate her coronation.

 Entrances to the Bath House on the left and Swimming Pool on the right

 The Bristol Queen and the Westward Ho (Flat Holm ferry) at Knightstone Quay.
The Bristol Queen was looking very worse for wear in October 2013

 Knightstone Island in 2017
 The island has been altered from its natural state so much that it is only from the sea that you can see some of the original rocks

Former Swimming Pool

Knightstone Island from across the Marine Lake
Entrance to the former Swimming Pool

Former Pavilion
Garden of Dr Fox's Tearoom (the old Bath House)
Looking north west along the Marine Lake towards Anchor Head

 Plaque commemorating the re-opening of the Coronation Promenade by the Queen on 20th July 2007

Let it Shine mural by Mishfit
This was painted as part of the Western Wallz Project 2023

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting. So pleased many buildings have been restored.