Garth Pier


link_to_french_translationGarth Pier, Bangor

This pier, which retains its intricate Victorian ironwork, was opened in 1896 by Lord Penrhyn. It was designed by London-based engineer JJ Webster and cost £17,000 to construct. Its primary purpose was to enable steamships from Liverpool and other places to bring passengers to Bangor. A narrow-gauge railway carried passengers' luggage along the pier’s 472-metre length. Smaller vessels shuttled between Garth Pier and Llandegfan or Beaumaris, on the opposite side of the Menai Strait.

The pier, unusually, was not altered by the addition of theatres and other entertainment facilities. However, it was damaged when a cargo ship collided with it in 1914. The Royal Engineers made temporary repairs. Permanent repairs had to await the end of the First World War.

In 1927-28 Philip White, professor of zoology at Bangor University, set up a small marine laboratory in one of the pier kiosks, which he rented from the Corporation of Bangor. He had been trying to develop marine biological studies in Bangor since the 1890s. He reported that he was having difficulty in carrying his plan through at the pier, shortly before he died suddenly in December 1929. His successor, Prof Francis William Rogers Brambell, launched the university’s first Marine Zoology course in 1932. Today Bangor is a renowned centre of marine science.

HMS Conway aground in Menai Strait

In May 1941 an ancient battleship was moored west of the pier. HMS Conway was a naval training school founded in 1859 and housed for most of its life aboard a 19th-century wooden battleship. For 65 years the former HMS Nile had been moored at Rock Ferry on the River Mersey. As the Merseyside Blitz intensified, the ship was towed to a safer anchorage at Bangor.

In 1949 it moved along the Menai Strait to moorings near Plas Newydd, Anglesey. While being towed back to the Mersey for a refit in 1953 the ship ran aground near the Menai Suspension Bridge and was declared a total loss. The photos of the wreck (on the right) were taken by the late Hugh Pritchard.

Garth Pier’s condition deteriorated in the 1960s and it closed to the public in 1971. In the mid-1970s Arfon Borough Council, then owner of the pier, decided the pier should be demolished. Bangor City Community Council bought the pier in 1978 for just 1p. In 1982 a restoration project began, with funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Manpower Services Commission and Welsh Office.

The pier reopened to the public in 1988, and today is considered one of Britain’s most unspoilt Victorian piers. Bangor City Council remains its owner. Ships can no longer berth alongside.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno, and to David Roberts, of Bangor University

Postcode: LL57 2SW    View Location Map

Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Site of HMS Thetis beaching, Moelfre – submarine sank with loss of 99 lives in 1939
Castle Buildings, Llanfairfechan – named after wrecked ship whose timbers were recycled
Dinas Dinlle – ex-army amphibious vehicle wrecked as Caernarfon man tried to sail it to Australia

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