The Pier Hotel, Porthcawl

The Pier Hotel, Porthcawl

This building has long been a landmark at the eastern end of the Esplanade. The town never had a traditional seaside pier, and the hotel’s name refers to the nearby stone breakwater at the harbour entrance.

The Pier Hotel was opened in 1904 by Thomas Williams, who gave up his licences for the Ship Aground and Anchor inns at the same time.

Pier Hotel landlady Emma Hughes was praised in 1909 for her hospitality for 18 shipwrecked men who landed at the breakwater in the small hours. They had been travelling on the tugboat Toreador, which was towing home the yacht of Port Talbot harbour master Captain Humphrey Jones after the Penarth regatta. The yacht’s crew rescued Captain Jones and other “prominent gentlemen” from the tug after it struck Tusker Rock and quickly heeled over.

Frederick William Nicholls and his wife took over from Emma in 1910. One of their sidelines was hosting a weekly “corset parlour”, where ladies tried the latest Spirella corsets (tight-fitting underwear which shaped the midriff).

porthcawl_fred_walter_nichollsTheir son Reginald died in France in July 1916 while serving as a Lieutenant with the Welsh Regiment.

Two months later, Fred was fined £2 (more than £170 in today’s money) for breaking wartime blackout regulations, introduced in case German airships attempted to bomb Britain. A Naval coast watcher had spotted three first-floor windows at the Pier Hotel brightly illuminated after 9pm. He had cautioned Fred in March for the same offence.

There was better news for Mr and Mrs Nicholls the following month, October 1916, when their second son, Corporal Fred Walter Nicholls, aged 19, was awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry and leadership in capturing a German trench and then repulsing the enemy’s efforts to retake the trench. Fred junior (pictured left) had worked as a shipping clerk at Cardiff docks before the war.

As tourists returned to Porthcawl after the war, an open space near the Pier Hotel became one of the first places in Wales where parking charges were levied. In summer 1919 the urban district council started charging 2s 6d per day per charabanc, prompting local disgust over “money for nothing”!

Postcode: CF36 3YR    View Location Map