Skip to Main Content
Back to Blog

Pier Pressure: a new chapter for the Claremont Pier

Our guest blog this September comes from Ernie Mayne who, alongside his family, is restoring Lowestoft’s Claremont Pier. The pier, which opened in 1903, was originally built to moor steamers, taking advantage of the Victorian seaside pleasure resort that Sir Samuel Morton Peto had created to compete with the likes of Brighton. In 2022, read how this innovative family are embracing modern-day Lowestoft which is starting to experience a seaside renaissance…

Looking back, do you now realise that during lockdown you clearly began to go out of your mind, and as a result made a variety of crazy decisions? If so, be rest assured that it could have been worse. You could have been the family that decided to buy a pier during the height of the pandemic. You could have been us.

Friday 17th July 2020 was the official day when our world was turned upside down, as Claremont Pier in Lowestoft was bought by the Mayne, Manning, and Llewellyn families. Since then, we have had our ups and downs as we try to restore this local landmark back to its former glory, and even improve it beyond that, whilst battling the pressures of being a family and trying to remember that whilst we may have differing opinions in how to do it, our aims are all the same – to make a sustainable business that we can all be proud of.

Our first summer: 2020

As the purchase went through the day before the school summer holidays, our primary aim was simple – open as much as we could as quickly as we could!

The fish and chip restaurant and ice cream pod, both in useable condition, were staffed by the family along with a few employees that had worked for the previous owner and opened on Day 1. During the first few days we also built a gift and beach shop, and made alterations to the existing arcade, both opening within the first week. Once the brewery had fitted new pipes from the cellar to the downstairs bar, that too opened, and we began to resemble a functioning business at last.

After we had bumbled our way through the first six weeks of madness the world began to head back to a form of normality – as children returned to school, parents’ sanity also returned, and we looked at making a lasting business which required us to start the real work of altering the pier to something that we could be proud of. In October 2020 we opened a coffee shop, and over the Winter and Spring, a rooftop terrace was built feeding from our upstairs sports bar. The arcade had been almost doubled in size, now occupying the roller-skating rink that was previously on offer, and we began purchasing our own arcade equipment, replacing many of the rented machines.

Summer 2021

Our second Summer saw the nation join us on an emotional rollercoaster with the start of the delayed 2020 Euros, so needless to say our upstairs sports bar was invaluable to us.

Grandad Ernie came down to visit, and in true Grandad Ernie style, he told a number of kids what he thought to their antics near his family’s pride and joy, as he waved his walking stick frantically at them if they dared to do anything which he felt was (heaven forbid) childish.

We also tried to celebrate the summer in style and arranged free laser light shows for the public that occurred late evenings on various days. We learnt two valuable lessons that year, although in truth, we knew both already. Firstly that no matter how hard you try there will be some that will always be critical of everything you do and try to put you down. Second, you shouldn’t let any failure stop you from trying. This was demonstrated perfectly when in our second laser light show, the lights could barely be seen, but after a lot of discussion between ourselves we decided to try again. The final show of the season was thankfully a massive hit, being thoroughly enjoyed by those we spoke to.

The family’s patriarch, Grandad Ernie

Summer 2021 ended with very mixed emotions for us. Yes, the Euros had helped to make it a successful summer, and after the loosening of Government restrictions during the year, we decided to open the pier nightclub, The Venue. Opening night was August bank holiday, and we currently open every Saturday. All of that really didn’t matter though, as Grandad Ernie was unfortunately taken from us at the end of August. Whilst not an official owner, we all looked up to him and was seen as the leader of the family, so it really did hurt to lose him. That said, we all know that he would have told us that there is no point dwelling on it as we can’t change it and given how proud he was of us all for taking such a chance as we had on buying the pier, we knew that we had to carry on regardless for him. We have tried to ensure that his legacy will forever live on though, and have made a plaque in memory of him, which is situated on the front of Piranha Joe’s Beach Bar, where he liked to sit and gleefully tell anyone willing to listen that ‘his family owned this whole pier’. We have had many a friend tell us that it was clear to see how proud he was of us all.

In January 2022 we closed the sports bar for the month, with the room being redesigned to give it a modern look. The bar was moved to the centre of the room, darts and pool tables were moved to the top section to allow an element of privacy to those playing whilst not affecting anyone in the main room, and full-length windows were fitted to allow everyone to enjoy what we feel is one of the best views on the East coast. The bar was also renamed Bar20, in recognition of the year we purchased the pier.

From September 2021 we offered the opportunity for pool teams to play in the local leagues on either Mondays or Thursdays. It is clear that the standard of play varies quite significantly through our teams, but everybody seems to enjoy themselves which is obviously all that matters. We are very proud to say that one of our teams won the winter knockout cup, and I’m sure will be eager to defend that title this season coming.

Whilst none of us are originally from Lowestoft ourselves, one common thing mentioned to us in the couple of years we’ve been here is that many locals hope that one day they will be able to walk out onto the piers deck as it has not been open to public use since the early 80s, with most of the deck closed as long ago as the 40s and 50s. Given these requests, we decided from Spring 2022 to make this our own goal. The cost of the project is expected to be upward of £200,000, with all deck boards needing replacement, along with a number of the supports, and some pillars also requiring work. Whilst we are happy to pay as much as possible, funds are not as endless as some people seem to believe, and therefore we have set up a just giving page with a target of £50,000, all of which will be used for the re-deck.

We have also begun to sell pieces of the pre-existing deck, with all money raised through this also being put towards the re-build. Each of the planks are engraved with either a small or large laser engraving which is imprinted by a local company, and cost from £25-35 to purchase, depending on the print. There are no current plans to sell planks online, but they can be purchased directly from the pier coffee shop.

Summer 2022 bought us some of the hottest days ever recorded on English soil- what more could you ask for when you own an amenity at the coast. Another new section also appeared with the introduction of our upstairs kitchen. Whilst we run all other sections across the pier, we decided to rent out the kitchen, and therefore advertised the potential business opportunity. We currently have ‘Just Winging It’ with us, serving a variety of chicken options, along with burgers and fries.

The sporting victories continued into the heat, with a local 5-a-side tournament being won, and a team sponsored by Just Winging It, who were proudly wearing Piranha Joe’s custom-made tee shirts as their kit, being crowned champions. Whilst I accept it may not have been as great a success as the Lionesses, the way they celebrated back at the pier you wouldn’t have known the difference.

All in all, it has been another good year to be a pier owner I’d say. Working with your family 24/7 definitely puts a strain on the relationship, but there’s nobody I’d trust more than my own flesh and blood, so I’ll accept the occasional arguments and disagreements, knowing that in the end, the pros outweigh the cons massively.

If you would like to donate to Claremont Pier’s Just Giving page which will help fund the decks restoration, please click here

If you are interested in a virtual tour of the pier which follows the family behind the scenes, why not watch A Day in the Life of a Seaside Pier by Walk With Me Tim on YouTube.

Or follow the family’s journey on Facebook

All photos courtesy of Claremont Pier and the Mayne, Manning, and Llewellyn families.