Marine Lake

Construction of the South Esplanade and Marine Lake was started with a grant from the Government to the Urban District Council  to combat unemployment and encourage Holiday Makers. The ‘Marine Lake’ a sea water swimming pool and boating lake was constructed on the site of the original Jetty tidal pool works (see Jetty trail point). Prior to this at around 1912 there had been changing rooms near the head of the jetty used by local swimming club when the tide came in.

The Western Daily Press of 20th January 1930 reported that “The men from a distressed area employed on the Marine Lake have been made welcome to the club room of the Adult School during their stay in Burnham.”

Burnham beach has fresh water springs in a number of places and difficulty was encountered with a particularly forceful one when Marine Lake was being constructed.

The First Lord of the Admiralty of the time the Rt Hon. A.V. Alexander ceremoniously rowed across the lake to open it in 1931.

Video still of A.V. Alexander cutting ribbon.

It is thought that the photo above may also  be of the opening.

The next image shows the narrow gauge tracks used to transport the building materials still in place.

Image courtesy of Paul Wynn
Image courtesy of Paul Wynn.
Image courtesy of Paul Wynn.

The fences in the pictures above show that it was a self-contained site, with paid admission. Nevertheless it  enabled safer swimming for a time and  was very popular (see next picture), becoming a major holiday attraction in the town.  The next sequence of pictures show updates to the entrance buildings and the bathing tents, which were eventually removed and some more substantial buildings (changing rooms?) added further south. Finally we can see the later amusement arcade which was extended out on a platform over the same area.

Image courtesy of Paul Wynn.
Image above courtesy of Paul Wynn.

Above, a clear view of the bathing huts & platform. Note amusements in background: ‘Play Skeeball’ ( a bagatelle type game) and ‘Drive Your Own Car’ (Dodgems?).

(On postcard below note the palmist booth at the bottom right.)

Image courtesy of Ann Popham.

At one time Bob Marchent had a concession selling ice cream from the entrance building.

Below, note absence of changing tents, and new buildings at top right.

Image courtesy of Ann Popham.

Below we see the back of the amusement arcade of the 1960’s, which can also be seen (the yellow ended building)  in the aerial view further down. (John Strickland recalls that the method of construction of this arcade, floored by  planks supported by scaffolding extending out from the sea wall, resulted in many coins being lost through gaps in the floor.)

Image from Glen Luxon archive.
Postcard courtesy of Ann Popham.


Drowning Accident 

Below is a Western Daily Press report of 1933 of an inquest into the death of a swimmer who lost his life at the Lake whilst on a visit from Wookey.

This provides some interesting detail about the Lake and its usage.

There is also mention of George Henry Warren who is likely to be the same person later lost in the wreck of the William. He was probably  living in Abingdon St at this time and would have been aged about 57 . He would have been a suitable person to manage the Marine Lake, having had a great deal of maritime experience.


Decline and Demolition

Unfortunately the old problem of silting and erosion continued, causing safety problems. Although the lake reopened  after its closure during the war it never returned to its original level of usage.

Picture from Burnham on Sea Guide 1967

Eventually the structure became unsafe and fell into decay. It was not finally demolished and cleared until the 1990, debris still continues to emerge from the sand and mud from time to time. Another clear up of resurfaced debris took place in February 2021.



Below, the remains of the old narrow gauge track, unearthed during demolition. Photographed by Glyn Luxon.

John Strickland recalls, of the decaying structure’s later days, ” Very good fishing could be had from the lake but you had to be careful of the tide height. I know there was a least one rescue via helicopter which probably caused the planned demolition.”

2 thoughts on “Marine Lake”

  1. The article mentions that the Amusement Arcade had a plank floor, and that pennies were often lost between the gaps in the planks. I used to go under the arcade after school on summer afternoons and could often find a few pence. If I had any sense I’d buy sweets or chocolate with them, but more often I tried to win more on the machines in the Arcade, with the inevitable result that I would lose them! Around 1959 or so I once went with a much younger friend round the wall of the Marine Lake as the tide was getting high. There were some of the old coping stones remaining at the seaward end of the Lake, making that part of the wall higher than the rest, and we were not paying sufficient attention to the height of the tide. When we decided to come back I was horrified to see that the sea level had covered the lower parts of the wall, which was nearly all of it except where we were standing. However there were a few metal stanchions left over from the previous railings still standing out of the water on the south side of the Lake wall, so using these as a guide we made it back to the shore with very wet feet.

    1. Thanks for your interesting recollections Tony. Clearly the fisherman above was not the only one who hit problems!

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