South Esplanade

Work on the ‘new sea front’ running south from  Pier Street to Pillsmouth began in the late 1920’s. Construction of both this ‘South Esplanade’ and the ‘Marine Lake’ was funded by a grant from the Government to the Urban District Council  to combat unemployment and encourage Holiday Makers. In the picture below Customs Officer Mr Ward is seen inspecting the progress of the work .

This  postcard (below), probably from the late 19th century, shows (from the other direction) the same spot south of the jetty and railway track when it was still undeveloped.

At one time there was a conglomeration of shacks along this part of the sea front, known as ‘Chinatown’, which were probably used for diverse purposes, including as allotments. The photo below shows the Wynn brothers’ pigeon loft in that area. It is said that others kept pigs on the site. Four of Burnham’s old wells were situated here.

Harry Farthing recalled that “To many men the area was a second home and some would start digging at 5 in the morning, go off to work and then do a couple of hours in the morning. Most of them were very proud of their plots. There were four wells dug in that area for water for the gardens and in the spring women from the big houses used to pay the window cleaners a shilling to beat their carpets in a field nearby.

An old railway carriage used by pilots and fishermen and known as ‘The Cathedral’ (services were held there) stood just beyond the railway track.   Follow this link for more information about shipping.

In the picture above: Tom Serfield was a boatman and Pilot ; Titch King was a pilot ; Mr. Warner was a former grocer in College Street.; Mr. Chambers Harris, a well known solicitor,  played the harmonium but is not identified, by deduction he must be either no 4 or 5 with the other person being Mr. Bryant who was a local brewery worker; Tom Parsons played the violin and was employed by Trinity House; we have  no information for No 8 Mr. A Young; Mr. Wooley kept a tea and coffee shop in Alfred Street.

Harry Farthing remembered that “They were known as the Pierhead Rangers and they had some happy times in that old carriage. Vicars who were on holiday used to hold services for them. When I was a lad I used to ask if I could attend and someone would say ‘all right young Charrel, come on in.’ That was a proud moment even if I had to sit very still during the whole service.”

Report from Western daily Press 20th Jan 1930:

A poem from Burnham Gazette of January 29th 1921:

‘Parsons’ probably refers to one of the brothers George and Thomas Parsons.

With the laying out of the new South Esplanade came a new Pilot Hut, a little further south. The man on the right in the photo below (1938) is pilot James ‘Jimpy’ Smith.

The picture below shows how the new Esplanade was developed between the dunes and the sea. Housing was later built on this area of dunes.

The next picture gives a good view of the newly cut South Esplanade and Marine Lake, and the amusements which sprang up on the Chinatown site. The entrance building to the Lake can be seen but  the Marine Cafe has not yet been constructed.

The postcard below, dated 1939, shows  amusement kiosks on the right and the remains of the rails to the jetty in the left foreground.  The popularity of cycle day trips in those days is demonstrated by the ‘cycles stored’ sign in front of the structure at centre.

Bob Marchent took up a concession selling  ice creams from  the entrance building to the Marine Lake.

The Marine Cafe was later built alongside the entrance.

Photos of cafe, 1983, courtesy of Allan Young.

Advert above from Burnham Guide 1975

(See also MARINE LAKE)


This stood on the site now occupied by the Sea View Cafe and its forecourt.

Above picture from Burnham on Sea Guide 1967

Below, amusement arcade 1965. The same building as yellow one on picture above.  Also pictured from rear on Marine Lake  page. Thanks to James Murphy for use of the photograph and for identifying the boys (see comments at bottom of page).

Photo from – courtesy of James Murphy..



bos-seafront-railway-s_zpsaea55020This picture appears to be from the 1950’s. A later and rather less interesting replacement can be seen below.


The ‘Band Shell’  stood further south along the Esplanade on the site now occupied by the ‘arena’ opposite the flats.  It was demolished during the building of the new sea defences.



Postcard scans courtesy of Ann Popham.

Above is a picture of the Royal Marines Band giving a concert in 1969.

At the far end of the South Esplanade was land originally belonging to Pillsmouth Farm (birthplace of Richard Locke) There was a camp site here and eventually the a housing estate and the Holimarine Park were developed on the site in 1963-64.

Image used with kind permission of Bob & June Thomas.


Below can be seen the whole of the South Esplanade area before development (from o.s. 1844-88).

6 thoughts on “South Esplanade”

  1. Hi all
    I remember this place very well
    My grandmother and grandfather Fred and Blanche Miles ran the cafe ,arcade,deckchairs and boats for the lake
    We would arrive every school holiday and I with big John who ran the arcade operated the children’s ride
    Great memories

    1. Hello Dennis and thank you for the trip down memory lane.
      I remember the demise of the arcade and the cafe so you must be older than me. Please share more about these times and if possible more about big John as this might prompt someone else to add their memories. Like you say great memories and I remember the arcade only having one 45 RPM record – ‘Take These Chains From My Heart And Set Me Free !’ It was a mind worm for several hours after a visit.

  2. Hi!
    The photo of the two boys on the tandem belongs to me. They are Billy Murphy Jr, son of Billy Murphy Sr who owned Lakeside Amusements (The yellow arcade) and Graham Tandy, son of John Tandy who had the donkeys on the beach.

    Just for interest. When the lease for the arcade ran out at the end of 1969, we then took over the amusement arcade and bingo on the Lakeside Holiday Camp where we stayed until it was sold at the end of 1976.

    I have other photos from these years of the sea front arcade and holiday camp.

    1. Hello James and sorry we have left it a while to thank you us using your photo. Your photo is just as I remember the amusements and I spent many pennies there and when I had spent them all we would go onto the beach and underneath the flooring looking for coins that had dropped through the wooden flooring planks, We would love it if you are willing to let us have more images. I will contact you via my personal email to aid you sending these.

  3. Very interesting article / information, with lovely pictures. Sadly Burnham-on-Sea has lost its sparkle in recent years, but it is lovely to see it in its heyday.

    1. Hi Anthony,
      Thank you for your comment. Glad you liked the South Esplanade page, hope you have explored and enjoyed the rest of the site too. Check the News page from time to time as we are adding new information whenever we can.

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