South Esplanade

Work on the ‘new sea front’ running south from  Pier Street to Pillsmouth began in the late 1920’s. This  postcard (below) probably from the late 19th century, shows the area 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. 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.


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.

Report from Western daily Press 20th Jan 1930:

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 left and the remains of the rails to the jetty in the left foreground. The ‘Cathedral’ can also be seen.

The Marine Cafe was eventually built alongside the entrance to the lake.

Advert above from Burnham Guide 1975


Marine Lake 1

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. It is thought that the photo below may be of the opening.

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

Scans courtesy of Ann Popham.

Image used by kind permission of Bob & June Thomas.

A self-contained site, with paid admission, the Marine Lake enabled safer swimming for a time and it became a major holiday attraction in the town.  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.

Above 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.






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

Above picture from Burnham on Sea Guide 1967

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).

2 thoughts on “South Esplanade”

  1. 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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