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largs pier

A walk around Largs Pier. The North End.

With the opening of the pier the area and surrounding land became the centre point of the town. At this time the north end was basically vacant except for a two small offices used by the steamer and railway companies as booking offices. The only other buildings along the prom would have been the small row of fisherman's huts which were known locally as "The Fishboxes" where local fishermen sold their fresh fish.

The Largs Prom from the north of the pier to Aubery was completed in 1902 and was officially named the Victoria Esplanade. The green strip between the Prom and the main road was known as Largs Green. The Prom south of the pier going out to Broomfileds is known as the Queen Alexandra Esplanade. Named after the wife of King Edward VII it was opened in June 1902.

old largs pier
old largs pier
A busy pier at the around 1915.
With the opening of the pier the pier area became a transport hub.
North of the pier taken in 1891 from the new Clark Memorial Steeple
Same view taken in the 1950s

In 1934 Harry Kemp, the Ayrshire king of entertainment, bought the ground from the LMS railway company for £6000. He planned to build a cinema, restaurant and ballroom. Then began a legal wrangle after the Town Council objected to the erection of the new Kemp building. They wanted to preserve the area as an open space. They claimed that in law that the proposed buildings were prohibited under the feu charter. Only buildings for the use of the pier could be built ,they maintained. The case went to the Court of Session and Mr Kemp won his case to proceed. The Town Council appealed to the House of Lords and all 6 judges found in favour of Mr Kemp. Then the war came and nothing could be done.

By 1947 a new planning act was passed and under this the Largs town council refused permission to build. Mr Kemp appealed to the Secretary of State for Scotland. A public inquiry was held in Largs and lasted 3 days and Mr Kemp's appeal was refused. During this delayed period the ground was left vacant. As cars became more affordable, along with Largs becoming more popular as a holiday resort, the land was used as a car park for many years. Mr Kemps plans were eventually approved in 1966.

largs pier car park
largs pier car park
A busy car park
Prior to the arrival of the amusments the pier seen many travelling stands and attractions.
Once permission was eventually granted plans were put forward for a two story building with a ballroom. These plans were once more rejected mainly by local residents objecting to the loss of their sea views. The plans were changed to a one story building and building commenced. The building was reported built with steelwork so heavy that the intention was to leave the plans for a ballroom for a few years and then re visit later. The new building was eventually built in 1966.

The original building opened in 1967 as the Manhattan Amusements, before going on to become the Cumbraen Amusements in the1980s.

the cumbrian
Cumbraen amusments
The new amusments under construction.
The Cumbaen Amusments
kemps advert
An 1966 article from the Largs and Millport News announcing the new Kemp Building
To the north end of the amusements , where the Fish Works and Beachcombers is today, was a row of children rides located on the prom. These are fondly remembered by many who grow up in the 1960s.

In the 1970s the ladies and gents toilet block was built with their entrance facing Gallowgate Street and a sheltered seating area facing the prom. Tjhe building next door facing Gallowgate Street was built by Mr Kemp when the main Cumbrean Amusement building was erected. He leased this to Ayrshire Council who ran an Information Centre which later became the Largs Tourist Information office. Today it houses the Bean and Leaf. Check out their web site.

In the early 2000s the owner of the Beachcombers took over the toilet block shelter and opened the Candy Factory Sweet shop on one side and the Jolly Roger Adventure soft play area on the other. 2017 seen the arrival of its current owner, The Fish Works. The Fish Works is now a very popular and award winning Fish and Chip shop/restaurant More details on the Fish Works can be found on their web site.

The images below show some of the stalls and childrens's rides where the Fish Works is today.

The first two photos show Madame Bella and her palm reading stall. Her real name was Connie Bell and was a regular site on the prom from the 1950s to 1965. Connie's husband, Ernie, ran the cover the spot stall next door. The photo on the left is Connie in front of her stall. The photo to the right is Connie's granddaughter Cheryl Inwood in front of her grandfather’s stall. Insert photo is Ernie. Many thanks to Cheryl for sharing these photos with us.

The next batch of photos are of the many children’s rides which were popular in the 1960s.

The next four photos are by kind permission of Kenny Freed.
They were taken in 1959 by Kenny's late father in law Bert Aitken.
These photos show Kennys wife and brother in law with some friends.
The Fish Works
largs childrens ride
largs candy factory
The 1960s Prom childrens ride. Photo by kind permission of Colin Waddell.
These images were located on the site of todays Fish Works.
bean and leaf
fish works
Bean and Leaf on the site of the old Largs tourist information centre
The Fish Works
In the late 1990s plans were put forward for a 7 million pound redevelopment of the Cumbraen Amusements buiulding which would see the building demolished and replaced by a three level theme park complex.

However by 1998 the building was upgraded both externally and internally with a new name of Atlantis. This saw the addition of an 8 lane 10 Pin Bowling Alley, a Wimpy food outlet and licensed bar called Fluids with a new entrance direct from the prom. The bowling alley and new bar were very popular with locals providing great family entertainment in the town. By 2008 another name change seen the building changed to Escape and Lanes.

In 2015 it was announced that the building would get refurbished over the following year and see the arrival of a Costa cafe ,a Co-op store and a new J D Wetherspoons pub. The new pub named The Paddle Steamer opened on June 21 2016.

Click here to go to the next part of the Largs Pier Guide.