Serious thought must be given to problem of the ‘concrete cancer’ (alkali–silica reaction) found in the Prince of Wales pier structure, otherwise the town will have another white elephant on its doorstep.

According to Cornwall Council (CC) minutes, between £5million and £8million is required to repair the 120-year-old pier.

Since the late 1800s Market Strand has been the ferry hub of the port followed, in 1904 by the Prince of Wales pier, becoming the all important ferry terminus serving the area and further afield in summer with excursions to Coverack, the Lizard, Mevagissey and Fowey.

Decisions must be made as to whether the pier is demolished, demolished and rebuilt or repaired.

The bigger picture should take into consideration how the town sees the future of this pier being incorporated into plans for the waterfront development. CC should appoint a small select number of professional people to address the matter.


The project to build a new extension to Market Strand was first mooted in 1901, when several plans were discussed including one to build an iron pier. The Falmouth Corporation invited Messrs Lang of Liskeard to submit a plan using ferro cement in the construction. The Corporation entered into contracts in January 1903 for extending and improving the piers at Market Strand and Custom House Quay to the tune of £9,194.

The contracts for the new piers was divided into three sections. Section 1, comprised of the foundations for the enlargement of Market Strand and the extension of the proposed pier (Prince of Wales) to be 200 feet. The tender of £4,816 put in by Mr Page of Cardiff was accepted.

The second section was for the enlargement of Market Strand and improvements to the quay. Mr Page was successful with his tender of £1,675. The widening and lengthening of Custom House Quay was won by Penryn builder Rickard and Sons with a price of £2,673.

The plans prepared by the Borough Surveyor, Mr. W. H. Tresidder, provided increased area to the present pier at Market Strand of over 4,000 square feet. This acted as a base for the new pier, which would out in a north-easterly direction the extent of 200 feet.


The steps of the pier are closed to the public

The steps of the pier are closed to the public


The Market Strand works were built using granite masonry. The outer portion of the new pier was constructed on piles made of Hennebique's patent ferro-concrete. He was a French engineer who devised a way of strengthening concrete by embedding steel bars in the cement. Unlike many other similar piers the top surface was finished off with Val De Travers asphalt instead of wood.

The pier rests upon nine circular cylinders each side, with four smaller cylinders forming the outer end. The Corporation at the time said: “There will be no wood in all the composition of the structure, the ferro concrete avoiding all necessity for its use, except in few unimportant details. There will, therefore, be nothing to decay, the ferro-concrete, being steel embedded in cement concrete, is unaffected by the action of the sea or air, and the material has been selected as being most durable and least expensive in upkeep any form of construction.”

On July 20, 1903 their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales left Tregothnan, on the River Fal for Falmouth in the Admiralty yacht Vivid. Having lunched aboard, the couple transferred to the ferry Victoria which landed them at Submarine pier from where they were taken by car to The Moor and then onto Market Strand for the laying of the foundation stone. The Earl of Kimberley opened the pier on May 5, 1905.

Reports in the local papers during 1906 featured many stories relating to the problems associated with the Prince of Wales pier.

“To allow steamers to use the pier without their upper fittings becoming entangled in the overlapping deck, large wooden fenders have had to be fixed to the main pillars, to the great disfigurement of the pier as a whole. As for the flights of steps, they are far from what they should be, and compare badly with those at the Plymouth Promenade Pier. Instead of the existing steep, staircase like arrangement, with much too little foot space; there should have been steps with gentle fall.


Damage to the pier steps

Damage to the pier steps


"When using the pier one wet evening we found large pools of water on the deck, even to the tops of the landing steps. Looking around, it was observed that the surface lacked proper means of drainage. Around the edge of the whole structure a little gutter should have been formed, with down pipes to convey rain water away. Just at this moment the workmen are breaking open some of the completed pillars rising from the deck to insert the gas pipes, for which, through an oversight, there was no provision when these pillars were made.”

Tolls introduced to pay for the pier resulted in an income of £729 16s 1d. These tolls were still collected up until 1964 when they were abolished.

The now defunct Carrick District Council, in what was described as a “money grabbing exercise,” proposed re-introducing tolls per person in 2004 when the then Maritime Officer Captain Andy Brigden was told by the Council he had to find £40,000 a year in savings or increased income.

Speaking to the Packet he said: "The pier charge would be about 20p per person. We have 400,000 people a year using the that pier and there are still lots of piers around the country you still have to pay to go on.”

Following strong opposition from pleasure boat operators and traders the idea was dropped.