Gravesend Town Pier Pontoon officially opens

PUBLISHED: 09:53 16 October 2012 | UPDATED: 09:55 16 October 2012

pontoon opening

pontoon opening


As water cannon were fired off to celebrate the official opening the Gravesend Town Pier Pontoon last week, it marked 180 years since the pier was first constructed.

The new Pontoon - what you’re saying on

Call me old-fashioned, but I like proper piers, not offshoots from the lovely real pier, which incidentally is a restaurant!

Having said that, suppose it adds a certain interest when ships and old barges are moored.

Bee L, Gravesend

Definitely cherish the pier as a landmark, if we are to encourage tourism and general interest for all we need every single piece of heritage that exists in Gravesham.

I love the shapes and individual beautiful designs that are left from the Victorian era, so much nicer than the cheaper materials and bland boring shapes of many later builds in the area.

When you sit on the top of Windmill Hill and take in the vista of the roads leading to the Clock Tower, you realise there was purpose and coordination, with a beautiful sweep of pillars and arches at the top of Harmer Street.

Joyia H, New House

I think the pontoon is an excellent addition to the town.

It enables ships like the Waverley, the only remaining ocean-going paddle steamer to moor on the Gravesend side of the river at any state of the tide. She moored at Tilbury previously.

A Thames barge is attached to the pontoon at the moment.

These things all bring attention to the historic pier and to Gravesend itself.

It can only be good for the town.

Shirley, Perry Street

It stands today as the oldest cast iron pier in the world – its durability largely down to being designed by William Tierney Clark, a famous civil engineer responsible for the first bridge to span the River Thames; Hammersmith Bridge.

Initially the pier, which cost £8,700 and subsequently bankrupted the council in 1834, was not fully enclosed, leaving visitors open to the elements, and the steps at the end were regularly immersed by the tide, making it tricky getting on and off vessels

A pontoon was later added, but by the end of the 20th century it had been left to deteriorate while under private ownership.

It was not until 2000 that Gravesham Borough Council intervened to renovate the town’s historic pier, with the intention it would be financially viable.

Everything above the original cast iron was dismantled and replaced, and a restaurant was fitted to bring in more visitors.

The pontoon, attached to the pier by a 45m gangway, was assembled in Northfleet where it was then placed in the river and towed downstream to Gravesend.

On Friday the final product of £2.1m of investment was officially opened by the Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Lyn Milner.

It is hoped, she said, that the pontoon will contribute to tourism and to the town’s complete regeneration.

Promoting ferry transport was also a main aim of the project.

Despite the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry boycotting the new pontoon in the first few weeks of it being used due to lighting concerns, it is intended for the ferry service to move within the next week.

The Gravesend-Tilbury service carries around 90,000 passengers each year and replaces a 40-minute road journey of 20 miles, which includes the notoriously congested Dartford crossing.

iTransfer, a project which champions sustainable ferry links, has supported the pontoon.

Dr Martin Gibson, from the Institute for Sustainability, works with iTransfer and spoke of the benefits of ferry transport.

“I am delighted to witness the opening of this splendid new landing stage. Travelling by ferry is often quicker, cheaper, more reliable and more relaxing,” he said.

“And, importantly, it takes cars off the road and is kinder to the environment. This new facility will encourage more people to travel by water-based transport.”

The pontoon is the latest project to re-establish Gravesend’s historic link to the Thames - now with the announcement of the Paramount Park development the council hopes to make the riverside the thriving hub it was centuries ago.

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