Ramsey Queens Pier on the Isle of Man has the distinction of being only the second pier to have been erected on the island and is now the only one to have survived. The first pier was built at Douglas in 1869 but was sold and re-erected at Rhos-on-Sea, North Wales, in 1896. Ramsey Queens Pier is also unique in the fact that it the only British pier to have been featured on a set of postage stamps.
Commissioned by the Isle of Man Harbour Board and constructed by the well-known firm of Head Wrightson & Company, this 2241ft (679m) pier was opened on 22nd July 1886 by the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man. Built at a cost of £45,000 Ramsey Queens Pier was designed purely as a landing point for steamers plying the Liverpool, Fleetwood, Belfast and River Clyde routes. Because of this Ramsey Queens Pier has never seen the development of leisure facilities, similar to those found at many other pier's around our coastline.
Ramsey Queens Pier comprised a wooden deck over iron piles, and had a small cafe at the seaward end. A 3ft (900mm) gauge horse-drawn tramway, that was originally used to transport building materials during construction, ran down the centre of the deck and was retained for baggage transport. A new wooden landing stage was added in 1899, along with a covered passenger car on the tramway for the convenience of passengers. The heyday for Ramsey Queens Pier was prior to the Great War - 1914 alone saw the arrival of some 36,000 passengers to the island.
Ramsey Queens Pier also played host to royalty, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra disembarking at the pier-head when on a visit in the early years of the 20th century. The horse-drawn tramway was finally motorised in 1937 when the 8hp-petrol locomotive 'Planet' (No. 2027) was introduced, but little else of note occurred until after the Second World War. Modifications were again made to the tramway in 1950 when a 'Wickham' rail car was added followed by some track alterations in 1956, giving the line an overall length of 2,080ft (631m). 1956 also saw the redevelopment of the pier entrance.
The last forty years of the century has seen the gradual decline of the structure. In 1969, with visitor numbers falling to a mere 3,054, the last Isle of Man Steam Packet Company steamers landed at the pier-head as all services were suspended. Thankfully Ramsey Queens Pier did remain open for the use of holidaymakers wishing to promenade, along with anglers who have always been regular visitors. Finally, in 1979, the disused wooden landing stage had deteriorated to the extent that it had to be fenced off from the main deck for public safety. 1981 saw the closure of the tramway and by 1990 the landing stage had separated from the main deck and was awaiting removal by the Department of Highways, Ports and Properties. The seaward end cafe was destroyed by fire in 1991, being replaced by a shelter and toilets. These facilities were sadly vandalised within days of them opening and this, along with other structural concerns, sealed the pier's closure.
Restoration costs are estimated at £2m -£4m and, despite the pier's future remaining doubtful, the 'Friends of Ramsey Queens Pier' continue to lobby the Manx Government and National Heritage in an attempt to get sufficient funds to see the pier ultimately restored, and re-opened. Hopefully, determination and spirit will win over the usual political manouvering and we wish the 'Friends' every success in their campaign. Ramsey is a charming resort, and the pier definitely contributes to the traditional atmosphere there. Its loss would be tragic. The Manx Government would be prudent to consider one thing: as recent tourists we naturally digested much of the publicity material about the island, and in nearly every instance a photograph of the pier advertised the town of Ramsey!