Folly Pier

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Folly Pier as it remains today.

Folly Pier is a stone shipping quay, located on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England; part of the Jurassic Coast. It is found on the east side of the island within the area of East Weares - now abandoned.[1] Other features within the area includes King's Pier, East Weares Rifle Range, Folly Pier Waterworks, the two Salt Pans, Little Beach and Durdle Pier respectively.[2] Although Folly Pier, like many of the stone shipping quays on Portland, dates to the 17th century.[3] On the site of Folly Pier there is a tumbled pile of dressed stones at the edge of the sea.[4]


World War II Pillbox near Folly Pier.

Folly Pier was once known as Old Pier. When British architect Inigo Jones chose Portland Stone for the rebuilding of the Banqueting House at Whitehall, London, in 1619, the island's stone became increasingly popular. The three-year contract between Jones and the island gave Portland the chance to build various roads, and also the piers along East Weares' coastline. Folly Pier was one of these, and became one of the main stone shipping places on the east side. From the earliest days of the stone industry, the Islanders had the right to erect piers with cranes or sheers for shipping off stone 'from any part of the water mark'.

The pier, during 1745, was described as being useless, and subject to be destroyed by the sea. In 1765, a new pier on the site had been built, recorded on a plan of 1770 as 'Mr Gilbert's Pier Commonly known by Folly.' In 1800 it was named as New or Folly Pier.[5] The name Folly originated from the fact that the pier's exposed position beneath East Weares, coupled with landward inaccessibility, quickly consigned the pier to history.[6]

The limestone quarries of East and Penn's Weares were the earliest to be quarried on the island, and were the location of Sir Christopher Wren's first workings for stone to rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666. The quarries occupied a 200-300m wide strip along the east coast of the island between Church Ope Cove and King's Pier. At Penn's Weare the dressing process remains clear and evident from roughly dressed stone to finely square blocks, with dressing rough-out piles in situ. These remains continue northwards into East Weare, although 19th and 20th century development has caused significant damage.[7] The finished stone was shipped from the adjacent Durdle, Folly, and King's Piers, although only Durdle Pier remained well-preserved until early 2014 when storms destroyed the pier's standing wooden crane.[8]

The best piers in 1800 were noted as being King's Pier, east of the Verne, Durdle Pier, and three piers around Church Ope Cove, while others existed at Cheyne, Underbank (Southwell), Folly Pier and crude, short-lived loading platforms under West cliffs. Castletown provided the best facilities and sheltered water, but it was furthest from the quarries. The roads between the quarries and to the piers were poor, being prone to damage by heavy carts and land movement. If in working the cliff quarries a road or way was destroyed, the adjoining owner was expected to allow it to be diverted onto his land, on receipt of 'Road Dues'.[9]

The surrounding area was chosen for the site of Folly Pier Waterworks, which was built in 1855 by John Coode for the government, to supply the prison with water. It was closed due to an outbreak of typhoid which killed several prisoners who drank the water, and the ruins of the reservoir tanks were used as swimming pools for Borstal Boys during the late 1920s and 1930s. The ruins still exist to date.[10][11] In addition to the pier and waterworks, a World War II pillbox is also located near the shoreline, next to pier. This pillbox was constructed during 1940-41, of reinforced concrete and stone. It has an irregular six-sided plan. An original field visit in 1996 had found the structure to be in good condition, and as of 2014 it remains in the same condition. However part of the cliff face has dropped, and the pillbox has become slightly overhanging, to which an inevitable collapse will occur in the future.[12]



Coordinates: 50°33′12″N 2°25′03″W / 50.5533°N 2.4175°W / 50.5533; -2.4175