The reason for the lake
Weston-super-Mare has the second highest tidal range in the world (i.e. the vertical distance between the high tide and succeeding low tide), regularly reaching nearly 15m. Additionally it also has a 6 knot tidal flow (nearly 7mph). This can make it very dangerous for all, including the most experienced watersports enthusiasts.
This was a key concern of the local authority at Weston, for both the growing number of visitors who wished to swim and play in the sea, something that could be problematic at low tide, as well as the importance of sea defences.
To safeguard the growing investment in the original settlement, improved sea defences were needed.
The sand dunes afforded some protection to any properties lying behind them. Consequently, in the early 19th century attempts to consolidate them were begun.
In 1814 the Revd Lewis, who lived at the beach end of Regent Street, requested that the sandbank nearest to his house should be covered with clay to prevent sand shifting into his street. As a result twenty Guineas was set aside to improve the bank.
There was a high pebble beach from Knightstone to the Revd William Leeves’s cottage with an artificial mudbank acting as a sea wall. This sea wall had a walk along the top of it. This was established around 1826, presumably related to the greater use being made of Knightstone Island.
This bank was extended to where Regent Street was located in 1829. A new esplanade was created on the site of the former sand dunes that was levelled during enclosure. This gravelled path with a low wall is depicted in an 1860 oil painting by William Henry Hopkins.
As early as 1871 a scheme was mooted to enclose Glentworth Bay & Madeira Cove. The aim being to allow bathers easy access to a body of seawater regardless of the tide.
The idea was revived during the 1880s, and in 1888 the architect John S Whittington proposed creating a huge marine lake. This was to stretch from between Ellenborough and Clarence parks.
If you think that is a long way…
In 1895 the newly created Urban District Council decided to support a proposal to create a barrage from Knightstone Island to Black Rock at Uphill, an eye-watering distance of nearly 2 miles.
the lake takes shape
By the 1920s a more realistic scheme took shape and by 1929 a barrage was constructed between Knightstone Island and the shoreline near the southern end of Claremont Crescent, a more manageable distance of 270m.
This means our Lake is nearly 100 years old.
Marine Lake is an infinity lake and is said to be the largest of its kind in the world.
It was originally equipped with a diving stage, rafts, rubber boats, water chutes, and children’s paddle boats. There were hundreds of bathing tents and dressing enclosures to protect bathers’ modesty.
The lake was an instant success, being used by more than a quarter of a million people during 1929.