Sidmouth’s Jacobs Ladder cost �3 5s to paint in 1901

Nostalgic look at history of one of Sidmouth’s famous landmarks

A RECENT news report in the Sidmouth Herald states Jacobs Ladder is under threat because it needs a lick of paint, at a cost of around �11,000.

The deteriorating state of one of Sidmouth’s landmarks, and the feeling by district councillors that it must be preserved, prompts Nostalgia to look at the Western Beach and its popular tourist attraction.

Local author John Ankins, helped by daughter Margaret Taylor, writes in his book Jacobs Ladder to the Alma Bridge: “The first wooden ladder was built in 1871, and went down onto the pebble beach. A new design was approved, and a new ladder was built in 1899.

“This was reported as a ‘great improvement’.

“The cost of painting the ladder in 1901 was �3.5s.

“The normal high tides did not reach so far up the beach in the 1800s, but as the bottom of the ladder was built off the pebbles, storms did wash the foundations away.

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“In 1934, work started for an 11-foot ball and concrete platform beneath the ladder, to prevent the erosion and undermining. The platform was extended westwards in 1936.”

It was in October 1958 that coastal protection work was approved for a concrete walkway to be built below Connaught Gardens, and this would stretch from the Jacobs Ladder platform to Clifton Beach, but not as far as the Esplanade.

Work began at Jacobs Ladder and, writes John: “A mono railway was built for transporting materials along from the ladder for the building work, which was extended as the work progressed eastwards.

“The walkway was about 10 feet high with a dwarf wall on the sea side, cost �44,000.”

In 1962 the local authority investigated the building of a Chine, for a single roadway from the cliff field to the platform near the bottom of the ladder and work started in the winter of 1963-4 to build this.

Hundreds of tons of cliff were pushed down to the beach to be washed away by the tide and work on the road, with a dwarf wall either side, was completed in 1964.

New wooden beach huts were constructed in 1967, put out for the summer and removed in the winter. These replaced changing tents.

The next major construction work was undertaken in 1999 when the Clifton Millennium Walkway Group raised more than �70,000 to construct a walkway to connect the end of Jacobs Ladder to the Esplanade.

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