Pier Buildings and Shops
In the middle of the 19th century the pier area was a higgledy-piggledy mixture of shops, tradesmen and other service providers. Just up the road, the Newport Hotel provided horses, refreshment and a bed for the night for weary travellers. At the ferry terminal itself was a waiting room, a shop and nearby, a police station and a boatshed. As ferry traffic increased through the 1800s, with increasing numbers of carts, carriages and passengers, by the 1870s it was becoming clear that there were huge business opportunities available here.
The New Pier Buildings
What a stroke of genius then to ask Charles and Leslie Ower, a large architectural practice in Dundee, to design a new building, and what a gift they gave us, one that is still hugely appreciated today. Their design was for a row of seven single storey shops of bold, decorative Italianate design. There was a door and shop window to each shop; there were pillared doorways; there were arches over doors and windows; there were moulded star details. The whole would be painted in cream and sandy yellow. The adjacent ferry terminal was also redesigned with improved facilities for travellers, and of course the still very recognisable curving archways. These magnificent buildings opened in 1878.
The Pier Shops
For almost one hundred years a great range of shops operated from these premises. The first unit, nearest the pier, housed the police station. Next came the chemist, for most of its life occupying two units. Andrew Chalmers opened the chemist shop in 1897, and had it until the 1940s when it was taken over by David Kerr. The shop closed in 1964. Next to the chemist, from 1952 until 1960, was Thomson’s for fruit and veg. Previously it was occupied by William Edward. Next one up, third from the top, was Jan Blicharski’s leather shop. Almost everyone seems to remember this shop, and comment on what a lovely man he was! In his late teens Jan had a terrifying escape from Nazi occupied Poland, landed up in Scotland, and married a local lass. Second from the top was the Tyme Shop, and finally the top shop was at one time a store, but may also have been the pet shop fondly remembered by many. At other times there was a shop where people remember buying their school clothes, as well as a baker just after the war run by David Greig. And until the 1950s there was always a fishmonger. This truly was the heart of the village.
Years in Decline
Sadly the shops could not survive the opening of the road bridge and the ending of the ferry service in 1966. As the focus of the village moved from here to the High Street, the shops emptied one by one. Dundee University took over the buildings and operated their Tay Estuary Research Centre (TERC) from here until the 1990s. After the premises were vacated by TERC they gradually fell into an appalling state of dereliction. Then Davie and Liz Anderson stepped in and totally transformed them, restoring them to their former glory. Alan and Moira Beaton completed the transformation, fitting out the building as the beautiful Boat Brae bar and restaurant, opened in 2019. It is remarkable to see that a building so derelict can indeed be brought back to life.
Watch a film about the restoration of these buildings.
For more images linked to the pier area please search our archive.