Knightstone Island is now permanently linked to the northern end of Weston-super-Mare’s seafront but on a map dated 1806 it is shown as a separate island with a tidal causeway.
From The First Guide to Weston-super-Mare 1822, edited by Ernest Baker and reprinted in 1901.
Knightstone Island was acquired by the Pigott family in 1696 (they later became the Smyth-Pigotts) and they owned it until the early 19th century. It was purchased in around 1820 by Mr John Howe from Bristol. He constructed the first medicinal baths there, which were rented in 1822 by Benjamin Atwell. There were hot and cold saltwater baths, a lodging house, public refreshment rooms and a reading room. At that time the island was connected to the mainland by a natural pebble ridge, which was covered at high tide.
Reverend Thomas Pruen bought Knightstone Island in 1824. He commissioned the construction of a causeway to the island, which was above the high tide level, and a low pier, which was used by pleasure boats. He also built an open-air swimming pool on the shore, which was replenished by seawater at every high tide. This was extended into the current Marine Lake in 1929.
Dr Edward Long Fox, a physician from Brislington, bought Knightstone Island c1828. He and his son Dr F.K. Fox carried out further developments on the island, including raising the level of the causeway using Cornish granite, building a lodging house for patients and a new bath house.
The island changed hands several more times after 1850 and the buildings on it were rebuilt or re-modelled several times. The island was eventually acquired by the local council. They enlarged the island by building a new retaining wall on the north eastern side. They built a new swimming pool and a Pavilion, which both opened in May 1902. The Pavilion was designed by the architect J.S. Stewart and included refreshment rooms, a reading room, a billiard room and a theatre. It had electric lighting and a hot water heating system. Seawater was used in the swimming pool and a huge settling tank was constructed underneath the pool and pavilion.
In September 1903 hundreds of people were temporarily marooned on the island and Eddie Bryant, the Pavilion’s electrical engineer, was drowned when the causeway was swept away in a storm during a performance at the theatre.
Band concerts, plays, operas and other shows were performed at the Knightstone Pavilion and films were shown but the stage was too small for large productions.
By the 1970s Knightstone Pavilion was struggling financially and it finally closed in 1991. There were plans to convert the site into a leisure complex but these never came to anything and the buildings on Knightstone Island gradually deteriorated.
In 2006-7 the whole island was redeveloped. The Bath House and front section of the ground floor of the Pavilion were converted into commercial premises. The rest of the Pavilion and the swimming pool were converted into homes and two new apartment blocks were built on the island.
The Queen visited to re-open the island’s perimeter walkway on 20th July 2007. The Coronation Promenade was first opened in 1953 to celebrate her coronation.
Knightstone: The Story of Weston-super-Mare’s ‘Island’ Theatre: Jonathan Shorney. Redcliffe Press, 2015