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Joseph Thomas
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The man who solved many problems for Looe and helped to prepare a town for the 20th century

Joseph Thomas was born on 10th March 1838 at Roche in Cornwall. His grandfather and father came from Liskeard. As a boy, he helped his father during the construction of Looe Bridge and the new roads to Polperro and St Martins. At this time, 1854-55, the family lived at Crumplehorn in Polperro.

In April 1859, Joseph Thomas married his cousin, Mary Rollings, in Pelynt church and in the 1861 census, they were recorded as living in East Looe. Joseph Thomas worked on notable civil engineering projects in England and in many other parts of the world. He was elected to full membership of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1889.

He retired to Looe in 1893 and set up an office in "The Old Vicarage", home of his cousins, the Symons family. With the support of 143 residents, a petition was sent by Mr William Tregillus, clerk to the Harbour Commissioners, to the Duchy of Cornwall, requesting that they sell the land at Hannafore to Joseph Thomas for development. The price agreed was £4,000. In order to develop the "Hannafore West Estate, an approach road was constructed from the West Looe end of the bridge, along the quay and then further along the side of the cliff. The Hannafore scheme included widening West Looe Quay and building a ramp to the bridge.

In 1893, the 2 buildings adjoining St Nicholas Church were purchased and demolished. Work then started on the rock face behind. To avoid having to purchase the pilchard stores, two arches were built over them, to carry the road. These still support the road, but are now concealed within the existing fishermans stores.

At Pennyland, a small bay; three arches, two towers and a flight of steps were built. The road then continues upwards to the highest part of the cliff where the 97ft High Arch was built to carry the road to the corner. A wall was necessary to support it above Salmon bay. This completed the Hannafore approach road.

It was officially opened on 3rd July 1895 by Sir William Trelawny was great celebrations in the town. The development of the estate could then progress.

The Banjo Pier 1896/97

In 1896, Joseph Thomas turned his attention to the problem of the silting up of the river. At this time, a groyne ran out to the sea but, as it was only 6ft to 7ft high, it was dangerous on a high tide. Joseph Thomas proposed to shorten the groyne by 20ft and to use the stone to construct a round on the end of the remaining structure. There was little support for his proposal from the Looe Harbour Commissioners. Thomas was so confident that his scheme would work, he offered these terms: "If the scheme fails to remove the silt, I will pay for the work."

If was successful and the Commissioners paid up. However, Joseph Thomas did waive his professional fee.

Originally, the pier was to be named Admiral Riley's pier, but, as soon as it was completed, the locals called it the Banjo because of its shape.