Seaside Piers

Weston Super Mare - Grand PierThe English invented seaside holidays in the 17th Century and the Pier is as typical of an English seaside holiday as the 'Bucket & Spade' and 'Saucy Postcards' . In 1750 Dr. Richard Russell promoted the 'benefits' of sea bathing at Brighthelmstone - now known as Brighton. In 1783, George IV - then Prince of Wales, moved to Brighton as he was a sufferer of glandular neck swelling. With the invention of the bathing machine by Benjamin Beale, other seaside resorts would soon follow Brighton in popularity, but as roads were still too impractical for travelling long distances, the best means of transport was by sea. The drawback with sea travel was that most wharves and landing stages were only accessible at high tide - longer piers, accessible at any tide, were needed, and in 1814 Ryde Pier on the Isle of Wight was finished, becoming the first promenade pier in Great Britain.
A pier is a structure built out into the sea from the coastline on piles or pillars for use as a landing place or promenade. Eugenius Birch designed the 1,115 ft long West Pier, Brighton in 1866, Margate Pier in 1856 and the North Pier, Blackpool in 1863.
In the 1820s paddle-steamers and trains meant that it was even easier to travel and the Bank Holiday Act of 1871 helped many working-class families to enjoy day trips. The pier was an essential part of the Victorian holiday, yet since World War II piers have enjoyed less popularity as more and more visitors, instead of enjoying a British bucket-and-spade holiday, have gone for package holidays abroad.

Brighton Palace
Brighton PierTo replace the Chain Pier which had been destroyed by a storm in 1896, building began on this 1760ft pier in 1891 and it opened on 20th May 1899. The designer`s name was R. St. George Moore. However, the 1500-seat theatre at the seaward end wasn`t opened until 3rd April 1901. Construction had cost a record 137,000. A pavilion was added to the centre of the pier in 1910 followed, a year later, by a steamer landing stage. The pier was extended in 1938 but was temporarily sectioned as a war time precaution in 1940. A drifting barge caused 100,000 of damage in October 1973. The theatre was closed and the landing stage was wrecked. It was demolished in 1975. The Noble Organization took over the pier in March 1984. they dismantled the theatre in 1986, on condition that it would go into storage for eventual restoration. However, it is not now known what happened to the theatre`s remains. This has led to protests from The Theatre`s Trust and other bodies. In 1995 The Noble Organization announced a 20 million expansion plan for keeping Brighton Palace pier as the 'Best in Britain' and 'Brighton at the forefront of British coastal resorts'. The plan included a two storey auditorium and restaurant at the pier head, a covered walkway, a 20ft widening of the pier`s spine and an amusement arcade and cafeteria at the foreshore.

Brighton West
Work on this 1115ft pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, started in 1863. The cost was 30,000 and it opened on October 5th 1866. The southern end pavilion was constructed in 1893 but was rebuilt and enlarged two years later. In 1896, landing stages were constructed. These were extended in 1901. A bandstand, halfway along, was removed in 1916 and this part of the pier was widened and a Concert Hall added. A new top deck entrance was added in 1932. The West Pier Trust was created to save the West Pier and return it to use. It is a charity and a limited company and has acquired the ownership of the pier and the rights that attach to it. It is non-profit making. All proceeds, even from commercial-style operations on the pier, are directed towards the restoring, maintaining, improving and indefinite preserving of the pier. West Pier was damaged in the 1970s by a storm and is closed.

Designed by Peter Bruff, Manager and Engineer of the Eastern Union Railway, the pier opened on 18th July 1871. A lifeboat station was added in 1878 and extensions in 1890/3 took the pier`s length to 1180ft. A new polygonal head incorporated a pavilion with concert hall, stalls and refreshment and waiting rooms. The new landing stage catered for increased steamer traffic. In 1898, the original pier company went into liquidation. When the Coast Development Company took over the structure, it was valued at 51,112. Clacton Pier features a wide variety of family entertainments on a six-and-a-half acre site. Admission to the Pier is free and many of the attractions are undercover, including the traditional rides such as The Waltzer and The Dodgems. Among the Pier's popular attractions is the Seaquarium, which this year will be extra value for money as the entrance is via the Pier's ticket system. Opening later this year is the Pier's new attraction, The Haunted Mansion, which promises to take you on a spooky journey in the tradition of the Ghost Train with latest design features.

Built for 8000 by Head Wrighton, Cleethorpes Pier opened on August Bank Holiday, 1873. Financed by Manchester, Sheffield And Lincolnshire Railway, they took on the lease in 1884 for 450 p.a and bought the pier twenty years later for 11,250. A pier-head concert hall was built in 1888 but was destroyed by fire in 1903. A new pavilion was built near the shore in 1905 and a cafe and shops were built on the site of the original building. An elevated link to the adjoining 'Pier Gardens' was also added at this time but was removed in the 1930s. In 1936, LNER sold the pier to Cleethorpes Council. It was breached in 1940 for defence purposes and the isolated seaward section was demolished after the war. The pier now measured 335ft compared to its original 1200ft. Cleethorpes Pier is now home to the Pier 39 Nightclub.

Colwyn Bay
Work began in 1889 to the design of Maynall and Littlewood of Manchester. The pier opened on 1st June 1900 to a length of 220ft, including a 2500 seat pavilion. The Bijou theatre built in 1916, accommodated 600. In 1922, the main pavilion was burnt down. It was replaced the following year, by the pier`s new owners, the local council. In 1933, the pavilion was once again destroyed by fire and, two months later, a seperate blaze wrecked the Bijou theatre. A replacement pavilion opened in 1934. Repairs were made to the pier in 1954 and from 1964 onwards. Trust House Forte became owners in 1968, and the structure was refurbished. However, in 1976, THF applied to demolish the seaward end. A 4000 signature petition helped persuade Colwyn Borough Council to refuse permission. Parker leisure Holdings bought the pier in 1979 and converted the 'Dixieland Showbar' into a disco with adjoining bars. Colwyn Bay Pier changed ownership in December 2003 with plans to restore to it's original Victorian condition. If you'd like to help out - visit their website.

Great Yarmouth
The pier was first proposed in 1856 and work began in September 1857. A.W.Morant was the engineer. The 700ft structure opened on 13th July 1858. The length of the pier was reduced by a ship collision in 1859 and storm damage in 1868. It was demolished in 1899. A replacement was started on 13th December 1900 to the design of James and Arthur Mayoh. The 810ft pier deck and temporary pavilion opened in 1901. This pavilion was replaced with the grand first pavilion which opened on 21st June 1902. This was, however, destroyed by fire on 22nd December 1909. The second pavilion was completed in 1910, but was itself burnt down on 17th April 1914, allegedly by the suffragettes, who had been refused permission to hold a meeting there. Within three months a third pavilion had been built, opening on 27th July. The present pavilion opened on 27th June 1958, but the ballroom ( called the Ocean Ballroom from 1947 ) was never replaced.

Designed by W. Sutcliffe Marsh, the 835ft pier opened on May 10th 1898. The cost of the pier was 10,000. It was the terminus for the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, the promoter being John Jones Jenkins of the Rhondda And Swansea Bay Raiilway. Amusement Equipment Company Ltd. ( AMECO ) gained a licence to operate the pier from 1st October 1937, later taking out a lease. They acquired the freehold in 1957. Sectioned in 1940, the pier was extensively reconstructed in the 1950s, and a landing jetty was added. It officially re-opened on 9th June 1956. A new arcade was built on the pier`s frontage in 1966. AMECO spent between 25,000 and 30,000 per annum on the maintenance and replacement of the steelwork between 1975 and 1985. The pier was closed on 1st October 1987 but re-opened on Good Friday 1988, after 40,000 had been spent during the winter on renewing steelwork near to the entrance. AMECO have been running the pier for over sixty years.

The first of the great pleasure piers to be built, Ryde pier not only still survives, albeit in a somewhat different form from the original structure, but continues to handle cross-Solent ferry passengers to this day.
Designed by John Kent of Southampton, the foundation stone of Ryde Pier was laid on 29th June 1813, the completed pier opening a year later on 26th July 1814. Overnight the perilous embarkation and disembarkation of the seafaring public had become a thing of the past. Originally built of timber, to a length of 1,740ft (527m), the pier was little more than a 12ft (3.6m) wide wooden jetty able to handle only relatively small sailing boats, but as the size of passenger vessels increased so did the pier. Ryde Pier was extended to a length of 2,040ft (618m) in 1824 and the pier-head was enlarged in 1827. A further extension in 1833 took the overall length to 2,250ft (681m), while the pier-head was again extended in 1842 and the late 1850’s.
To facilitate the easier movement of both people and goods a second ‘tramway’ pier was built immediately alongside the existing structure, opening on 29th August 1864. Horses were the method used to pull the trams however various experiments were tried with steam traction, but these met with little success.
Work began in 1877 on a third pier adjacent to the tramway pier, opening on 12th July 1880, and providing a direct steam railway link to the pier-head. It was also around this time the horse drawn trams were finally replaced, not by steam, but by electric traction. Ryde Pier, by now a substantial structure, comprised effectively of three separate piers, a promenade pier with intermittent shelters projecting seawards along its length, an electric tramway pier and a steam railway pier. In 1895 a concert pavilion was constructed at the pier-head and over the next sixteen years the original wooden piles were replaced in cast iron.
The tramway pier closed in 1969 and was partially dismantled leaving gaps between the railway and promenade piers, and the poor condition of the substructure at the pier-head resulted in the demolition of the pavilion in 1971. The pier was however made a Grade II listed building in 1976, and a five-year re-planking project was completed that December. In the early 1980’s a modern waiting area replaced the original Victorian waiting rooms at the pier-head and additional parking spaces were also provided.
Although having lost its Victorian buildings, the promenade section of Ryde Pier still contains much fine wrought-iron work along its length. As mentioned previously the pier continues as a working pier, trains still leave from the pier-head and Wight Link ferries operate a regular Catamaran service between Ryde and Portsmouth.

Shanklin PierBy the early 1870s Shanklin on the Isle of Wight boasted over 40 hotels, and the Shanklin Esplanade and Pier company was formed and applied for permission to build a pier. In 1874 the Shanklin Pier Act was passed, and in 1878 the company issued a prospectus and advertised shares for sale. The plans for the pier were drawn up in 1880, but the funds necessary to build the pier were not raised until 1888, by which time it was necessary for Parliament to approve a second Shanklin Pier Act in 1886.
In August 1888 work on building the pier started, and when finished the pier was 1200 feet long. It was raised from the esplanade to allow bathing machines to pass beneath, and had pagoda-style toll booths at the entrance. The pier opened on August 18, 1890, and the first steamer to visit was the Flying Falcon. In 1891 the pier was even more popular when the Shanklin lift - a hydraulic lift to the esplanade from the cliff top above - was opened, making access to the esplanade easier from the town. By 1893 a bandstand-like pavilion had been built, and water polo was often played at the pier head.
In 1899 Shanklin Urban District Council bought the pier, and in 1909 built the Grand Pavilion in the centre of the pier at a cost of 4000 - it was the largest pier pavilion on the island. The original pavilion continued to be used as a bandstand.
However, at 2am on October 16, 1987, the largest recorded hurricane to strike England hit Shanklin Pier. The pier was ripped into three parts, with large sections torn away by the winds. South Wight Borough Council authorised the demolition of the remains of the pier, and much of the remains of the pier was recycled to make sea defences.

In 1877, the Earl of Scarborough, who had brought the railway to Skegness, formed the Skegness Pier Company. Clarke and Pickwell`s design was chosen from the 44 submitted, and work began in 1880. The 1817ft pier had cost 20,840 when it opened on 4th June 1881. It included a 700 seat saloon / concert hall at the pier head. Steamboat trips began in 1882. The pier-head saloon was extended in 1898, and new refreshment rooms were built at the pier-head. In March 1919 the schooner 'Europa' breached the pier. A temporary gangway was completed by August but the pier was not fully restored until 1939. The north and souith entrances were built in 1929/30. The entrance was modernised in 1936/9 by incorporating a cafe and shops on either side of the archway. Sectioned during World War II, the pier re-opened in 1948 after 23,528 had been spent on repairs.

The first pier was planned in 1828 and a 600ft wooden section opened in June 1830. The length had increased to 1.25 miles by 1846, making Southend Pier the longest pier in Europe and probably the World. In August 1885, a replacement iron pier was planned and work began in 1888 to the design of james Brunless. The pier opened on 24th August 1890. 10,000 of the 80,000 cost was spent on the new electric railway. An extension opened in 1898 making it the longest pier in the world at 7080ft. On July 25th 1908, the upper deck of the pier extension opened, followed by the doubling of the rail track and the Prince George steamer extension in 1929. During World War II, the pier was used by the Navy. Huge popularity followed the war with the electric train carrying 4,713,082 passengers in its first season ( 1949/50 ) and an additional one million people passing through the turnstiles. However, falling trade led to a financial survey in 1970 and the pier`s entertainments were franchised.

Victorian engineer Sir James Brunlees masterminded the construction of Southport Pier, which opened to the public in 1860. Believed to be the first leisure Pier to be built in the United Kingdom, it was originally 3,600ft long before being extended to it is maximum of 4,380ft in 1868, then the longest in Britain. The Pier perfectly complimented the elegant resort of Southport which, to this day, retains a unique sense of style epitomised by the famous Lord Street. A pier was first suggested in the 1840s but a company was not created until 1859. Work began the same year. Waiting and refreshment rooms for boat passengers were added in 1862. A baggage line opened on May 7th 1863 but was re-laid the following year when the pier was widened and extended. It was upgraded to a cable-operated tramway in 1865. A further extension, in 1868, brought the length to 4380ft. Storm damage and fires, in 1933 and 1957, reduced the length to the present 3633ft - the second longest in Britain.

Southwold Pier was constructed in 1900, following the passing of the Southwold Pier Order in 1899. 810ft long, it was built to the design of W. Jeffrey. The Amusement Equipment Company Ltd, took over the pier in July 1906, after the Coast Development Company was wound up. In 1934, the T-shaped head was destroyed by storms. Two years later, a new pavilion was built at the shoreward end, replacing existing buildings. 'Belle' steamers called from London, Clacton and Great Yarmouth but this service ended in the 1930s. The pier was sectioned as a war precaution in 1940 and was damaged by a mine. It was rebuilt in 1948 at a cost of 30,000. A gale, in October 1955, isolated the seaward end, which washed away. Another storm, in February 1979, reduced the length to 150ft. Southwold Pier is now a privately owned pier. It is a family run business, catering for the large number of visitors Southwold receives each year.

St. Annes-On-Sea
The 914ft pier was built at a cost of 18,000 for the St. Annes-On-Sea Land And Building Company Ltd. It opened on 15th June 1885 to the design of A. Dawson. Extensions costing a further 30,000 were opened on April 2nd 1904 and included the famous 1000 seat Moorish Pavilion and various kiosks. The Mock Tudor lodge at the entrance had opened a few years earlier and the Floral Hall ( in use by 1910 ) housed concerts, operas and vaudeville acts. George Formby, Gracie Fields, Russ Conway and Bob Monkhouse have all performed at the pier. An amusement arcade was added to the entrance in 1954. The children`s theatre was damaged by fire in 1959. In 1960, the pier was re-decked and a restaurant was added. In 1962, the Amalgamated Investment and Property Company bought the pier for 240,000. The entrance pavilion, Floral Hall, landing jetty and children`s section were all renovated.

The first, wooden, pier was built in 1859 by Mowlem`s. It was 750ft long and was used for shipping Purbeck stone and by passenger steamers. Until the 1950s, it was a diving platform for Swanage Swimming Club. the first pile for the new 642ft pier was driven on 30th November 1895 and the first steamer, PS Lord Elgin, called on 1st May 1896. It was opened to all traffic on 29th March 1897. The greenheart timber piles were beginning to decay by the 1920s and, in 1927, they were lined with concrete. In 1939, the pier was breached as a war precaution and was not repaired until 1948. The missing section was restored in concrete. Steamer traffic restarted, but ended on September 24th 1966: the last boat to call was the PS Embassy. After this, the pier fell into disrepair. In 1986, Durrant Developments Ltd, bought it and planned to restore the pier. However, when the company went bankrupt, the pier fell into the hands of the receiver.

Weston Super Mare (Birnbeck)
Birnbeck Pier - Weston Super MareBirnbeck Pier was designed by Eugenius Birch and opened in 1867. It is the only pier which links the mainland to an island just off shore. The pier is listed at Grade II and is on the English Heritage list of buildings at risk.
In 1845 James Dredge designed a suspension bridge to connect the island to the mainand but, due to difficulty raising sufficient funds, this was never completed.
In 1864 a prospectus was issued to raise 20,000 in 2000 shares of 10 each and construction of the present pier began. It was designed by Eugenius Birch who was responsible for fourteen piers around the British coast including those at Brighton, Aberystwyth, Blackpool and Eastbourne. It was built of prefabricated parts made at Messrs Toogood's ISCA iron foundry in Newport, Gwent. The ornate gothic-style toll-house and piermaster's house were designed by noted local architect Hans Price who practised in Weston from 1862.
On 6th June 1867, Birnbeck Pier opened and in the first three months, 120,000 visitors passed through the turnstiles. From April 1885 Birnbeck Pier had its own by-laws sanctioned and in use.
The first life-boat was installed on the pier in 1882. It was slung from davits until 1889 when a lifeboat house was built on the island on the north side of the bridge.
In 1901 a new lifeboat house was built on the south side of the bridge, at a cost of 2575. This has the longest lifeboat slipway in the country and is still in use today.
In 1932 a new platform was constructed out of reinforced concrete. This was more successful than the previous one and still survives.
On June 23rd 1938 The Weston-super-Mare Pier Company entered into an agreement with the Board of Trade to purchase the bed of the sea immediately beneath the Pier, as well as several pieces of land formerly part of the foreshore, all for the sum of 300.
In 1974 the pier, including the toll-house, was listed Grade II by the Department of the Environment, as a building of historical and architectural interest.

In 1990, Weston suffered from severe storms and gale force winds and damage was in evidence everywhere, not least on the pier and lifeboat slipway. This was so badly damaged it was impossible to launch the lifeboat. The lifeboat house windows, though made of toughened glass, were smashed. Sadly in 1994 the pier had become so unsafe that the Local Authority closed it, prohibiting all public access except for the lifeboat crews and fishermen.

Weston Super Mare (Grand)
Weston Super Mare - Grand PierGrand pier, 1 miles long, was intended to serve two purposes: for shipping at all tides at the far end and for entertainment near the shore. In practice, due to the strong tides and currents, it was both difficult and dangerous for ships to tie up at the jetty and very few steamers ever berthed there.

Weston Super Mare - Grand PierWork started on 7th Nov 1903, driving of the commemorative pile. On 11th Jun 1904, the first part was opened. The main pier is of openwork girders with traceried braces. The Pavilion held a fine Edwardian theatre for 2,000 people and productions included opera, musical comedy, music hall, Shakespeare, ballet and boxing. By 1906 a further span of 500 yards of pier with a timber landing stage was constructed and opened, making total length of pier 2580 feet.

Light amusements were added in 1926, but the Pavilion shows still proved the main source of income until 13th Jan 1930 when the Pavilion was destroyed by fire. Between 1932-1933 the Pavilion was rebuilt, the largest on any pier. Instead of a theatre it now housed a large funfair.
In 1974 the Pier was listed by the Department of the Environment as a monument of historic importance.

Click for Official Website More information on Piers can be found at the National Piers Society Website

British Resorts with Piers
Click for Official Website BRIGHTON (PALACE)
Click for Official Website BRIGHTON (WEST)
Click for Official Website  CLEETHORPES
Click for Official Website COLWYN BAY (VICTORIA)
Click for Official Website EASTBOURNE
Click for Official Website GREAT YARMOUTH (BRITANNIA)
Click for Official Website HASTINGS
Click for Official Website MUMBLES
Click for Official Website RAMSEY (QUEENS)
Click for Official Website ST. ANNES
Click for Official Website SKEGNESS
Click for Official Website SOUTHEND-ON-SEA
Click for Official Website SOUTHPORT
Click for Official Website SOUTHWOLD
Click for Official Website SWANAGE
Click for Official Website WESTON-SUPER-MARE (BIRNBECK)
Click for Official Website WESTON-SUPER-MARE (GRAND)