Pleasure Piers of Great Britain--Volume 1 [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Linda Lee
eBook Category: Travel/Reference
eBook Description: There is something quintessentially British about the seaside pier and many surviving today remain as individual in character as the resorts they enhance. Originally conceived as landing jetties for increasing paddle streamer traffic, the seaside pier soon became a popular venue for 'Promenading' or 'taking the air'. Many acquired ornate ironwork, deck lighting, shelters, and in many instances even trains. As the seaside holiday grew in popularity so too did the role of the pier, many being extended to incorporate Theatres, Ballrooms and Pavilions. This volume explores 28 such properties along the east and south-east coasts, each article comprising of a colour photograph, an historical overview, and an information panel containing grid reference, address, telephone number, and web site details (where applicable).
eBook Publisher: Heritage Trail Publications Ltd/Heritage Trail Publications Ltd
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2004
For the purposes of this excerpt the photograph and information panel have been removed
Now derelict and sadly neglected, Brighton West Pier remained a magnificent looking structure until early in the twenty-first century. Epitomising the gilded era of Edwardian Britain, construction of the pier began in 1863. This was one of Eugenius Birch's finest pier structures, literally rising up out of the sea on iron columns. Completed within three years, the West Pier was opened on 5th October 1866, having cost £30,000. It was 1,115ft (337.8m) long and, at completion, consisted merely of a wooden promenade deck where the Victorian middle classes could stroll at their leisure--to see, and be seen. A central bandstand was added in 1875, and eight years later a pavilion was built at the pier head, which was subsequently enlarged in 1885. The following year saw the construction of landing stages, allowing paddle steamers to pull alongside and let day-trippers explore the town. These additional facilities heralded the gradual transformation of Brighton West from a ?promenade pier? to a pleasure pier.
Soon after the turn of the century the landing stage was enlarged, and in 1903 the pavilion was converted to provide a 1000-seater theatre. When the central bandstand was removed in 1916, the immediate decking area was widened by 14ft (4.2m) and a 1400 seater concert hall was constructed on the site. Plenty of diverse activities were on offer, both inside and out. Plays, pantomimes, and ballet were staged in the theatre, and the pier's own band played regularly in the concert hall. Swimming, diving, and paddle steamer excursions were among the outdoor pursuits based around the pier head. In its heyday the pier was playing host to over 2,000,000 people every year.
Forced to close, and sectioned during the Second World War, the appearance of the West Pier had completely changed with its reopening in the late 1940s. The pavilion theatre no longer offered stage shows, instead a restaurant was created on the first floor with a game hall beneath. The concert hall became a cafe, and the normal plethora of dodgems and ghost trains sprawled across the open decking. Refinement and elegance had given way to the more familiar ?funfair? element. Over the next two decades, as the advent of the overseas package holiday began to impact the UK market, Brighton West Pier's popularity started to decline. This fact, combined with increasing maintenance costs, instigated the closure of the seaward end in 1970. Permission for demolition of the pier was granted by the State, subject to local council approval, but a determined campaign by local residents ensured that this demolition order was never carried out. In 1975 the owners closed Brighton West Pier.
Purchased for a conditional £100 in 1985, the Brighton West Pier Trust began restoration work on the structure. Severe storms encountered in 1987 and 1988 further damaged the pier, and forced the work to stop in 1989. Lottery grants received in 1996 and 1998 appeared to provide a secure future for the West Pier, but endless legal wrangles and the bureaucracy of government intervention, has resulted in no further progress. On 29th December 2002 the inevitable eventually happened. During a violent storm, a section of the substructure collapsed from the area around the concert hall and caused considerable damage to the 1916 structure leaving its future hanging (literally) in the balance.... A surely tragic demise