Oh we do like to be beside the seaside. Britain’s seaside piers have graced our shores for 200 years and are testament to the nation’s continual love affair with the sea.
We owe a great deal to the Victorians and the British love of the seaside is certainly one legacy of that era in history as Britons flocked to the coast in their droves thanks to the coming of the railways and those all important bank holidays. Take a nostalgic trip back with us – and see how some piers have fared in the modern age.
Today Blackpool’s Central Pier is the most popular seaside resort in Britain.
Blackpool’s Central Pier opened in 1868 and from the start the focus was on fun, as opposed to the genteel refinement of the North Pier.
Today an incredible 12 million people visit Blackpool every year.
Eugenius Birch was the most renowned pier architect and perhaps his most famous design was the West Pier in Brighton, which fell into disrepair after the Second World War and has since been victim to two deliberate fires.
The Grade II listed Brighton Pier, officially called the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, was built to rival the city’s West Pier in 1891 but is now the only non-derelict pier and is filled with rides and family-friendly attractions.
Britain’s first pier opened in Ryde in 1814 and was created not so much for tourists but to help transport upper-class travellers from the increasing number of steamships that arrived in the town, who until now had to be piggy-backed to shore.
Ryde Pier is still a popular gateway for visitors to the Isle of Wight.
Hastings Pier was another example of Eugenius Birch’s work. It suffered a devastating fire in 2010 and is currently undergoing a £14m renovation.
With the growth of the railways in the 1840s, piers reached destinations such as Llandudno in north Wales.
Ramsey Pier on the Isle of Man helped cement its crown as Royal Ramsey after King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra disembarked at the pier head.
To find out more about the history of the pier check out British Seaside Piers, by Anthony Wills and Tim Phillips, out on 24 July 2014 (English Heritage, £25), in which some of the above images appear.
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