A Short History Lesson on the West Pier in Brighton
The West Pier in Brighton was designed by Eugenius Birch and opened to the public in 1866, during a boom of what was known as pleasure piers. It was the second pier built in Brighton, joining the Royal Suspension Chain Pier of 1823, and it was designed to attract tourists to the city. The dock was expanded in 1893, and a concert hall was added in 1916.
After the First World War, the West Pier reached its peak attendance with more than 2 million visitors between 1918 and 1919. But its glory days didn’t last long and, after the Second World War, the number of visitors was in decline. The concert hall was replaced, but it didn’t help with the decreasing number of visitors.
In 1965, a local company took over the West Pier intending to bring it back to its glorious past, but it didn’t work due to increasing maintenance costs. It didn’t help when, in 1970, some wood and iron portions of the pier fell on the beach, and the pierced was closed due to safety reasons. This was the first nail in the coffin of the West Pier in Brighton.
In 1975, the glory days of the West Pier came to an end when it was closed down. This was deadly to the pier since it fell into disrepair and none of the plans to restore it worked out. As the years passed, the pier gradually collapsed as it was claimed by the sea. The Great Storm of 1987 caused structural damage to it and access from the shore was removed in 1991 for safety reasons. But the worst was still coming to the pier.
To make things even worse, in March 2003, the remains of the West Pier caught fire for the first time. The local Fire Department wasn’t able to save the building since the walkway collapsed. In May 2003, another fire consumed what was left of the concert hall. And, in June 2004, strong winds caused the collapse of the middle of the pier, and this was the last nail in the coffin of the West Pier in Brighton.
After this last collapse, some efforts were put into place to restore it, but they never worked out properly. And the sea was still punishing the remains of the pier daily. In early 2010, more parts of the dock were demolished to open space for the i360 observation tower. In 2014, another piece of the pier split in half due to stormy weather.
Today, in 2019, there are still plans to restore parts of it and even open a new pier in the original location. But all these plans were seen to be unrealistic by the West Pier Trust. But you can still go to the beach and sit between the last columns of the pier and watch the burnt down ruins of the West Pier in the distance. They don’t look that far, but, at the same time, they feel like they are a million miles away.
I visited Brighton during the last days of June 2019, and I had way more fun than expected. The city is amazing! It has excellent pubs, fantastic food, great shops and it’s perfect for a weekend outside London. If you’ve never been there, you definitely should.