The West Pier
is a pier
A pier is a raised structure, including bridge and building supports and walkways, over water, typically supported by widely spread piles or pillars...
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
. It was built in 1866 by Eugenius Birch
Eugenius Birch was a 19th Century English naval architect, engineer and noted pier builder.-Biography:Both Eugenius and his brother were born in Gloucester Terrace, Shoreditch, to grain dealer John and wife Susanne...
and has been closed and deteriorating since 1975, awaiting renovation. It was Brighton's second pier, joining The Royal Suspension Chain Pier
The Royal Suspension Chain Pier was the first major pier built in Brighton, England. Generally known as the Chain Pier, it was designed by Captain Samuel Brown and built in 1823. The pier was primarily intended as a landing stage for packet boats to Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, but it also featured a...
of 1823, and it is one of only two Grade I listed
piers in the UK, the other being Clevedon Pier
Clevedon Pier is a seaside pier in the town of Clevedon, on the English side of the Severn Estuary. It is situated next to the Royal Pier Hotel....
Plans by the charity the West Pier Trust, which now owns the pier, to renovate it with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund
The Heritage Lottery Fund is a fund established in the United Kingdom under the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. The Fund opened for applications in 1994. It uses money raised through the National Lottery to transform and sustain the UK’s heritage...
, were opposed by some local residents. The local media reported that a major concern was the impact of commercial operations on the shore that were apparently required to help fund the project. The Noble brothers, owners of the Palace Pier
The Brighton Marine Palace and Pier is a pleasure pier in Brighton, England. It is generally known as the Palace Pier for short, but has been informally renamed Brighton Pier since 2000 by its owners, the Noble Organisation, in an attempt to suggest that it is Brighton's only pier...
, joined the objectors, having originally been supporters of the restoration scheme (the 1996 Year of the Pier
was launched from the Palace Pier). Their reported point of view was that subsidised rebuilding, were it to happen, would represent unfair competition. The West Pier Trust said on 15 July 2008 that it was confident the West Pier would be rebuilt. Its long-term aim is to re-establish the structure, which has been destroyed by two fires, as a major tourist attraction along with the "Brighton Eye (i360)" a futuristic observation tower. Further work on rebuilding the pier will not begin until construction is "well under way" on the i360.
The West Pier was opened in 1866 with a length of 1115 feet, and built with cast iron threaded columns screwed into the seabed. The pier did not have much of a superstructure until 1893 when a pier head was extended and a pavilion added. A concert hall was added in 1916 and a new top-deck entrance in 1932. In 1965 the pier was bought by a company that owned some seafront hotels and entertainment venues. They had ambitions for the pier but as maintenance costs increased the pier was closed in 1975 when Brighton Corporation declined to buy it and the pier passed into the hands of the Crown Estates Commissioners. A trust was formed to save the pier and in 1984 they bought it for a nominal sum.
The West Pier had been cut off from the shore (partly deliberately, for safety reasons) since 1975, but the West Pier trust offered regular tours of it until the structure suffered a serious partial collapse during a storm on 29 December 2002, when a walkway connecting the concert hall and pavilion fell into the sea. On 20 January 2003 a further collapse saw the destruction of the concert hall in the middle of the pier. On 28 March 2003 the pavilion at the end of the pier caught fire. Firefighters were unable to save the building from destruction because the collapsed walkway prevented them from reaching it. The cause of the fire remains unknown. On 11 May 2003, another fire broke out, consuming most of what was left of the concert hall. The Fire re-ignited on 12 May. Arson was suspected: the West Pier Trust refers to the fires as the work of "professional arsonists". Suggested beneficiaries to ending any possible development of the West Pier either local residents who objected to a new development on the sea front, or the threat of competition to the lucrative Palace Pier's business.
On 23 June 2004 high winds caused the middle of the pier to collapse completely.Despite all these setbacks, the West Pier Trust remained adamant that they would soon begin full restoration work. Finally, in December 2004, the Trust conceded defeat, after their plans were rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in part because of problems with achieving the required "matched funding" from outside sources. Subsequent plans to restore only the oldest, structural parts of the pier were eventually rejected by English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...
. However, in September 2005 the Trust revealed in their newsletter that they were forming further plans to rebuild the original structure with help from private funding.
In December 2005 the last remaining physical structure, the "little white hut", was lost when strong winds broke it away into the sea. Ironically, when the rest of pier had been intact, the hut had been said to be in serious threat of falling into the sea; yet it was the last piece to remain.
In Spring 2006, the West Pier Trust announced a new plan to fund the restoration of the pier: a 183-metre observation tower, the i360
The i360 is a planned observation tower to be constructed on the seafront of Brighton, by the West Pier. Plans were submitted in June 2006 and were approved by Brighton and Hove City Council on 11 October 2006 with construction projected to start in 2007...
, to be built on the West Pier promenade deck. The tower is planned to carry 100 visitors at a time to a viewing platform 150 metres above sea level. The projected cost of the tower is £15 to £20 million and it would take two to three years to build. A ticket would cost around £8 and the Trust expects around half a million paying visitors each year. The i360 attraction was due to start construction in July 2007; http://www.westpier.co.uk/pdfs/NL_05_07.pdf
; as of April 2008 no obvious construction work was actually visible, but according to the November 2007 newsletter of the West Pier Trust, work had begun in the form of a detailed engineering appraisal of the base of the site, including drilling boreholes, inspecting the sewers and studying chalk and rock samples. The Trust has also stated that on their website in September 2010 that the i360 is "planned to be up and running for the summer of 2012", however in September 2011 work on the i360 was yet to begin with only a large board explaining the plans for the site. Some demolition and removal of part of the iron debris of the West Pier accessible at low tide took place early in 2010. The construction of the metal tubes for the tower is already in progress in the Netherlands.
There is a museum display of artefacts from the pier on the lower promenade as part of the Brighton Fishing Museum
The Brighton Fishing Museum is located a short distance to the west of Brighton Pier in Brighton, Sussex, England. It opened in 1992 in the area known as the Fishing District in one of the arches on the Kings' Road.-External links:*...
The pier features prominently in the 1969 Richard Attenborough
Richard Samuel Attenborough, Baron Attenborough , CBE is a British actor, director, producer and entrepreneur. As director and producer he won two Academy Awards for the 1982 film Gandhi...
film, Oh! What a Lovely War
Oh! What a Lovely War is a musical film based on the stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War! originated by Charles Chilton as a radio play, The Long Long Trail in December 1961, and transferred to stage by Gerry Raffles in partnership with Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop created in 1963,...
. It is also shown in a video filmed for the Beach Boys song Don't Go Near the Water
from their 1970 album Surf's Up
In Nick Cave
Nicholas Edward "Nick" Cave is an Australian musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, and occasional film actor.He is best known for his work as a frontman of the critically acclaimed rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, established in 1984, a group known for its eclectic influences and...
's second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro
The Death of Bunny Munro is the second novel written by Nick Cave, best known as the lead singer of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. His first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, was published in 1989....
, the eponymous character watches the pier burn down in the opening sequence of the book. The majority of the novel is set in and around Brighton.
Accidents and incidents
On the 26 November 1944 a Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...
The Hawker Typhoon was a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. While the Typhoon was designed to be a medium-high altitude interceptor, and a direct replacement for the Hawker Hurricane, several design problems were encountered, and the Typhoon never completely satisfied...
single-engined monoplane fighter hit the pier and then crashed onto the beach. The pilot sustained head injuries. The Typhoon was part of a flight of four aircraft escorting a VIP flight.
Development of West Pier
The following photos show the major structural developments of West Pier from its opening in 1866 until 1920. After this the pier was essentially unchanged.