National Piers Society

*** PIER OF THE YEAR 2010 ***

BOSCOMBE BONANZA!

Newly restored Dorset pier gets prestigious award

by Anthony Wills

The newly restored pier at BOSCOMBE in Dorset has been voted the National Piers Society’s Pier of the Year 2010. The 120-year old pier, which has been owned by Bournemouth Borough Council since 1903, beat 10 others in our annual poll, instituted in 1996.

Opened by the Duke of Argyll in July 1889 Boscombe pier was designed by Archibald Smith and conceived as a rival to the older one at Bournemouth. At 600 ft it was able to accept large steam ships calling at its two landing stages. In 1924 the pier was re-decked and its end reconstructed in reinforced concrete. Band concerts and seasonal shows took place and deck quoits became popular with holidaymakers. During the Second World War the seafront at Boscombe became out of bounds and the pier, in common with many others, breached (cut in two) to prevent enemy landings. A theatre (the Mermaid) which opened at the pier head in 1961 was used first for roller skating and then as an amusement arcade. The 1904 entrance building was replaced in 1962 by a new one with a distinctive “flying wing” roofline. Though described by some as a glorified bus shelter it was saved from demolition by being Grade II listed in 2005. By then the pier had been closed on safety grounds and plans were drawn up for a shorter structure with a revolving tower restaurant at its head. Lack of funding forced Bournemouth Corporation to abandon this project so instead the pier has become a simple though elegant promenade with centre windbreaks containing historical panels and a parade of shops and cafes at its entrance. Since the reopening in 2008 a Friends Association has been established, organizing art exhibitions and live music performances (www.inspieration.org). The new pier is an ideal spot from which to observe surfers on the £3 million artificial reef recently created on its eastern side.

Commenting on the award National Piers Society President Gavin Henderson said: “For too long second fiddle to its sister pier at Bournemouth, the newly rebuilt Boscombe now deservedly shines in its own right." Councillor Anne Filer, Bournemouth Cabinet member for Leisure & Tourism said “I’m delighted that Boscombe has won this prestigious award in the year that we are celebrating Bournemouth’s bi-centenary. The newly restored pier will provide a lasting legacy for future generations of residents and visitors.

The award will be presented at the National Piers Society’s Annual General Meeting in Bournemouth on Saturday 12 June at 2 p.m.