A pier was first suggested in the 1840s but a company was not
created until 1859. Work began the same year. Designed by James
Brunlees, the 3600 foot pier opened in 1860. Waiting and
refreshment rooms for boat passengers were added in 1862. A
baggage line opened on May 7th 1863 but was re-laid the following
year when the pier was widened and extended. It was upgraded to a
cable-operated tramway in 1865. A further extension, in 1868,
brought the length to 4380 feet. Storm damage and fires (in 1933
and 1957) reduced the length to the present 3633 foot, the second
longest in Britain.
The tramway was re-laid in
1893 and electrified on April 3rd 1905. Southport Corporation took
over in 1936, and rebuilt the tramway's rolling stock. When the
town lost its DC electricity supply in 1950, the tramway's 3 foot
6 inch gauge line was replaced with one foot eleven and a half
inch gauge using diesel stock.
A 1990 report estimated
that it would cost £900,000 to secure the pier's future, with
£250,000 needed every five years for repainting. A demolition
proposal was rejected (by one vote) by Sefton's Leisure Services
Committee. A Charitable Trust was established in 1993, and a
Friends' group in 1994. The pier's forecourt was officially
re-opened in 1994, after improvements. In 1995, the Trust were
awarded a £641,000 European grant for structural and general
improvement work. In 1996, a £2.8 million bid was submitted for
Lottery funding and, in 1997, an initial £34,000 was awarded to
pay for a major structural survey.
By 1999 sufficient funding
had been obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund and European
Merseyside Objective, together with contributions from Sefton
Council and the Southport Pier Trust, to restore the complete
structure. Phase one, which included the restoration of the main
structure and the construction of a new pavilion, was completed in
May 2002 and the full length of the pier was re-opened to the
In 2005, a new 100-seater
tram, using advanced battery-driven technology, was introduced,
funded by Mersey Waterfront, Sefton Council and the Southport Pier
Trust. The tram travels the mile long journey to the seaward end
pavilion housing a variety of attractions including an interactive
display and exhibition of the local wildlife and coastline, plus
traditional, old-fashioned penny arcade amusements.
The large 'Funland'
amusement hall is situated at the pier entrance and the famous
vintage 'Golden Gallopers' carousel on the pier forecourt.
On August 2nd 2010, the pier celebrated its 150th anniversary
with live music, free rides on the Pier Tram, and lots of family
entertainment throughout the day.
In August 2011, the wheels of a
heavy lorry delivering drinks to the pier fell through the deck and became stuck.
Repairs to the damaged pier were said to cost £10,000.
In July 2013, Southport's popular Pier Tram was temporarily suspended for four weeks
following the discovery of cracks in cast iron support columns beneath the pier. Service was eventually restored following essential
repairs to the famous Victorian structure.