National Piers Society
History of Southport Pier

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 public.

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.

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  Pier Statistics
 
Length Opened Status Owner
Initially 3600ft now 3633ft (1108m) 1860 Grade II Sefton Council

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British Pathe Newsreel - Southport Pier Fire 1933
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