Compiled by Anthony Wills

Blackpool North changes hands

Blackpool’s oldest pier has been sold for an undisclosed sum to Sedgwick’s, a family firm who own amusement arcades and the Big Wheel on Central pier. The North pier, which was designed by Eugenius Birch, opened in 1863 and is Grade II listed. It was the National Piers Society’s Pier Of The Year in 2004. Peter Sedgwick has said he wants to restore the pier’s Victorian heritage. It has already been repainted in a maroon and cream livery. There are plans to reinstate the pier tram and to increase the number of shows in the pier theatre (one of only six remaining). The pier toll will be scrapped when it reopens at Easter and a celebration is scheduled to mark the Royal Wedding on 29 April

Southwold taken off the market

Despite receiving many expressions of interest in purchasing SOUTHWOLD pier the owners, Stephen & Antonia Bournes, have decided to withdraw it from the market. Instead they have spent £150,000 on building a new restaurant kitchen, tripling the size of the Promenade café, sprucing up the penny slot arcade and adding two new shops. They are now looking for finance to allow work to commence on the proposed 30-bedroom hotel at the entrance. Mr Bournes has however warned that plans to refuel oil tankers off the Suffolk coast may jeopardize the future of tourism in the resort.

Pieces of Brighton West pier put up for sale 

The BRIGHTON WEST Pier Trust has been selling off pieces that were collected and put into storage after the structure was ravaged by storms and fire in 2003 and the demolition of the concert hall last year.  Prices range from £10 for an artefact to sit on your mantelpiece to £250 for a cast iron column. Plans to erect a 500 ft viewing tower have been delayed by the economic downturn, though it is still hoped that it will open next year in time for the Olympics. Meanwhile, work on PALACE pier to replace the 1930s boat deck structure will begin in May, after a survey found that parts had rusted and become worn.  This particular area supports Horatio’s Bar. 

Ryde repairs completed

RYDE (IOW) pier reopened on 14 March after repairs costing in excess of £5 million. Restoration works, which will guarantee another 50 years’ life, involved 380 cubic metres of sustainable hardwood decking from the Cameroon, 200 tonnes of new steelwork and 70 new decorative cast-iron panels made to match the Victorian originals, at £700 each. Extensive repairs were also needed to concrete sections of the pier head, due for completion in July. Speed cameras have now been installed to enforce a 10mph limit and a vehicle toll of £1 will be levied to cover the costs of on-going maintenance to the structure. In addition a weight limit of three tonnes and height restriction of 7ft. 4 in. have been introduced to reduce wear and tear. A party, billed as a “Ryde revival”, was held on 2 April to celebrate the reopening. The pier, the oldest in the UK, will celebrate its bicentenary in 2014.

Emergency works at Swanage after survey reveals major deterioration 

SWANAGE pier will be unable to receive visits by Waverley or Balmoral this year unless the landing stage decking is replaced, an engineering survey has revealed.  Five piles are life-expired and the superstructure will have to be renewed.
The Swanage Pier Trust, which already has to find £135,000 per year for routine maintenance, has launched a major appeal. Visit the Friends’ website

Penarth’s £1.75 million lottery bid decision expected in May

A detailed planning application submitted by PENARTH Arts & Crafts Ltd for the restoration of the town’s historic pier pavilion was unanimously approved by Vale of Glamorgan Council in March. The Heritage Lottery Fund, which in 2009 awarded £99,600 to pay for research into the economic impact of the project and potential tourism growth, was due to decide whether to grant a further £1.75 million towards the estimated total cost of £3,900,000, which would see the pavilion used as a cinema, café, observatory and community space. Subject to funding being obtained the target date for reopening the building is 2013.

Australian pier reopens after complete restoration

Vast crowds attended the reopening ceremony of BUSSELTON jetty in Western Australia on 6 February (high summer for that part of the world).  The pier was hit by a cyclone in 1978 and finally closed in 2009, with no apparent interest on the part of the local authorities in restoring it. In the end the State Government contributed $Aus 24 million of the $Aus 27 million (almost £17,000,000) needed for the restoration. The West Australian premier cut the ribbon and a spectacular fireworks display was held. The following morning around 1,300 people took part in the Busselton Jetty swim and others in a half marathon. On 1 March the jetty train ran for the first time since 2005, taking visitors to the underwater observatory at the pier head.

Eastbourne pier transformed

Surely no pier has had such a rapid turnaround in fortune than the Grade II* listed Eugenius Birch-designed structure at EASTBOURNE?  Put up for sale by its owners in the summer of 2009, a successful summer season the following year saw it taken off the market. The enormous publicity given it by its starring role in the recent remake of the movie Brighton Rock (where it stood in for PALACE pier along the coast), coupled with substantial investment at the pier head, has given it a new lease of life and made it a jewel among piers. The newly opened Ocean Suite, with its own private roof terrace and champagne bar, is licensed for weddings and can cater for conferences and parties. A Fine Dining Club is being set up and other special events are planned.

Florida pier’s future uncertain 

The St Petersburg City Council has voted to demolish their 37-year old pier and replace it with a smaller structure. The existing pier head, the base surrounding the iconic inverted pyramid and the roadway up to it all need replacing in the near future. $50 million has been earmarked for the construction of a new pier.  There is however considerable opposition to the Council’s plan.
Future of Worthing Pier Pavilion under discussion

A report submitted to Worthing councillors has suggested the closure of the town’s Connaught Theatre and upgrading the 85 year-old Pier Pavilion to make it fit for purpose.  The improvements would include raking the auditorium and increasing the seating capacity to 1,000.  The Council at present operates two theatres, a cinema and an Assembly Hall at a cost to Council Tax payers of £3,000 every day.

Other news 

CROMER has been voted Best Loved Pier by the readers of Coast magazine, with SOUTHWOLD and BRIGHTON PALACE as runners-up. The award was presented by TV’s Michaela Strachan to pier manager Ian Hall at the Country Living Fair in London.

Plans for the redevelopment of the Royal Pier Hotel which stands next to CLEVEDON pier have finally been approved, ending ten years of argument and decay. The historic structure will be refurbished and a neighbouring building erected, linked to the original by a glazed passage. Most of the parking will be underground.  As reported in PIERS 98 the Bristol-based owners Freemantle Developments have agreed to contribute towards new visitor facilities for the pier.

A roost of birds known as “Ruddy Turnstones” risk delaying the planned construction of a £3 million cultural centre at the end of SOUTHEND pier.  Natural England has demanded an environmental impact survey outlining how the new building might affect the birds.

A feature entitled “How To Get Your Community Project Off The Ground” in theIndependent On Sunday on 15 January cited HASTINGS Pier & White Rock Trust as a prime example.

A lorry containing a 40ft container that was too tall to pass under the bridge approach to SOUTHPORT pier caused a road smash on 25 January.  Part of the container slid off the lorry and landed on top of a car travelling in the opposite direction.  The passengers escaped injury.

Dozens of lead caps were stolen from YARMOUTH (IOW) pier in the last week of January.  A 20-year old Newport man was arrested and bailed pending further investigations.

The café on WEYMOUTH COMMERCIAL/PLEASURE pier has reopened as theSeahorse on the Pier.  Local businessman Chris Steadman has rented the building on a short-term lease from the Council and invited local artists to display their work there.  The café, which has stood derelict for several years, has been refurbished and its reopening has created ten new jobs. The future of the Weymouth pier pavilion however, one of only six pier theatres remaining, is still in question, though ballroom dancing is still held in the Ocean Room on the first Wednesday of every month.

A Swedish company wishing to expand the wind farm in the sea off HERNE BAY, which currently makes enough electricity to power 61,000 homes, has been told to donate cash towards the rebuilding of the town’s pier.  Wind farm operator Vattenfall wants to add 17 new turbines which would be 30 metres taller than the existing ones.

Coast magazine is organizing a Beach Clean-Up at WESTON-SUPER-MARE on 7 May.  Held in conjunction with the Marine Conservation Society the ticket price of £15 (under 12s £5) includes a goodie bag, coffee and lunch on the Grand pier.

This year’s Seaside Special at CROMER pier pavilion will run from 18 June to 17 September. Comedy ventriloquist Steve Hewlett, who scored a major success in the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, leads a company of 12, augmented by children from Marlene’s School of Dancing.

Piers featured in two of the BBC2’s festive New Year offerings: PENARTH in the dramatised version of TV chef Nigel Slater’s childhood Toast (31 December) and ST ANNES, which stood in for the lost Morecambe Central in the amusing biopic Eric & Ernie (New Years Day).

Michael Portillo’s new BBC2 series of Great Railway Journeys kicked off on 3 January in BRIGHTON, where historian Geoff Mead explained the history of the CHAIN pier (1823-96).  Volk’s Railway and the PALACE pier were also featured, but not the WEST. Portillo’s cross-country journey took him to CROMER, where he visited the pier (not, of course, built until just after the end of the Victorian era). Later in the series he stayed at the Royal Hotel in DEAL, venue for the NPS AGM in 2008 and talked to Joey Blower on BLACKPOOL NORTH.

As part of Heston Blumenthal’s Channel 4 series The Big Fish Fight (shown on 14 January) the presenter visited Iceland, where he was introduced to a sustainable type of fish currently unknown in the UK, which he then cooked on BRIGHTON PALACE pier and served to unsuspecting diners.

In an Independent On Sunday feature on 20 February asking members of the Cabinet how they are contributing towards the Big Society, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he was a patron of the CLEVEDON pier and heritage trust.

The Sunday Observer review section runs a photographic feature called My Sunday In A Picture, and on 27 February this consisted of an atmospheric shot of CLEVEDON pier at 10 a.m. on a winter’s morning, submitted by Joe Oldaker of Nuneaton.

There are two Birdman Rallies scheduled for this summer: at BOGNOR REGIS on 16/17 July ( and WORTHING on 13/14 August (

Book now: WESTON GRAND will be holding an action packed Royal Wedding party on 29 April featuring live music and a fancy dress competition. Participants will be able to watch the wedding ceremony on a large screen on the pier. Partygoers can pre-book their place by purchasing a £5 ride voucher. Elsewhere, CLEVEDON will have a Fancy Dress (William & Kate lookalike!) competition and CROMER holds a picnic and party on the pier.

And Travis Elborough, author of Wish You Were Here: England On Sea(reviewed in PIERS 97) will be appearing at the Victoria Library, Southend on 1 June at 7.30 pm.

(With thanks to Michael Bevis,  Graham Lambourne, Tim Mickleburgh, Richard Riding, Lucie Tutton, Ken Wisdom and Chris Wyatt for their contributions)

A reminder that Coast magazine is organising a Great British Pier Promenade in aid of the Hastings Pier Restoration Fund.  To enter you need to get yourself sponsored to visit as many piers as you can between now and 31 August and have your picture taken carrying a copy of Coast magazine (available from W.H. Smith and other newsagents).

Finally…..Don’t forget our AGM in Worthing on Saturday 14 May!