The newly reopened HASTINGS pier has been voted Pier Of The Year 2017 by members of the National Piers Society. It narrowly beat WORTHING, which for the third year running came second, while LLANDUDNO again took third place in this, the 21st year of the competition.
Hastings was one of 14 piers built by the master pier engineer Eugenius Birch (1818-84) and opened on 5 August 1872. It was the first true pleasure pier, devoted to entertainment, and 24,000 visitors paid 2d each to stroll along it that first week. At its head was a 2,000 seat Oriental style Pavilion, where a pier orchestra played and leading music hall stars such as Marie Lloyd and Harry Lauder appeared. In addition there were animated pictures, open air dancing, joy riding and a shooting range, while self-styled “Professor” Davenport rode a bicycle into the sea!
New buildings including a camera obscura were added throughout the 1930s, and the piling was strengthened; but all this activity came to a halt in 1940, when the pier was taken over by the Army and a 75ft section removed to prevent enemy landings. The pier reopened in 1946 and quickly regained its pre-war popularity; as well as the Pavilion there were amusement arcades, shops, bars, restaurants, Bingo and even a zoo! In August 1964 The Rolling Stones played to a capacity audience in the pier ballroom; they were followed by The Who and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. By the 1980s, however, the Golden Age was coming to an end. A succession of owners made unsuccessful applications for grants towards the cost of repairing storm damage, and in 2008 the National Piers Society declared that Hastings Pier was “in mortal danger”. Two years later a fire completely destroyed the pier ballroom and quickly engulfed the entire structure. In due course Hastings Council was persuaded to issue a Compulsory Purchase Order on the owners, and handed the pier over to a newly formed Trust. In 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the huge sum of £11.4 million towards complete restoration, the reminder being raised locally and regionally. The partially restored pier opened to the public in May last year and has already been a huge success.
Commenting on the Pier Of The Year award Maria Ludkin, Chair of the Hastings Pier Trustees, said: “We are absolutely delighted that our wonderful community-owned pier has won this prestigious award. It is thanks to our dedicated staff, hardworking volunteers and all the visitors who have supported us.”
Gavin Henderson, President of the National Piers Society, said: “Well done Hastings, truly a Phoenix, and a great example for other restoration battles!”
For further information please contact Jo Stewart, Chief Executive, Hastings Pier Charity, tel. 01424 445566, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Anthony Wills, Media Relations Officer, National Piers Society, tel. 020 7586 5154, email email@example.com