Sad end of the 'peerless pier'

Tuesday 05 October 2010 10:21

When it opened on Britain's first ever Bank Holiday in 1872, Hastings Pier was proclaimed as the "peerless pier".

The Victorian holidaymaker could enjoy the novel experience of a promenade out above the sea, watch music or theatre in the grand pavilion, or perhaps take a paddle-steamer on an excursion to France.

In the 20th century, the pier hosted a mix of dancing, slot machines, rifle ranges, bowling alleys, bingo and funfair rides.

And in the 1960s it gained a reputation for staging big-name rock concerts, with performances from the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Tom Jones and Cilla Black.

Over the years the pier survived a pavilion fire and various storm damage. And during the Second World War a section of the pier was demolished to stop the Germans using it as a landing platform.

It was also the backdrop for fighting between mods and rockers.

In 1976 the pier was given Grade II status.

But by the the 1980s it had fallen into financial difficulty and in June 2006 the pier was shut over fears that it could collapse.

A group set up to save the pier, which became Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust (HPWRT), found in a study that £8 million would be needed for the first phase of redevelopment.

And in July this year Hastings Borough Council agreed to go ahead with the compulsory purchase of the pier from its absent owners, a Panamanian-registered company called Ravenclaw.

HPWRT has invited architects to submit designs.

Eugenius Birch, Britain's foremost pier designer, modelled Hastings Pier on Brighton West Pier.

The ill-fated West Pier was another of his structures to succumb to fire, suffering two major blazes within two months in 2003 after parts of it had already crumbled into the sea.

Hastings Pier was originally 910ft long, with cast-iron columns supporting a lattice girder framework topped with wooden decking.

At its opening on August 5 1872, the Earl of Granville called the structure "a peerless pier - a pier without a peer".

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