The West Pier

I’m starting with something close to my heart: The West Pier.

Designed by Eugenius Birch, it opened in 1866. In its heyday, the West Pier was a glorious white wedding cake of a pier, all fancy flounces, with a concert hall, a bandstand, a landing stage for steamers and genteel retiring rooms for ladies and gentlemen. It closed in 1975 when it was declared unsafe.

After furious attempts to save it by the West Pier Trust, who wanted to restore it to its former glory, in 2004 English Heritage assessed the West Pier as being beyond repair. It was left to fall apart.

In 2002, a huge storm caused the dramatic collapse of the remaining buildings on the pier. After two arson attacks in 2003, nothing but the metal skeleton — and, for a little while, a tiny ticket hut — remained. In 2014, the remaining structure of the pier split in two after being battered by high winds and rough seas.


The twisted and blackened structure that now rises out of the waves is a source of some bemusement to tourists, unaware why we preserve this ghost at all. First of all, it would cost too much to cart it all away safely. Second, the pier is a Grade 1 listed building, so no-one is allowed to knock it down. Third, Brighton and Hove City Council has spent its money elsewhere: on the i360 — a vertical “pier” constructed where the West Pier used to meet the land. Instead of walking on water, we will now walk in the air. (Hmmm…)

The elements will continue to take their toll and gradually the once-lovely pier will fall to pieces, bit by bit. For now, though, the remnants remain a monument to what we once had.


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