OPENING OF THE VICTORIA PIER
The Victoria Pier is fast approaching completion—in fact it was so near completion on Saturday that the directors were enabled to have it formally opened, and opened it was, with fitting pomp and ceremony. Viscountess Folkestone, who it will be remembered honoured the structure by laying the foundation stone, also had the felicity of declaring the Pier open to the public. Those who were on the spot on the morning of Saturday could hardly believe that the chaotic state in which everything was could be reduced to anything like order by three o’clock. The spacious and handsome pavilion at the seaward end looked as though it had just been thrown up by a volcanic eruption. The chairs were there, it is true, but apparently in a state of hopeless confusion. The stage for the orchestra was topsy turvey. The refreshment department appeared equally unready. Mr. Odlum, of the Queen’s Hotel, on whom the task of catering devolved, seemed doubtful whether his utensils of trade would be comeatable at the required time. At noon the bar counter was destitute of its marbled covering—a gas stove had just been placee in situ, pots, plates, and glasses wore intermingled apparently in inextricable confusion. By almost superhuman exertion, however, the work was done, and at the appointed time, tea, and coffee, and pastry and ales, spirits and cigars, were forthcoming for these who were favoured by the directors with invitations to the feast. At the shore end the confusion was worse confounded. The ground on either side of the entrance was in the early morning a wilderness. The magic wand of the wizard of the west past over the scene, and forthwith sprang into existence beautiful parterres of blooming plants, intersected with trim paths ; a marionette show made its appearance on the west side, and a military band (the Leinsters) occupied the other ; the gardens were abut in from the public gaze by canvas walls, and all was ready. A brisk westerly wind was blowing, and from scores of venetian masts streamed flags of all nations not flickering and flapping idly as flags are wont to do, but shaking laughingly as though they were delighted that the opening day had come. The kiosks on each side of the entrance were stocked and opened —one by Mr. Adolphus Davis, of Alexandra House, who had furnished it with articles from the uttermost ends of the earth; the other by Mr. Wilson, florist, who made it beautiful with choice flowers. In a snug corner, carefully guarded, was a magnificent bouquet, subsequently presented by the chairman to Lady Folkestone on her appearance.
The original idea of having a carriage sweep to approach the entrance has been abandoned. The turn tables are close abating on the Lower Sandgate Road, and thus the length of the Pier is increased considerably, Mr. Prebble having paved this portion with wood blocks. By three o’clock quite a thousand people had assembled in the Pavilion to await the arrival of Lady Folkestone, the Mayor and Mayoress, and several members of the Town Council, being among the glad throng. Along the top of the Lees a line of spectators ranged from end to end, and the Lift was running express trains up and down, conveying passengers to the scene of the festivities. About ten minutes past three her ladyship arrived, and was received at the entrance of the Pier by the Chairman, the directors and officials. A salute from a miniature cannon announced her arrival. The officials, by the way, were radiant in new uniforms, gorgeous with gold lace. In every way the Pier and its belongings impress one favourably. Everything that is done appears to be well done, and what remains to be done is evidently to correspond. Having presented her ladyship with the bouquet, a halt was made for a minute while Mr. Clarke,of Church Street, photographed the group, and the Chairman then conducted her ladyship to the Pavilion, where the National Anthem was sang by the choir, under Mr. Dugard’s conductorship. State chairs had been provided for Lady Folkestone and her friends.
The Chairman then very briefly addressed her ladyship, and explained the difficulties under which they had laboured, and told how they had accomplished their work in spite of all the disparaging reports circulated. He assured her ladyship that in every respect the structure was of the best possible description —in fact he had no hesitation in saying it was the best pier in England, and therefore the best in the world. In all the storms of the past winter not one drop of spray even had fallen upon the decks, and further, during the whole time of construction, there had been no accident. He complimented the engineer and contractor on the able manner in which the work had been performed, and then asked Lady Folkestone to favour them by declaring the pier open.
Lady Folkestone said she had the greatest possible pleasure in laying the foundation stone, she had watched the progress of the structure with the deepest interest, and it gave her infinite satisfaction to be able now to declare that it was open to the public.
Such was the tenour of the remarks, the difficulty of getting within reach of the stage preventing us giving a report of the actual words uttered.
The Viscountess, the Directors, and their friends then adjourned to the reception room, improvised at the southern end of the Pavilion, and there partook of refreshments, having done which they returned to the Pavilion, and stayed a short time listening to the concert. ” Rule Britannia ” was sung before the adjournment, and afterwards a capital programme was rendered. Mr. Egbert Roberts sang ” For my lady’s sake, ” composed by Lady Folkestone ; and Miss Jose Sherrington followed with the ” Shadow Song, ” from ” Dinorah “—a marvellous performance. Miss Clara Myers ably rendered ” Oft I wonder” and “Charism de Florian ;” a charming flageolet solo was played by Miss Miranda Greenhead, and the Pier Choral Society sang two or three part songs, the remainder of the programme being taken up by instrumental music by the Cremona Band, the last being a selection from ” Dorothy.” ” God Save the Queen,” solo by Miss Sherrington, closed the concert.
During the concert the work of decoration noiselessly proceeded, and Chinese lanterns and fairy lights were suspended in positions where at night they would have a due effect. Another concert was given from 7.30 till 9.30, and then a grand display of fireworks took place, including floating beacons, illuminated fountains, fiery torpedoes, flying fish, and concluding with a mimic sea fight, the whole conducted by Mr. James Pain, of London.
Several thousands of people must have patronised the pier during the afternoon and evening, and if the opening day may be taken as an augury of the success of the pier, it has a brilliant future. This everyone will admit, that it is an immeasurable improvement to the Lower Sandgate Road, and those who have had the courage to carry out a work so long talked about deserve to receive a proper return for the capital they have invested. On Sunday evening there was a concert in the Pavilion, which was crowded to excess, upwards of £20, it is said, being taken for admission, at twopence per head.