The pier was first opened in 1895, it had a promenade and landing jetty for the popular steam ship trade in the Bristol Channel.
During the First World War, the pier was the base for steamships to act as minesweepers. By the end of the war, the pier was standing but in poor condition.
Between the Wars the pier was used as a venue for plays, concerts, lectures, films and dances. The Marina Ballroom was a great success and was hosting dances right up to the start of the second World War in 1939 and even opened for a few during the War. It reopened in 1946.
After the War, paddle steamers started to return, however, on 2nd May 1947, the Canadian merchant ship, Port Royal Park crashed into the pier in a gale, shattering and buckling the decking and many of the main supporting cast-iron columns. It was closed for two years. In August 1966, the paddle steamer ‘Bristol Queen’ also collided with the pier again causing serious damage.
The last paddle steamer operating from the pier, the Bristol Queen, ceased operating in 1966. However, two ships, the MV Balmoral and PS Waverley, operated by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, has continued to provide occasional pleasure cruises calling at the pier to this day.
Alfred Sisley was born in Paris in 1839 and painted about 19 seascapes during his 1897 visit to Penarth and the Gower coast. He and his partner, Eugenié Lescouezec, were nearing the end of their lives and it is thought that to secure their children’s inheritance that they came to Britain to get married, ‘quietly’.
Whatever the reason, the couple were married at Cardiff Town Hall on 5 August 1897.
Piers, being an English invention, would have been completely new to Sisley
On 16 July he wrote “I have been here for a week … The countryside is very pretty and the roads with the big ships sailing into and out of Cardiff, is superb … I don’t know how long I shall stay at Penarth. I am very comfortable here, in lodgings with some very decent folk. The climate is very mild, and has indeed been too hot these last few days, especially now as I write. I hope to make good use of what I see around me and to return to Moret in October, or thereabouts”.
There are six paintings of Penarth, one shows a tree at the cliff’s edge with shipping and Penarth Pier in the background.