Bournemouth Pier, Dorset

The first Bournemouth Pier was a short wooden jetty, built in 1856.

The second pier, built in 1861, was a much longer structure that lasted until 1876 when a storm reduced its length, making it impossible for steam ships to dock.

A third temporary pier was constructed for the steam ships to dock while a more permanent structure was commissioned.

Over the next three years a new pier designed by Eugenius Birch was built and opened on the 11 August, 1880.  A clock tower was added in 1882 and a bandstand in 1885.  Military band concerts took place three times a day in summer and twice daily throughout the winter, although not on Sundays.  Extensions in 1894 and 1909, took the pier’s overall length to more than 1,000 feet.

Closed during the war years as a precaution against German invasion, the pier was repaired and re-opened in August 1946.  This was a considerable achievement: many piers stayed closed for several years after the War had ended.

Refurbishment of the pier head was carried out in 1950, and ten years later the substructure was reinforced to take the weight of a new theatre.  A structural survey of 1976 found major areas of corrosion, and in 1979 a restoration programme was initiated.  The old buildings at the shore end were replaced with a new two-storey leisure complex.

Since the 1990s there has been one plan after another for the pier.  In 1996, the council proposed knocking down everything on the pier and building a £13m high tech development.  Luckily, this was never started; one can only imagine the overspend, the delays, the malfunctions that would follow such a project commissioned by a council at that time.

However, any council must realise that a pier is for the community and it must balance historic integrity and financial viability, when considering its future development.  While Bournemouth Pier no longer has Victorian ladies promenading along its length to catch a ride on a Steam Ship, it is a popular and vibrant centre, with a host of activities.  It is enjoyed by both the more mature seaside visitor, and the youngsters, perhaps giving them memories that will last a lifetime – and who could ask for more.

Painting of Bournemouth Pier