In 1824, the Margate Pier Harbour Co. erected a 1,100 ft wooden jetty called the ‘Jarvis Landing Stage’. However, this was only accessible at low tide and as it was made of wood, it needed regular repairs and was very susceptible to storm damage.
In the early 1850s The Pier Company commissioned Eugenius Birch to design a new ‘jetty’, so called to distinguish it from Margate Pier Harbour wall. This was to be the first of Birch’s fourteen piers around the UK. Already a highly distinguished engineer of bridges and railways, it was Birch’s piers which were to form his greatest legacy. The primary task of the new pier was to handle the large numbers of people disembarking from steamers visiting the town.
The original build, which opened in 1855, was therefore quite simple in appearance compared with later piers, although the ironwork was very ornate, and it was a very prominent addition to the town.
The innovative engineering feature of the pier was that it was the first to be built using the screw-pile construction method in Britain. This made for a deeper and far more resilient base support. The combination of style and engineering excellence resulted in subsequent commissions.
In 1875/8, it was extended, with an octagonal pier-head and pavilion added.
In World War II, the jetty was used for troop and supply movements. Steamer services resumed after the War, ending in 1966.
The pier survived storms and two world wars until it was destroyed by a storm in January 1978
- From the age of 13 J M W Turner was sent to school in Margate and he remained a frequent visitor to the town all his life. Although he did see and paint the Brighton Chain Pier, he did not live to see the first of Birch’s piers.