Southsea South Pier
The first Southsea South pier opened in in 1879. Seven years later it was extended, adding a pavilion for concerts, mainly light classical music. The pier’s main function was as a jetty for steamers crossing to the Isle of Wight.
In 1904 a discarded cigarette butt started a fire that wrecked the pier and bankrupted the owners. As they did not have the money to restore it, it remained a ruin until a new owner could be found.
Portsmouth city council took it over in 1906 and commissioned a new pier to be built in its place. The new pier officially opened in August 1908. Business was difficult because Clarence Pier just a mile along the coast, had attracted most of the steamer trade.
In 1914 it briefly ran a service to the Seaview Chain Pier on the Isle of Wight, although the Admiralty put a stop to this after a short while. With little steamer trade, the pier concentrated on entertainments for its revenue.
During the Second World War the pier was partly dismantled and the coastline around the pier was used for the training of troops going to France. There are photographs of General Eisenhower watching operations from it.
After the war, right up until the 90s many famous entertainers and musicians performed there. In the 50s it was Billy Cotton, Arthur English, Jimmy Edwards and Tommy Trinder, all regulars on the new TV. In the 50s, Tommy Steele, Peter Sellers and Frankie Howerd appeared, and in the 60s the Pretty Things and Status Quo. In the early seventies David Bowie performed as Ziggy Stardust to a less than full house and was paid £225 for his performance – presumably he had to share that out with the rest of the band.
A blaze in 1974, during the filming of ‘Tommy’, badly damaged the pier, which re-opened the following year after a £500,000 rebuild.
Blur played in the Gaiety Showbar in 1993, although the music these days is mostly tribute bands.