Worthing Pier, West Sussex
This pier officially opened in April 1862. It was a success from day one, and plans for developments were quick to follow.
A band provided the first pier entertainment in 1874. By 1881, there were daily performances from the Rhine Band. The decking was widened in 1888 – 89 and a Southern Pavilion was built at the pier-head, a tollhouse and a hut for selling souvenirs were added at the entrance.
By 1894 steamships were operating between Worthing Pier and Brighton’s Chain Pier, twelve miles along the coast to the east. The first moving picture shown in Worthing was on the pier in August 1896 and is commemorated today by a blue plaque.
Disaster struck the pier on Easter Monday 1913. A gale was blowing at 80 miles an hour, crowds on the shore watched the pier being battered by the waves. Soon after midnight the Pier’s electricity supply was lost followed by the decking between the pavilion and the shore being washed away, leaving the seaward end completely cut off from land; the locals christened it Easter Island. The pier was restored by May of the following year.
Disaster struck again in September 1933 when fire destroyed the South Pavilion. Volunteers helped the fire brigade to remove furniture from the burning building and ripped up decking to try and stop the blaze spreading further. It was repaired within two years.
Both the central amusement pavilion and the windshield that runs along the length of the Pier were built in 1937 and that is the construction that we see today.
Steamer services were suspended in 1939 and the army blew a large hole in the pier in 1940 to make invasion via the pier difficult, the land end was used for troop recreation. Because of a general lack of money and materials after the war, the complete pier didn’t reopen until 1949.
The international Birdman Competition involves human birdmen attempting to fly off the end of a pier into the sea for as far as they can manage, under only their own power. It originated in 1971 and has always been held in West Sussex (although other countries have now copied the idea). Since 2008, Worthing Pier has been hosting the event, taking over from Bognor Regis Pier, although Bognor Regis has still held one of its own on a couple of occasions.