Hastings Pier was designed by renowned Victorian engineer Eugenius Birch and opened on a wet and windy August Bank Holiday Monday in 1872 by the Earl of Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
The opening was a grand affair attended by local MP Thomas Brassey and, local lore would have it, ‘Egyptian princes’.
From the outset it was a popular tourist attraction, with visitors travelling from miles around. Its permanent pavilion was used for concerts and plays, and the pier’s landing stage enabled ferries to ship passengers to nearby piers on the South East coast and, on a few occasions, to Boulogne in northern France.
From the outset it was a popular tourist attraction, with visitors travelling from miles around (undated photo of tourists lounging on deck chairs at Hastings pier)
In 1910 an ‘American Bowling Alley’ was erected a third of the way down the pier and a joy-wheel roundabout soon followed at the front of the pier.
After a fire severely damaged the seaward end of the Pier in 1917, a new pavilion building was constructed in 1922, which was given an art deco re-vamp in the 1930s.
That decade was to be the pier’s heyday. In the first week of August 1931, 56,000 people passed through the turnstiles (the population of the town at the time was 66,000).
During World War II the Pier was temporarily closed and requisitioned for training. In 1943, a middle section of the decking was removed to deter the Pier being used as a landing platform for invading ships.
A boat load of holiday makers arrive at Hastings Pier in this undated photograph
Although the enemy never landed at Hastings, a large number of Belgian and French refugees landed on the pier in a tug boat.
In the 1940s and 1950s paddle catamarans were for hire on the beach below the Pier.
A poster advertising Jimi Hendrix’s gig at the pier on October 22 1967
The post-war pier propelled itself into the new era becoming a prominent centre of live music in the 1960s and 1970s. A number of famous names played on the pier including acts such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
In 1976 the Pier became a listed building with the hope of preserving the Birch-built substructure.
But in the 1980s the Pier fell into a state of disrepair. Piers became unfashionable and to try and counter the declining crowds the previous owners of the Pier built more on the superstructure, often neglecting the substructure itself. The Pier was closed in 2008. The local community passionately campaigned for the Grade II Listed pier to be saved, though restoration plans were put on hold when a devastating fire virtually destroyed the Pier in October 2010.
Following a compulsory purchase order implemented by Hastings Borough Council, Hastings Pier Charity (HPC) bought the Pier for £1 in August 2013 in order to drive the Pier’s restoration and manage its future.
Restoration plans were put on hold when a devastating fire virtually destroyed the Pier in October 2010
A development plan was put forward to the Heritage Lottery Fund, who awarded a project grant of £11.4m towards the £14.2m needed to restore the pier.
Additional funds were raised through a Community Share Scheme (which attracted over 3,000 shareholders and raised close to £600,000), as well as from a number of generous organisations. HPC is incredibly grateful to all of the Pier’s funders – without them, the Pier would simply not be standing today.
Reopened in April 2016, the new Pier has been designed by dRMM architects as a pier for the 21st century. It is a sustainable, flexible platform that is able to host a broad range of community uses for years to come.
The new visitor centre is inventively clad in timber salvaged from the limited decking that survived the 2010 fire.
But now its future looks uncertain.
Source: Hastings Pier site
The new visitor centre is inventively clad in timber salvaged from the limited decking that survived the 2010 fire