Aberystwyth lies at the centre of the commanding sweep of Cardigan Bay, and is the oldest health resort on the West Coast of Wales. Known as a great seaside resort, as well as an established cultural centre, the town pier was the first purpose built pleasure pier in Wales. Commissioned by the Aberystwyth Pier Promenade Company, it was designed and constructed by the famous engineer Eugenius Birch, in conjunction with contractors J. E. Dowson.
When the 800ft (242m) Aberystwyth Royal Pier opened on Good Friday in 1865 it proved to be a momentous occasion for the seaside town. More than 7,000 people helped to recoup some of the £13,600 construction costs when they paid a small toll to promenade along the pier on that day, which happened to coincide with the arrival of the Cambrian railway in Aberystwyth.
The euphoria of the pier's owners was short lived when, just seven months later in January 1866, a severe storm washed away a 100ft (30m) section at the seaward end. Having not recovered financially from the initial building costs of Aberystwyth Pier, this disaster had a considerable impact on the new company, that eventually led to the sale of the pier a few years later. In 1872 the new owners replaced the missing section with a slimmer 230ft (70m) extension, and added a gallery and refreshments room at the head. During the season it was here that bands would give twice-daily performances, weather permitting.
Towards the end of the 19th century Aberystwyth Royal Pier's most notable building was erected by the Bourne Engineering & Electrical Company. Designed by G Croydon-Marks a fabulous glass pavilion slowly rose at the shoreward end of the pier. The new pavilion consisted of three aisles surmounted by glass domed roofs, the elevations being ribbed and decorated in the Gothic style so loved by the Victorians. With the capacity to accommodate 3,000 people, this marvellous structure was opened by the Princess of Wales on 26th July 1896.
Further storm damage in 1938 reduced the length of the pier by half, and by the 1970s the remaining neck was in such a bad state of repair that it was closed to the public on safety grounds. This remains the case today, but the pavilion having been subjected to various 20th century 'improvements', is still open.
In 1979 Aberystwyth Royal Pier was purchased by the Don Leisure Group, and in 1986 they spent £250,000 on improvements to the remainder of the 300ft (91m) pier. Planning permission was granted for the construction of a new pier alongside the original, but the project never came to fruition. A new snooker hall and restaurant were opened in 1987. Aberystwyth Royal Pier offers all the modern amusements that continue to attract visitors and which seem to have now become a regular feature of the British seaside pier.