Brighton Palace Pier was one of the last piers to be constructed in England. Designed by R St George Moore, it was to be built solely as an amusement and pleasure emporium. At 1,760ft (533.3m) in length, and boasting a wider than usual deck, the pier had everything the discerning tripper could wish for. A 1,500-seater pavilion at the seaward end was complimented by smaller pavilions containing dining rooms, grill rooms, smoking rooms and reading rooms. There were ornamental arches for the electrical illuminations, and an electric tramway ran up the centre. Provision for bathers at the pier head, and a landing stage for pleasure craft completed the picture. A contemporary report at the time stated that Brighton Palace Pier was "unequalled by any similar undertaking in the United Kingdom". It had taken an unprecedented 10 years to complete, a record for any British pier.
Brighton's famous chain pier was showing startling signs of decay after a long and active service, and discussions for its replacement had been ongoing during the 1890s. In 1889 the Marine Palace and Pier Company purchased the chain pier for £15,000, with the intention of constructing a brand new pier. Government consent was granted on the condition that the old pier, which closed to the public in October 1896, be demolished.
Work commenced on Brighton Palace Pier in 1891 but continued slowly due to financial problems. On 4th December 1896 a mighty storm destroyed the old chain pier. Substantially constructed of timber, much of the larger debris from the old pier continually smashed against the screw piles of the new pier, resulting in serious damage. It seemed somewhat ironic that, in its final moments, the old pier should strike a blow against its sibling rival. The bulk of the new pier was completed by 1899 and, despite the fact it would take a further two years to complete the seaward end platform and an accompanying pavilion, it was decided that the official opening should go ahead.
Shortly after midday on Saturday 20th May 1899 a procession of local dignitaries, including the Mayor and Mayoress, lead by the bandsmen of the Brighton Rifles made their way to the end of the unfinished structure. Once the formal ceremony was over, the party returned to the pier entrance. The Mayor and Mayoress then entered Brighton Palace Pier for a second time, but now paying the twopence toll.
With the completion of the seaward end on 3rd April 1901, the finished Brighton Palace Pier had cost a staggering £137,000. It covered an area of 2.5 acres, and had used 85 miles of planking throughout the structure. An ornate pavilion and winter garden was added at the centre of the neck in 1910. Such splendour, admirably complimented by the beautiful Victorian West Pier, and further enhanced by the town's Regency architecture, gave Brighton an enviable appearance that no other resort could match.
Brighton Palace Pier was extended in 1938 but was sectioned as a war precaution two years later. When it was re-opened after the war, Brighton Palace Pier continued to prosper. Little work, other than routine maintenance, was undertaken until 1973 when it was decided to demolish the unused landing stage at the pier head. Whilst this work was being carried out a gale caused a 70 tonne barge, being used by the demolition company, to break free of its moorings. In the heavy seas the barge was repeatedly smashed against the pier substructure resulting in severe damage. The oriental theatre suffered badly, with one side left precariously hanging over the sea, and the wrecked landing stage was eventually demolished in 1975.
In 1984 The Palace Pier was purchased by the Noble Organisation, and plans were announced to restore the damaged theatre. It was duly dismantled in 1986 and stored prior to restoration. As is often the case with developers, the whereabouts of the theatre is now uncertain and, despite protests from the theatre trust and other bodies, the future restoration of that building is now highly unlikely. A large amusement and pleasure dome now occupies the old theatre site. With the possible restoration of the Brighton West Pier, the Noble Corporation again courted controversy by renaming this pier 'Brighton Pier' as opposed to 'Brighton Palace Pier'.