The Norfolk seaside town of Cromer, famous for its crabs, boasts one of the first piers to have been built in the 20th century. The current pier is the third structure to have graced the resort's shoreline, the other two being little more than wooden jetties. The first jetty, 210ft (64m) in length, was built in 1822 but destroyed in a storm just 21 years later. Subsequently replaced with a similar structure, 240ft (73m) in length, this second jetty became a very fashionable venue for an evening promenade.
Strictly supervised by a 'keeper', it was his job was to ensure that no improper persons frequented Cromer Pier, and that good order was always maintained. Smoking was not permitted on the jetty until 9.00pm, by which time most of the ladies had retired from their promenade. The jetty's fate was sealed in 1897 when a collision with a coal boat caused sufficient damage to make repairs unrealistic. The remaining structure was dismantled and the timber sold off at auction for a mere £40.
Under the 1899 Cromer Protection Act, the Cromer Protection Commissioners became responsible for the erection of a new pier. Designed by Douglass and Arnott, and built by Alfred Thorne, work commenced on the 450ft (136m) pier in 1900. It was opened by Lord Claud Hamilton on 8th June the following year, and had cost £17,000 to construct with a short wide deck, glass screened shelters, and a bandstand at the seaward end. This was removed in 1905 to allow for the building of the pavilion, whose floor was covered in Maple in 1908 to facilitate roller-skating. In 1923 Cromer Pier was extended to an overall length of 500ft (151m) with the construction of the lifeboat station.
Along with most East Coast piers, Cromer Pier was sectioned during the Second World War as a precaution against German invasion. In Cromer's case the statutory 'gap' in the neck had to be covered with temporary planking to allow access to the lifeboat station. Severe storms on this exposed part of Britain's coast have featured heavily in Cromer Pier's history, the current structure being badly damaged in 1949, 1953, 1976 and 1978. More recently, in 1990, storms destroyed an amusement arcade (which it was decided not to replace), and in 1993 a 100 ton rig collided with the structure, severing it at the neck, leaving the lifeboat station and theatre isolated. Thankfully the local council repaired all structural damage, and Cromer Pier survives today in very good condition. In 1997 the lifeboat station and ramp were temporarily removed.
Currently Cromer Pier continues very much as it would have done in its heyday, offering visitors the opportunity to promenade, frequent the pavilion offering traditional summer season shows or Sunday concerts, or simply enjoy a bit of fishing from the pier-head. The lack of modern amusements on the pier creates a certain ambience not easily found in other coastal resorts.