Eastbourne Pier, East Sussex

The first pile for Eastbourne Pier was driven into the seabed on 18th April 1866. Officially opened by Lord Edward Cavendish on 13th June 1870, Eastbourne pier was not actually completed for a further two years. Designed by Eugenius Birch, the piles that supported the superstructure sat upon specially made cups, similar to those used on furniture to protect carpets from deep furrowing, that rested on the rock bed. This ingenious arrangement allowed the pier structure to 'move' in bad weather. Using two six-pound cannons, to test whether the superstructure could withstand such a force, proved almost insignificant compared with the adverse weather conditions experienced on this stretch of coastline over the last 128 years. The relatively unscathed Eastbourne Pier is testimony in itself to the substantial core of the construction.

At 1000ft (303m) long, Eastbourne Pier in common with most of that era was built purely as a promenade, with six small kiosks along its length, and a pair of tollbooths at the entrance. The shoreward end was washed away in a violent storm on New Years Day 1877 and was subsequently rebuilt at a much higher level. The domed 400-seater pavilion was constructed at a cost of 250 at the seaward end in 1888. A 1000-seater theatre, bar, camera obscura and office suite replaced this in 1899/1901. At the same time two saloons were built midway along the pier.

Either side of the Great War saw the shoreward end of the pier remodelled with a new entrance building being added in 1912 and the 'blue room' a 900-seater pavilion in 1922. This pavilion was predominantly used as a ballroom before playing host to the now modern favourite leisure facility of seaside piers, an amusement arcade.

During the Second World War the wooden decking was removed and machine gun platforms were installed in the theatre providing a useful vantagepoint from where to repel any attempted enemy landings. In 1951, now back in peacetime, the entrance buildings were again replaced. The theatre was destroyed by fire in January 1970, a new Atlantis nightclub and bar being built in its place. Entrance buildings were again replaced in 1991. In 2003 the Camera Obscura, located in the dome above the 'Atlantis' nightclub, was reopened to the public. Restoration of this Victorian projector has provided Eastbourne Pier with a unique visitor attraction.

This charming pier, which although modernised still retained much of its Edwardian splendour, suffered serious damage on 30th July 2014 when fire broke out. The fire started in the shoreward end domed paviliion, quickly sweeping through the strucutre and damaging several of the kiosks beyond. Once again a fire has cast its dark shadow over the future of one of our most important and much loved piers.

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