Sandown Culver Pier, Isle of Wight

Although plans to build a pier at Sandown on the Isle of Wight had been discussed since the early 1860s, construction on the new pier under the direction of Chief Engineer W. Binne, did not commence until 1876. Due to financial difficulties a further three years were to elapse before the short 360ft (109m) structure was finally opened to the public. In 1887 a new pier company, owned by the eminent Isle of Wight MP Richard Webster, The Sandown Pier Extension Company purchased the Pier and immediately set about planning further improvements to the structure. The newly extended Sandown Pier re-opened on 17th September 1895, now reaching a length of 875ft (265m) with a new pavilion and steamer landing stage at the head. The opening generated a carnival atmosphere in the small town, and a regatta was held to officially mark the event.

During the Great War, Richard Webster (Lord Alverstone) died and, after hostilities ceased in 1918, Sandown Pier was sold to Sandown Urban District Council for £2,500. The pier-head pavilion was extended and the Sandown Prize Band, one of the best in the country, became regular performers. In 1933 Sandown Pier was further extended with the construction of a new 1000 seat pavilion at the shoreward end. The Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Jellico opened the new facilities on 23rd October the following year. The original pavilion at the pier-head remained, being converted for use as a Ballroom. 1934 also saw the arrival of the Paddle Steamer 'Sandown'. She was to become a regular visitor to the pier until joining the 10th Minesweeping Flotilla with the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940 Sandown Pier, along with most others on the south and east coasts of Britain, was sectioned as a defence measure for fear of German invasion. As was often the case due to lack of proper maintenance, this action was to have a detrimental effect on the isolated seaward section, the landing stage deteriorating quite badly.

After the war Sandown Pier was repaired and the resorts popularity once again prospered. In 1954 the landing stage was redeveloped with the construction of a two-tier replacement in concrete, that could facilitate landings at any state of the tide, and during the late 1950s a direct passenger service with Portsmouth was established. The pier at Sandown also played host to royalty when in 1965, whilst touring the island, the Queen and Prince Philip attended a ceremony in the pavilion before departing in the Royal Barge from the pier-head.

1968 saw major redevelopment of the entire pier structure. The pavilion at the seaward end was demolished and the shoreward end redeveloped. At the same time major structural work was carried out, many of the iron piles being replaced in concrete along with much of the decking being renewed. Lord Mountbatten was to perform the re-opening ceremony on 22nd July 1973. Sandown Pier Ltd purchased the Pier in 1986 with the provision that the theatre be leased back by South Wight Council for a ten-year period. £500,000 of refurbishment was carried before the theatre was subsequently let to Isle of Wight (Theatres) Ltd.

A fire in the theatre caused £2,000,000 worth of damage in the August of 1989 but after substantial repairs the building was re-opened on 18th June the following year. Sadly, the theatre finally closed in late 1990s to make way for a bowling alley and golf course. Sandown Pier still remains popular with visitors with all the normal modern facilities being available. These include refreshments, a restaurant, shops, kiosk's, amusements, fishing and various pleasure cruises from the head.


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