A Visit to the Royal Chain Pier, Brighton, Elizabeth Sandham (1824)

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index

This is an "educational" description of the Chain Pier, probably aimed at children, written immediately after the main pier was finished and opened, but apparently while some of the final touches were still being finished. The pier was opened in 1823, the book with the description appeared in 1824.

A Visit To The Royal Chain Pier, Brighton, Elizabeth Sandham (1824)

Wm.
Now that the Chain Pier is completed, Mrs. N. my Sister will not be afraid to venture on it, I hope you will be so kind as to take us there, for we always understand things better when you explain them to us.
Mrs. N.
I am glad to hear you say this, it is my first wish, you should be well acquainted with what is necessary for you to know; and next to this, that you should not be satisfied with a superficial view of those works which evince superiority of genius in those who plan them. We will therefore take a walk on the Chain Pier, and endeavour to become acquainted with its construction. The last time I was there it was nearly finished, and a band of music was stationed on the outward clump of piles, which sounded sweetly on the Water. I fancied myself on the quarter deck of an Admiral's Ship.
Ann.
We may not be so fortunate as to find a Band ready to receive us; but if there is no music, we shall have less to draw our attention from the work itself.
Mrs. N.
It has a very picturesque and pleasing effect, when seen from the cliff immediately opposite; The eye gazes on the prospect of the long straight vista through the avenue, formed by the Iron Lodges, which we saw cast at the Foundery. You remember their dimensions and the distance between each?
Ann.
Yes the Foreman told us they would be ten feet by eight, and ten or twelve feet between each. I have a Card here which gives a later account, and is probably more correct. It describes them as towers, each weighing about fifteen tons, twenty-five feet high, from the point of suspension, and ten feet distant, united by an Arch at the top. I do not forget that you went to the third clump of piles, before any of these towers were erected, or the Pier was formed, except in the imagination of the Architect; the Bridges being only temporary which you walked on.
Mrs. N.
I have been told these towers or lodges are already let at twenty six pounds a year, for shops or refreshment rooms. The people who have taken them, I suppose, expect to make a great deal of money by offering a resting place to the company who walk there, and a shelter under which they may sit and inhale the sea breezes in all their purity.
Wm.
These seats will have every advantage of a sail in one of the Pleasure Boats without the danger of being sick from the motion of the sea, or wet from its spray. To timid Sailors I imagine it will be much pleasanter: What say you Ann?
Ann.
I own I am not very courageous, and therefore should prefer a seat on the Chain Pier to one in the sailing boats you have so often wished to be in. But now we are near enough to distinguish the people walking on the Pier, and their diminutive appearance at the farther end, convinces me it must be a great distance from the shore.
Mrs. N.
We will enter by the Esplanade, which leads from the Steyne; here are two handsome Iron Gates and a small Lodge erected in which I suppose will be a person appointed to receive a Toll. On the outside of the Gates is a place for the Carriages to turn. What says your Card, Ann, respecting this part of the work.
Ann.
It only mentions its length from the Steyne, 1250 feet by 33 feet but I have read another account, which speaks of the pavement upwards of ten feet wide, and the carriage road twenty-four feet: the agreement is perfectly exact between them.
Mrs. N.
I have been told that to walk three times from this entrance to the end of the Pier, and back again, the distance would be considerably above two miles: but before we proceed let me beg you to notice this large wheel and Reservoir which are just behind the building. Do you know what they are for?
Win.
I have heard it contains water which comes from the sea, and fills it every high tide, and it is intended to water the Streets with it, in very hot and dusty weather.
Mrs. N.
You are right. Formerly the water Carts used to go down upon the Beach, and were filled with water laden from the sea. When full, it was very hard labour for the poor horses to drag them up this steep ascent. This Reservoir was therefore formed to save them such laborious work; and the wheel turns the water into the Carts without the trouble of lading it.
Ann.
This is indeed a benevolent act for the poor horses, and deserves to be placed, among others, in the list of Philanthropic endeavours to better the condition of the animal creation. But what a nice walk this is! Who would refuse to pay a toll for such an accommodation 1
Mrs. N.
You observe the strong wall by which it is supported on the side next the sea, and the curved extension at the other end, to allow carriages to turn there also. The railing on each side secures it from any intruders but those who enter at the Gates, and also precludes all danger of falling over. How firmly it is edged with stone, to withstand the fury of the waves,
Wm.
And very necessary too, Mrs. N. for we know what a dashing element the Sea is.—Will you excuse my Pun?
Mrs. N.
Your enquiry proves that it requires some apology. You know I am not singular in my opinion that it is the lowest species of Wit: but as we are now arrived at the Pier, we will not depart from the object we have in view to discuss upon Punning. At this end there is only an entrance for foot passengers. Here we are to take our tickets, which will adroit us three times in one day, to walk on the Pier, but are not transferable: They are six-pence each.
Ann.
I see it is boarded like a room, I expected to find it more like a bridge.
Mrs. N.
This planking is calculated to last about ten or fifteen years and then it will need repairing. This, with the carved work on the outward edge of each side, is the only wood on the bridges; every thing else is Iron. But what says your card about the foundation?
Ann.
Its foundation consists of four clumps of piles, 258 feet distant from each other, driven nearly 10 feet into the rock or sand, and rising 13 feet above high water: The three first clumps contain 20 piles each, and are, I have been told, 36 feet square; the fourth and grand Clump which is in the form of a T contains 150 perpendicular and diagonal piles, strongly braced by framings, and wale pieces in various places. It is paved on the top with about two hundred Tons of Purbeck Stone, beneath are galleries and flights of steps constructed for the convenience of embarkation. I see also they are putting down a flight of steps at each end on the outside.
Mrs. N.
The breadth of this clump of Piles, is I believe 91 feet from east to west, and what a beautiful view it affords of the Town and adjacent scenery!

Wm. Come Ann since you choose to keep your Card of Information in your own possession, pray read to us what it says of the extent of the Bridge and how it is supported.

Ann.
The Bridge (which is 1134 feet long* and 13 feet wide, with a neat cast iron railing on each side), is supported by 8 chains; 4 on each side, each containing 117 links, 10 feet long, 6¼ inches in circumference, and weighing 112 pounds. These are secured by a bolt, and strongly keyed; and are continued over the several towers, with a dip of eighteen feet, rising gradually that height on each side as they advance towards the towers. From the chains are suspended 360 iron rods, connected by an iron bar, on which the Platform rests at each side and which runs from end to end. The rods are attached to a Cap which heads the junction of the links where the bolts are applied; the Cap being hollow, the rod in the shape of a T is adjusted within it.
  • The dimensions given in the first conversation differ in a slight degree from this account; but as what is now advanced is taken from a later survey, and since the work has been completed, it is considered more correct.
Wm.
But how are the Chains secured at each end?
Ann.
At the entrance they issue from the Wall which supports the Cliff considerably above our heads. Two excavations have been made for them, in the form of barrel drains 54 feet deep in the Cliff, where they are made fast by being affixed to an Iron plate weighing 25 cwt. At the outer end they diverge in an angle of about 37 degrees, being locked down by prepared bolts and keys, and a poising bias of nearly 60 tons of Stone, to act with that derived from their deep imbedment in the Cliff wall.
Mrs. N.
You remember seeing the Iron Work cast at the Foundry which the Foreman called the Saddle, through which he said the Chains were to pass at the top of each tower.
Ann.
Yes, and I now see these houses, or whatever they may be called, are necessary for the support of the bridge, as well as for ornaments upon it; and it was necessary they should be made of Iron to maintain its weight. Thus they answer a double purpose, for I recollect we were told at the Foundery, that while they increased the weight on each clump of piles, they added to their stability, and they also afford a steady rest for the Chains on which the bridge is hung. There is plenty of room to walk round them and admire the view on each side, and when the weather is bad; shelter will be found within side. Though these apartments will not admit a very large party, they are, I think, twice the size of a bathing Machine,
Mrs. N.
O. Yes, and afford a much more extensive prospect.
Wm.
Those erections to the west are called dolphins, are they not Ann? What does your Card say about them?
Ann.
They are for the protection of the Pier, and consist of four perpendicular and nine diagonal piles, over which a boom-chain will pass to keep off Vessels that might otherwise be forced against it, when the wind blows from the west. And now I think we have observed everything belonging to the Pier itself, let us admire the view we have from it on each side.
Mrs. N.
But does your card say nothing of the Projector of the Work? Nor when it was begun?
Ann.
I beg your pardon; I certainly should not have omitted to mention this. My card of intelligence begins thus. "This elegant structure was projected and executed by Capt. S. BROWN, R. N.". What follows I have before communicated to you. It concludes as follows. The whole is handsomely painted, and is the finest specimen of architecture of the kind in the world. — Estimated expence £30,000. Commenced in October, 1822 – Completed in October 1823."
Mrs. N.
Thank you, I think it certainly deserves all that is said of it, and the universal admiration with which it is seen. Can you tell me of any other Bridges built on the same principle?
Ann.
That of Trinity Pier near Leith is said to be such, though a more slender and inferior structure, and the Batteries erected on Piles, like so many islands, near Cronstadt, in the Gulp of Finland which remained there since the time of Peter the Great, but indeed Mrs. N. I can at present think only of the spot we are upon! What a fine sea view here is!
Mrs. N.
To the West we see Shoreham and Worthing, and the fine bay formed by their coasts; with the beautiful sloping downs above them. On the Eastern side the eye is carried along the extension of Cliffs, till it rests on Beachy Head, the farthermost point of land we can see; It is about 16 miles distant. Look at the green and glossy Sea rolling its majestic waves under our feet, their colours varying every minute as the Sun emerges from a cloud, or is hid behind it. The houses on the shore with the passing carriages appear scarcely worth our notice: But here is a Vessel sailing along in all her glory; her sails are spread to the wind and nothing seems to impede her course.
Wm.
The Ships are seen here to greater advantage than when they are nearer the shore; they rock so much as they draw to land, and seem to labour to approach it, while the Surge and sand prevent their landing their passengers without great trouble and inconvenience.
Mrs. N.
This proves the utility of the Chain Pier, for, at the bottom of these steps which lead from the interior of the last clump of piles, the Vessels unload their cargoes; and passengers step out of the boats very easily,
Ann.
Oh! Mrs. N. it is quite tremendous to be down here, how the water dashes against the piles! And is it always as high as this?
Mrs. N.
It is 3 feet deep at low water, spring tides, and from 5 to 6 feet at low water, neap-tides; this is as I have been told by a Gentleman used to the Sea, at high water spring tides, it is nearly 20 feet deep.
Ann.
What are those long wooden cases, as they may be called, which go sloping down below the water from above our heads.
Mrs. N.
Those cover the end of the chains of which you have been reading on your card, in which they are locked down as securely as they are fastened at the other end.
Ann.
This is a cold and dismal place, but I could stay all day on the top, the air is so refreshing and the view so delightful, but I fear William is impatient to return.
Wm.
Not at all, I would only remind you that your Drawing Master will be waiting for you. Will you not ask him if you may not copy one of the Views of the Chain Pier, with which the different artists in the town have favored us. Methinks I should like to have it from your pencil better than any engraving.
Ann.
Thank you brother, I will endeavour to gratify your wishes. Mrs. N. also looks at her Watch. I see it is time to depart, but in future, I hope we shall come here very often; there is nothing new to excite alarm; and I think it must, next to Bathing, be most beneficial to our health.

— , Elizabeth Sandham, , A Visit to the Royal Chain Pier, Brighton, , 1824