Category:Brighton Piers

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Brighton has had three Piers – from East to West, these have been the Chain Pier, the Palace Pier, and the West Pier.

Of these three, only the Palace Pier is still standing.

Brighton's five piers?

If we are willing to stretch a point, we can add two more to the list:

  • Brighton's "Daddy Long-Legs" was billed as a seagoing electric railway, but its appearance and construction (and use for sight-seeing) arguably made it more of a mobile tracked pier section than a railway carriage. The project engineer later went on to work on the Palace Pier.
  • The i360 sightseeing tower, which is planned to be built on the base of what used to be the West Pier, has been described as being a vertical implementation of the pier concept.

1960 description

THE British are the people of the piers. No other country in the world indulges in pier-promenading. But the British, and particularly the English, are so fond of their seaside piers that many people spend almost the whole of their holidays strolling along them and being entertained there.

Brighton was the pioneer of the pier, building the first in this country as long ago as 1822. The example was soon followed on a wide scale, and today the coastline of 4,600 miles is adorned with 300 piers, all designed to provide pleasure for the holiday maker.

Even today, when the skill of the engineer has become a legend, the building of a pier presents immense difficulties. In fact, pier-building remains a complex undertaking of the first magnitude, being set around with countless problems.

The bed on which the pillars rest has to be excavated against the constant and regular interruptions of the tide and often work must go on below the waves. Exhaustive tests have to be carried out to ensure that the structure will stand up to high seas and fierce winds. Even when the pier is completed, most precise tests must be made to ensure that it can be safely result in a major catastrophe. It is not surprising that the firms which undertake the task of building piers still remain few in number.

In the space of a single season, 1,000,000 visitors stroll and sun themselves on the big piers, and a record was set up at Brighton's Palace Pier in 1947 when 3,000,000 people passed through the turnstiles.

Although the building of piers presents obvious difficulties, the old Brighton Chain Pier was built, so its makers claimed, to stand for 1,000 years. It was not their fault, either, that it lasted by no means as long as that, for its 1,136 feet had the support of massive oak piles. Even these, however, failed to withstand the savage gale which swept Brighton in December 1896 and the pier was destroyed.

It had proved so popular that it was replaced as. speedily as possible. The present Palace Pier was opened in 1899, having cost £137,000 to build. A similar structure today would cost anything up to £3,000,000.

Last year, nearly 250,000 people paid to walk on the Palace Pier, paying well over £5,000 a day for the privilege — most of the money being in pennies. Yet such an income is none too large, for piers are highly expensive things to run and maintain.

The Palace Pier needs 8,500 electric lamps each season, and these cost well over £1,500. Employees' wages take £25,000, and the bands cost up to £5,000. At the height of the season 1,000 people dance in the open air, and a further 2,000 pay to sit and listen to the open-air orchestra.

A mile away is Brighton's West Pier, and there are other piers further along the coast. All need considerable support to make them pay, for the private companies who own them do not spare money in their determination to make them attractive.

Most piers are fitted out like luxury liners, with first-class restaurants, ballrooms, theatres, sun-lounges and funfairs. A single coat of paint costs up to £5,000. In most cases half a pier's structure is scraped, chipped and repainted each year by the pier's own painters. If the whole surface to be covered receives a couple of coats of paint, about 1,000 gallons of colour are spread over it.

In addition to the painters, the pier-owners employ a small army of metal-workers, blacksmiths, plumbers, electricians and carpenters. With so many feet pounding it the deck is subject to swift wear, and the cost of replacing a single yard of it no less than £20. This private staff, which can range from 50 to 100 men, according to the size of the pier, is engaged throughout the whole year and their wages alone may absorb as much as £50,000.

The summer season, however, calls for from 200 to 300 extra workers. These are deck-hands who keep the pier clean, chair attendants who set out between 2,000 and 5,000 deck-chairs a day and collect the money charged for them, and, less noticeable, the firemen who are ready to deal with an outbreak the moment it occurs.

Finally, there are divers who go underwater daily make sure that the feet of the pier remain firmly planted. ...

— , Leslie E. Wells, , Meccano Magazine, , June 1960


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