Brighton Pier

In its original form in 1823 Brighton Pier was an Old Chain Pier which was primarily used as a landing stage for  passenger ships that sailed from Dieppe in France. Realising its commercial value the owners began charging an entry fee of 2d and introduced kiosks selling souvenirs and confectionary as well as entertainment stalls with fortune tellers and silhouettists. The chain pier was struck by many storms in a ten year period between 1824 and 1834 causing irreparable damage and eventually the pier was bought out in 1889 by the Marine Palace & Pier Company. In December that year the pier was destroyed in a mighty storm and so needed to be built again in its entirety.

The next decade saw intense building work with many setbacks including the Old Chain Pier being washed away in a raging storm causing serious damage to the Palace Pier construction work. Brighton Palace Pier was finally opened in a grand ceremony on the 20th May 1899 costing an unprecedented £27,000 to build.

On the opening night a series of eight iron and steel arches were illuminated by 3,000 light bulbs this was an illumination spectacular, these original steel arches can still be found by the entrance to Palm Court Fish and Chips restaurant. Today there are 30,000 lights illuminating Brighton Pier which need replacing every single day.

In 1905 a collection of amusement machines were installed on the Palace Pier including The lady Palmist and punch ball machines. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when traditional machines started to be replaced with the explosion of new style arcade machines including space invaders and virtual reality machines. Brighton Pier have built a reputation for being the first in the country to introduce new concept gaming and rides, including the widely anticipated Guitar Hero.

A concert hall opened two years later, and by 1911 this had become a theatre. The Palace Pier continued to develop introducing more entertainment facilities including a Bandstand. The bandstand was the stage for free concerts through the summer months, it can still be found on Brighton Pier today in Palm Court Fish and Chip Restaurant.  Summer shows with stars such as Dick Emery, Tommy Trinder and Doris and Elsie Waters were held in the theatre until the 1970s. The Winter Gardens which is now The Palace of Fun saw regular appearances of bands including the Band of the Grenadier Guards.

The Palace Pier was run by piermasters until the 1970‘s. Captain Weeks being the longest serving piermaster from 1928 until 1955, he wore a gold braided uniform with three rings on his sleeve and a row of war ribbons on his chest. He has a team of men under his command known as his crew, the crew maintained the pier on a daily basis. Today Brighton Pier employes over 500 people from around the world and plays a major part in Brightons economy.

Steam engines replaced wind powered engines in the early nineteenth century. They soon became the driving force for passenger ferries to and from continental Europe. The Palace Pier offered regular services between British resorts and to passengers bound for France. Pleasure boats also offered short trips from the pier.

In 1928 the first dodgems were introduced to Britain by the Messrs Lusse Brothers and within four years Brighton Pier had their very own Dodgems and Big Wheel.

For National security reasons The Palace Pier was closed in May 1940 as it was seen by the War Office to be potentially useful to sea-borne invasion forces. In order to ensure the Pier was not used for invasion the War Office instructed that an entire section of the Palace Pier be completely removed and it to be put under guard at all times.

The pier was listed at Grade II on 20 August 1971

In 1984, the pier was destined to be renovated under new ownership. Major changes were introduced such as free admission, free deck chairs, new food outlets on the forecourt and a traditional fish & chips restaurant.


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