Brighton Pier (formerly Palace Pier)
A structure built out over the sea at the shoreline is by its very location
vulnerable to storm damage. And all three of Brighton's piers have suffered
storm damage at some point or points in their careers.
Brighton Pier was damaged as a result of a storm even as it was being
built, though not directly. In a storm in December 1896 the dilapidating
Chain Pier was destroyed and debris from its collapse struck and damaged
the new pier.
Fortunately the new project survived the damage and
in 1899 the third of Brighton's piers was opened to the public by the
Brighton Marine Palace and Pier Company. At its pier head it had a landing
stage and a pavilion (the palace bit of the company name), and it has
had a number of alterations throughout its history. The landing stage
was used for coastal day trips until about 1960, but in 1973 when the
now derelict landing stage was being removed, a barge, moored to the
pier during the work, broke loose during a storm and did a lot of damage.
Brighton Pier might well have gone the way of the West Pier, sliding
downhill to insolvency. But along came the Noble Organisation, a gambling
and betting business, who bought the pier in 1984.
Walk the Pier
The traditional financial model for a pier expected that customers would
pay an entrance fee. To go on the Palace Pier you first paid and then went
through a turn style. Nobles big innovation was to make entrance to the
pier free of charge.The pier has proven very successful because it has
become a fair ground and slot-machine land over the sea. So gaming machines,
video and computer games, together with fish and chip restaurant and bars
ready to hand, and a variety of stalls that fit the market mix: all this
is what keeps the pier bubbling, plus the opportunity to freely walk the
1600 or so feet of the pier and take in the sea air and sea views.
Nobles was also lucky in its timing. It took over the pier at a time when
a new local council leadership set about with determination to revive Brighton's
failing economy, part of which included the revitalisation of the neglected
If you come to Brighton, you must walk the pier. You must have a look
at Brighton's seafront from the far end of the pier. You get a different
perspective. I was once at a meeting in Brighton addressed by the Hungarian
ambassador, who said that the pier was a big success with his family, especially
his children. Coming from a landlocked country they found the pier endlessly
But you don't have to be a Hungarian child to enjoy the
fascination of the pier. Come and have a look yourself.
Open 364 Days of the Year
Noble Organisation has not had a very happy relationship with either conservationists
or the local council. Conservationists succeeded in having the pier listed
as a Grade II* listed building. This in theory places severe restrictions
on what sort of renovation work can be done. But Nobles seem to have just
carried on with their own game plan, while its critics have looked on ,
complaining but seemingly powerless to get any leverage over their activities.
Its critics tend to grudgingly admit that the pier is once again thriving,
but they also feel it has been 'dumbed down' as a cultural asset to the
people of Brighton.
SEE ALSO: Brighton Pier on brightonrun.co.uk