Southport Pier

Happy birthday to Southport Pier which enjoys its 160th birthday this weekend! 

At over a kilometre (1,108 , 3,635 ft) long, Southport Pier is the second longest in Great Britain – and undoubtedly the best. A walk to the end offers stunning views. 

In the 1990s the pier was in such a derelict state that Sefton Council voted on whether to save or demolish it – with the decision to save it being passed by just one vote.

The Southport Visiter, under Editor John Dempsey, subsequently launched the Southport Pier Campaign which worked alongside the Pier Trust. This led to a successful bid to see it restored thanks to donations from members of the public and Heritage Lottery funding.

The Pier recently enjoyed a huge makeover in time for its birthday thanks to £3.5million renovation work, which was recently completed. 

A walk to the end of Southport Pier will give you views across the North West and on a clear day you can see nearby Lytham and St Annes, with Blackpool Tower and The Big One ride at Blackpool, and even the North Wales coast.

If a walk all the way is too much, you can hop onto the pier tram which will take you straight to the end where you can grab a cup of tea in the newly renovated Pier Pavilion, soak up the views and enjoy the stunning coastline.

And if there isn’t enough history in the pier itself, in the Pier Pavilion you can view a small exhibition on Southport’s history as well as playing traditional penny slot machines including pre decimal one armed bandits.

 

Southport Pier. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

Southport Pier. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

And if you are looking for more tradition, Silcock’s Funland at the pier entrance has plenty of amusements including the famous ‘Golden Gallopers’ carousel on the Pier forecourt, entertainment indoors and you can also grab a traditional fish and chips – after all we are besides the seaside!

Proposals for a pier in Southport were first suggested in 1844, in conjunction with a potential railway from Manchester, with a committee formed in 1852 to help promote its construction. Following debates throughout the following few years about what its intended usage should be, the Southport Pier company was formed in March 1859 with a £12,000 capital. The cost to build the pier was estimated at £8,000 (equivalent to £807,244 in 2019), eventually rising to £8,700 (equivalent to £877,878 in 2019) with construction work commencing in August 1859. The pier’s primary purpose was to be a promenade as opposed to a ship docking pier, and thus is considered to be the country’s first pleasure pier.

A year later, on 2 August 1860, the pier was officially opened with a grand procession; at a length of 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) it was the second-longest and first iron-constructed pleasure pier in the country.

Waiting rooms for boat passengers were added during the pier’s first few years of operation, and a cable-operated tramway had been installed by 1865. The pier was used by various steamer ships, including those of the Blackpool, Lytham and Southport Steam Packet Company, with services operating from the pier to resorts including Fleetwood and Llandudno.

 

Southport Pier celebrates The Year Of The Pier in 1996

Southport Pier celebrates The Year Of The Pier in 1996

Storm damage was a frequent occurrence – several storms caused damage to the pier’s foundations and buildings throughout the late 1880s and early 1890s. A fire in September 1897 destroyed the original pavilion; its replacement was opened in January 1902 and considered grander, with the inclusion of an auditorium.

The pier was closed to the public during the Second World War to house and operate searchlights to detect German aircraft flying overhead, yet was not physically separated from the land like other piers were during this time. The pier did not reopen again until 1950 and in June 1959, suffered a significant fire which destroyed 460 square metres (5,000 sq ft) of decking, reducing its length to the present day 3,633 feet (1,107 m) and for a period of time making it the third longest pier after Herne Bay Pier, until that was destroyed by a storm in 1978.

Sefton Council acquired ownership of the pier in 1974 following and it was designated as a Grade II Listed structure on 18 August 1975 despite being in a state of deterioration. Deterioration continued during the latter 20th century and worsened by a storm in 1989, causing extensive damage. Despite its listed status, Sefton Council sought to demolish the pier in December 1990 due to the rising cost of repairs and maintenance, yet was defeated by a single vote.

 

 

Chris Latham watches on Southport Beach as the Southport Pier train rattles past. Photo by Southport Visiter photographer George Latham Photo courtesy of Chris Latham

Chris Latham watches on Southport Beach as the Southport Pier train rattles past. Photo by Southport Visiter photographer George Latham Photo courtesy of Chris Latham

Operating at an annual loss of £100,000 and with estimates close to £1 million to secure the future of the pier, plus a further £250,000 required every five years for repainting, a charitable trust was formed in 1993 to upkeep the pier; various funding was secured in the subsequent years to maintain the pier’s operation.

In October 1998, the pier received a heritage grant of £1.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, awarded to support restoration and access.

After falling into disrepair and subsequently closing, work to restore the pier began in 2000 and was completed in 2002, opening to the public in May 2002 with the restoration costing £7.2 million, complete with a new tram.

Restoration of the pier formed part of a wider redevelopment strategy, including a new sea wall to help prevent flooding, landscaping around the pier and a new £28 million Ocean Plaza shopping complex. 

Along the walkway are name plaques that local people funded to help towards raising the restoration funds.

The modern pavilion structure at the pier head was designed by Liverpool architects Shed KM and cost £1.2 million. 

The £3.5million renovation of Southport Pier was recently completed, and looks superb. 

The Guelder Rose pub enjoys a position looking out across Southport Pier.

Manager Clare Rankin said: “The pier is always full of walkers come rain or shine. Our town is well known for having a pier, and it’s used by all ages. May it stay standing for years to come!”

What do you love most about Southport Pier? We would love to see your stories and pictures! Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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