Explore the grand piers of Brighton at Southwick Society’s next Heritage Talk

Lecturer Sarah Tobias, a well-known local historian, will be giving the Southwick Society’s next Heritage Talk, The Grand Piers of Brighton.

Sarah will be describing the fascinating stories of the three grand piers which have been synonymous with Brighton and its holiday industry over nearly 200 years.

West Pier was immensely popular for more than a century

West Pier was immensely popular for more than a century

The talk will be at Southwick Community Centre, Southwick Street, Southwick, on Monday, November 11, at 7.30pm. Admission is £3 for members, £5 non-members.

Nigel Divers, secretary, said: “Brighton’s first pier, The Chain Pier, was opened nearly 200 years ago on a site east of the site of today’s Brighton Palace Pier.

“It was built like a suspension bridge with a series of towers from which the deck was suspended by great chains. In those days, regular packet ships sailed from Brighton to France – Brighton was part of the shortest route from London to Paris, but in the absence of a harbour, passengers had to be rowed out through the surf to and from the ships.

“The Chain Pier enabled passengers to board and disembark safely and with dry feet. Although it was built to berth ships, The Chain Pier soon became popular with holidaymakers who enjoyed the novelty of strolling above the waves.

Brighton Palace Pier stands west of the site of The Chain Pier, which opened nearly 200 years ago

Brighton Palace Pier stands west of the site of The Chain Pier, which opened nearly 200 years ago

“In the 1860s, Eugenius Birch, the greatest designer of piers, built the iconic West Pier, which became a major entertainment centre. Complete with a theatre, side shows, entertainments, deck chairs and a landing stage for paddle steamers giving trips along the coast, it was immensely popular with locals and holidaymakers for more than a century.

“Fifty years ago it became famous when Richard Attenborough filmed the highly successful film about the Great War, Oh! What a Lovely War there. Sadly, it later fell into rapid decline, suffering fires, accidents, storm damage and vandalism. Ironically, although it is today merely a wreck, the image of its sad, steel skeleton is seen across the world.

“The Chain Pier was destroyed in a storm at the end of the 19th century but a new pier, the Palace Pier was built nearby and continues to thrive today.”

Note, there will be no Heritage Talk in December but the programme will resume on Monday, January 13, 2020, when Stephen Hand will be giving a talk on Eyes Along the Coast, about martime charity, the National Coastwatch Institution, which has a base on Shoreham Beach.