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Brighton History

History & Heritage

The skeleton in the sea


Brighton's West Pier was a magnificent and unique English seaside promenade and pleasure pier built over 130 years ago by Eugenius Birch.

Closed since 1975, it suffered decay at the hands of battering waves but miraculously survived, fundamentally unchanged since 1916, until 2002/2003 when fire stripped the pier bare leaving just a skeleton of iron work. The grandeur and magic of seaside England lost forever.

The pier was built out from the sea using dozens of iron columns, literally screwed into the seabed and strengthened by a mesh of metal ties, braces and girders. Atop the substructure was a wooden promenade deck, which allowed visitors seemingly to be at sea and walk on water without the hazards of getting wet or being sea sick.

The Overall Structure and the West Pier’s component buildings are still of historical and architectural importance. They represent a culmination of the skills of the Victorian engineer as mechanic, architect and artist; skills honed in the great age of railway construction and bridge building and based on new materials and technologies arising from the industrial revolution earlier in the century.

The West Pier in the only pier in the world to be Grade 1 architecturally listed - it’s form, proportions and style are unrivalled.

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Produced by NTD