Brighton Palace Pier, opened on 20 May 1899, was built as a pleasure pier to entertain and delight the high number of visitors brought by Britain’s growing railway network. Designed by Richard Saint George Moore on behalf of the Brighton Marine and Palace Pier Company, it was the third pier to be built in Brighton; alongside the Old Chain Pier and the West Pier. The latter of these was also a pleasure pier, making Brighton the ultimate sea-side resort. In 1891 construction of the Palace Pier began, but was slow due to financial problems. During a storm in 1896 the Old Chain Pier was destroyed, its debris causing much damage to the new pier and delaying construction further.
Advertisement for Palace Pier amusements, Brighton Gazette, 3 September 1903.
Features of the pier
The Palace Pier cost an astonishing £137,000 to build and was 1500 feet long (457.2 metres). In its early years it featured illuminated archways, as well as rooms for reading, dining, and smoking. There was a landing place for steam boats and a section for bathers, free between 7am and midday (Brighton Gazette – 3 September 1903). A 1500 seat theatre opened at the seaward end of the pier in April 1901, and after it was refurbished in 1911 it hosted an array of music hall stars. A pleasure garden was added in the centre of the pier in 1910.
Illustration of the Brighton Palace Pier shortly before it opened. The Sketch – 11 January 1899.
Brighton Palace Pier in 1901. Copyright. James Gray Collection / The Regency Society.
The twentieth century and beyond
The pier continued to develop its entertainment functions; the 1930s saw the introduction of dodgems and a big wheel. During World War Two the pier was closed and guarded by soldiers to prevent its use as a landing point by enemy troops. After the War the Palace Pier continued to attract visitors, becoming ever more prominent as its popular neighbour, the West Pier, began to fall into disrepair following a change in ownership in the 1960s. New arcade games like Space Invaders were introduced in the 1980s, propelling the pier into the modern age. Today the pier is 1733 feet long (525 metres) and still privately owned; it features video arcades, slot machines, sea-side stalls and a fairground and is an iconic part of the sea-front.
The pier is open every day, except for Christmas day. Opening times are between 10:00 and 22:00 in the summer months (1 April and 31 October), and 10:00 and 17:00 in the winter months (1 November to 31 March). For detailed opening times for rides and amusements visit brightonpier.co.uk.
Find out more:
National Piers Society, https://piers.org.uk/
West Pier Trust, https://www.westpier.co.uk/ The West Pier Centre is located in one of the seafront arches across from the old pier.