Formed in April 1865, the Eastbourne Pier Company began work on the structure on the 18th April 1866 having raised £15,000 to pay for the project. That sum would be worth around £1,200,000 in today’s money. Lord Edward Cavendish opened the first phase of the pier on the 13th of June 1870 and the final phases of construction were completed over the following two years.
Eastbourne Pier is around 320 yards (290 metres) in length and is 40 yards (38 metres) across at its widest point. The platform is raised to around 11 yards (10 metres) above the level of the beach.
By building the pier at the junction of Grand and Marine Parades it effectively divided the seafront and once marked the point between the expensive hotels of the British elite and the less expensive boarding houses of the east promenade. This was almost certainly a deliberate decision but it is easy to imagine the wealthier patrons of Eastbourne being somewhat reluctant to have hordes of budget holiday makers traipsing past their hotels on the way to the pier. In fact, the pier was originally proposed to extend from Devonshire Place – the most prestigious street in the town – before it was changed to where it is today. Originally, the pier was intended a little more than a promenade.
A STORM AND A HALF
On New Year’s Day in 1877 a storm swept in from the sea and battered the newly completed pier. By the time the winds dropped around half of the structure had been washed away. Funds were raised and the pier was rebuilt using a technique that has the stilts resting in cups on the seabed thus allowing the whole pier to move and sway with waves during rough weather.
Over the years the pier has been redesigned and reimagined with attractions coming and going as fashions in entertainment have changed. For example: The original camera obscura was once a huge attraction and a marvel of Victorian technology and ingenuity. However, as other technology advanced it became less appealing and eventually fell into disrepair. It was restored in 2003 and once again attracted large crowds but this time for its historic importance and window into the past.
A BASTION OF DEFENCE
During World War II Eastbourne Pier was commandeered by the military and fitted with machine guns and antiaircraft cannons. They would be needed as Eastbourne was repeatedly attacked by the Luftwaffe in preparation for the Nazi Invasion of Britain. The invasion never materialised and the pier was later used to hide vessels that would be used for a massive counter invasion – the famous D-day landings.
A PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES
Over the decades parts of the Pier have been washed away, a section of the structure blown up by a sea mine, and several fires have destroyed significant parts of the superstructure. The most recent of these was in 2014 and completely gutted the central dome. However, like phoenix from the ashes work started almost at once to restore the building and ensure that it could once again be opened to the public.
MAKING IT IN THE MOVIES
Eastbourne Pier has featured in several film and television productions including the Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode “Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan”, Last Orders (2001), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008) and more recently Brighton Rock (2010).
For a building that was designed ‘for fun’ it is reputed to be haunted by a wide array of ghosts, spectres and other mysterious beings. Some of the apparitions include: A smoky dark phantom that haunted the Channel Bar during 1983, a soldier believed to have drowned during WWII, A spectral Woman and boy as well a mysterious grey boat drifts under the pier and disappears. Most people put these stories down to people having too much ‘liquid fun’ in the saloons … but you never know.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Coast Road, Normans Bay, Pevensey
East Sussex, England, BN24 6PR
+44 (0)1323 761 190
- Address: 3 Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3EH, UK
- GPS: 50.767347846835094,0.2924121280639156
- Phone: 0044 (0)1323 410 466
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: BN21 3EL
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Good
- Visibility from Road: Excellent