1896 - Seaside Pier

Many holiday resorts feature, as one of their main attractions, a pier with a broad 'head' built out above the sea and connected to the shore by a narrow 'neck'. Most piers have an entertainment pavilion that can be used for music, dancing, drama, summer shows, beauty contests and, more recently, as a disco, funfair or amusement arcade. Why are piers built on slender columns, rather than being made of solid masonry?

The seaside holiday was a Victorian invention, and had its origins in the nation's obsession with its health. Sea bathing was held to be beneficial and, in the early part of the century, the rich and fashionable began to 'take the waters' at small coastal resorts such as Brighton and Scarborough, which had hitherto been little more than fishing villages. Many came by steamer and simple jetties were built out into the sea where they could disembark. By mid-century, with the coming of railways, the number of visitors dramatically increased. Few, though, came just for the good of their health -the emphasis now was mainly on pleasure. The first pier built exclusively for 'promenaders' was at Southport, opened in 1860. These early piers were simply elevated walkways above the waves - one survives still at Clevedon - but as the years passed enterprising proprietors began to provide entertainment facilities such as refreshment rooms, pavilions, shops and bandstands. The architecture was ornate, the engineering a triumph, the harnessing of technology in the service of pleasure a glorious celebration of the skills that had made Britain the 'workshop of the world'. Aberystwyth's pride and joy, illustrated here, has a main deck supported by braced piling and columns of cast iron, set in holes in the solid rock beneath and concreted into position (sometimes piles were literally screwed into the ground). This method of construction gave resistance to wind and wave motion but did not affect the natural movement of sand and pebbles; it was also cheaper than masonry. The pier as built in 1864-5 was 800ft long and was designed by Eugenius Birch. The Royal Pier Pavilion stood at the landward end and was added in 1895-6 at a cost of £8,000; the architect was G Croydon Marks. Such was its perceived importance to the economy and status of the town that it was opened by the Princess of Wales, the future Queen Alexandra. Though the pier still stands, the pavillion has been heavily altered externally.


1881 - Travelling Fair

1910 - Football Ground