Photo gallery: The region’s effort to keep our piers safe from devastating events
PUBLISHED: 10:31 02 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:31 02 August 2014
At the height of what is the busiest time of the year for a seaside resort, Eastbourne’s devastating pier fire has left the structure closed while the full extent of the damage is assessed.
The fire, on Wednesday, began on the part of the pier housing amusement arcade attractions.
While no one was trapped or injured, there will still be a cost to the town which, in a fortnight, hosts its biggest summer tourist event – the annual Airbourne air show drawing tens of thousands of visitors.
Piers around the country recently held celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the opening of the first seaside pier at Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
But within those 200 years there have been many times when, as at Eastbourne, pier structures have been left damaged and even destroyed by disasters.
Owners of piers around the region have been looking at what happened at Eastbourne and say while the scenes have been “heartbreaking” they are doing all they can to try to prevent such a disaster striking here.
Cromer Pier is home to the last remaining end-of-the-pier show in Europe. Rebecca Wass, general manager, speaking about the Eastbourne fire, said: “It is heartbreaking to see. It just takes you straight back to last Christmas when the storm was here.
“Most piers are wooden structures. Last week we did a full fire evacuation training. We also have an alarm system which goes off as soon as it registers any risk of fire. We try not to think about it. Everything in the theatre itself is fire proofed and like any building we make sure there are precautions in place.”
She said they have a practice drill to evacuate the pier and regular checks on lights and sound equipment.
Claremont Pier, Lowestoft
The original Claremont Pier was built in 1903 and used to berth paddle steamers that called there three times a week.
During the Second World War, the Royal Engineers blasted a hole in the pier to stop the Luftwaffe using it as a possible landing place.
By 1948, the pier was abandoned because of damage caused by lack of maintenance and remained so until the following year, when it was taken over by George Studd, an actor.
Mr Studd set to work on repairing what was left of the pier and once again making it attractive to holidaymakers.
By 1950 a reinforced concrete platform had been built and a pavilion was erected.
The Claremont Pier now includes a restaurant, an amusement arcade, a wooden-floored roller skating rink and a contemporary multi-purpose venue.
The Wellington Pier was opened on October 31, 1853. It underwent a major face lift in the early 2000s and is now home to several attractions. The Britannia Pier opened in July 1858. When it launched it was 700ft long but was badly damaged by a schooner just a year after opening, which resulted in it being reduced in length by 50ft. In 1902, the pavilion suffered the first of its fires. A second pavilion opened a year later in 1910 but was burnt to the ground in 1914. The Floral Hall ballroom, which opened in 1928, only survived four years before it was rebuilt and opened again in 1933. Both the ballroom and pavilion were destroyed by another fire in 1954. Only the pavilion was rebuilt, opening in 1958, and is home to the pier’s present theatre.
The structure opened in 1900 and had a 810ft long wooden pier with a T-shaped landing stage at the head, which was swept away in a violent storm in 1934 and never replaced.
A drifting sea mine struck the pier in 1941, destroying a further section and in 1955 a storm washed away the seaward half. The length of the pier was further reduced to 60ft after a gale in 1979. In 1987 the pier was privately bought and rebuilding work started in 1999. The work was completed in 2001 with the pier reaching its current length of 623 feet.
In 2005, the pier was bought by Stephen and Antonia Bournes, who made a number of radical and quirky improvements.
Gough Hotels took over the pier ownership last year and plan to add a hotel.
Cromer’s current pier was born from the aftermath of a collision in 1897 when its forerunner jetty was destroyed by a coal ship, The Hero. The jetty was sold as scrap and a new 500ft pier opened in 1901 at a cost of £17,000.
In November 1993 Cromer Pier was cut in two by a runaway rig that surfed to shore driven by a Force 12 gale. The Tayjack rig had been working on the end of new sewer pipe at nearby East Runton when it collapsed into the sea.
The pier had already been the subject of extensive, £1.4m renovation when the storm surge hit last December. The surge damaged the theatre, box office, restaurant and souvenir shop. A programme to refurbish the structures is due to begin in early September 2014.
Hunstanton Pier, designed by J.W. Wilson, opened on Easter Sunday 1870, with a pavilion added in the 1890s. The pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1939
and a further fire hit the pier in the 1950s.
In 1978, severe weather swept away most of the pier and a small section at the end was removed by the council some weeks later.
What remained of the pier was destroyed by a fire in 2002.
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