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West Pier Picture Post 13

‘Brighton from West Pier' March 1887


This photograph captures a stage in the transition of the West Pier from promenade pier to pleasure pier. The huge new entertainment pavilion (unseen in this image) had opened on the widened and strengthened pier head in October 1893. The heavy cast-iron building was supported on an array of new cast-iron piles screwed into the seabed: today the ruined pier head – particularly at low tide - still bears witness to this work as well as the original 1860s piling using wrought-iron screw piles fixed to cast-iron columns allowing the pier to soar above the sea.
 
The West Pier company moved two of the original weather screens from the pier head to the narrower neck of the pier. Two new weather screens (at the root end of the pier) designed by Peregrine Birch (the designer of the new pavilion) were also added, making four in all. This Birch was unrelated to the more famous Eugenius.
 
By then the central section of the pier had been widened to accommodate, to the east, an ornate bandstand, and, to the west, a smaller kiosk. The new bandstand (some photographs show it in the centre of the pier’s widened middle section) was an elaborate replacement for the original open and low platform on the pier head used by the pier’s musicians.
 
Bandstands were an incomplete solution to music making and listening on a pier. Few patrons would enjoy a musical entertainment sitting in rain. On some piers, awnings were used to keep people dry. The 1911 bandstand on Brighton’s Palace Pier was surrounded by an enclosure with a permanent roof and glass and wooden sliding wall screens. Not to be outdone, the West Pier responded with a purpose-designed concert hall commissioned before the First World War began and completed in 1916.
 
Intriguingly, the skeleton of the 1911 bandstand still survives on the Palace Pier as part of what is now the Palm Court fish and chip restaurant
 
The sunny March weather drew scores of visitors to the pier. Many of the women visitors used parasols (or are they umbrellas?) to shield from the sun. The angle of the shadows suggests the sun was high in the sky for the time of the year.
 
The tide is low and there are ghostly figures of people walking on the sands or paddling in the shallow sea to the east of the pier. To the west, wooden benches are spaced regularly on the beach close to the water’s edge: it was still a year of two before deckchairs made their first appearance at the English seaside. A row of bathing machines is drawn up on the lower promenade.
 
A moment preserved of an early spring day on the late-Victorian West Pier and adjacent seafront.
 
Copyright ©2021 West Pier Trust, All rights reserved. hello@westpier.co.uk
Brighton West Pier Trust · West Pier · 103 - 105 Kings Road Arches · Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2FN · United Kingdom 
Press Contact: hello@westpier.co.uk  t: 07768900072
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Brighton West Pier Trust · West Pier · King's Road · Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2FL · United Kingdom

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