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The West Pier Trust Remembers Lord Asa Briggs of Lewes
The Trust lost one of its longest serving supporters when Lord Asa Briggs died peacefully at home in Lewes on 15th March. 

Asa Briggs 

Geoff Lockwood - colleague, friend and fellow Trust pioneer - pays tribute to a man of towering intellect and talents.

Asa was the leading, and most prolific, social historian of his age, with a special interest in the Victorian period. He was also one of the most influential and innovative educationalists of his time. His impact ranged from adult education (as a driving force in the creation of the Open University) to the highest levels of our universities, as the second Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex and, later, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford.

As a member of the National University Grants Committee he was instrumental in the birth in 1961 of Sussex as the first brand new university in England and especially its location in Brighton. Asa was fascinated by Brighton with its Victorian and Regency history and inheritance.

He was a great lover of the West Pier, which he came in direct contact with when he arranged with director Richard Attenborough to supply University of Sussex students as the bulk WW1 soldier extras for the movie Oh! What a Lovely War, which was filmed on the Pier.

When I was the Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive of the West Pier Trust in the decade from 1995, Asa was a major source of advice and support.

It is best to end with his own words from the foreword to Fred Gray's 1998 book on the West Pier, Walking On Water. Although the optimism expressed was dashed by the later professional arson attacks, the piece reflects Asa's love of piers and especially the West Pier.

Loving all piers, I have a particular love of the West Pier however, a love which goes back long before I was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex and became associated with the struggle to retain it. There has always been a struggle. Piers are places of delight, but the effort to conserve them is relentless. Far too many have gone. Those that remain are among the richest elements in our heritage.

In itself their architecture is fascinating. So, too, is the aesthetics, bound up with style as well as with function - and, above all, with fun. Yet is has never been possible at any stage in their history, to separate aesthetics from economics. Piers have at least to pay for themselves. Seldom have they made great profits. They belong in a real sense to the people who use them. They are part of our social as well as our architectural heritage. For the social historian, interested both in work and leisure … piers are unique witnesses to changing ways of life. And because those piers that remain are in danger, in pleading for any particular one we always have to think of its future and the opportunities that it offers, not just of the past.

I am proud to have been associated with the struggle for the West Pier in more than one phase and because I admire the determination and enterprise of the people who have led that struggle and have sought a realistic but imaginative outcome.

Geoff Lockwood, March 2016

The Telegraph ran an excellent obituary on the incredible life of Lord Briggs which you can read here

 

 





 

 

We just nudged into April but here's the news from March  

Westdene Primary School visit

Trust Chief Executive Rachel Clark was invited to speak to the children of Years 5 and 6 at Westdene Primary School on March 9 before they prepared ideas for what a new West Pier might look like as part of the school's 'Enterprise Day.'

Pupils also had plenty of questions for Rachel and board member Nick Szczepanik about the future of the Trust, the Pier and the BA i360.

The children are potential future patrons of the West Pier and their knowledge and enthusiasm was greatly encouraging. 

The Trust is looking at ways to involve more Brighton area schools and colleges in the development of ideas for the Pier, and we welcome similar invitations.

"It was wonderful to meet such enthusiastic and well-informed children," Rachel said. "I hope there will be more school visit opportunities as the future of the pier becomes a hot topic when the BAi360 has opened to the public."

http://www.westdeneprimary.co.uk/brighton-hove/primary/westdene/site/pages/newsblog

Replicating the West Pier tollbooths


Retaining the heritage and salvaging elements of the West Pier had always been at the heart of discussions with Marks Barfield Architects to include in the site development of BA i360 from the outset. Of the two original tollbooths that stood at the gateway to the West Pier, the western booth had sadly perished beyond repair but it had been hoped that much of the salvaged artefacts of the eastern booth could be restored and provide foundation for their replication.  The tollbooths were to stand on the exact footprints they occupied when the West Pier was opened to the public in 1866 and with much of the beautifully crafted original ironwork whispering it's history into the reconstructions.  

Swan Foundry, instrumental in some of the most ambitious ironwork restoration projects, were engaged to clean and shot-blast panels from the eastern tollbooth but it was revealed that sadly, damage was too extensive.  Instead, the panels and ornate fixtures have provided templates from which to produce moulds for new castings.  The skills and craftmanship involved is quite remarkable, utilising the most basic of equipment to produce the most intricate of panels, columns and decorations.

Marks Barfield and the team at BA i360 have spearheaded the project and recently posted a comprehensive blog explaining the history and detail involved in the restoration.  We thoroughly recommend a read which you can access here.

   



  
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