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Featured in “The World as We See It, or as we missed it” 2-19-2011
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The West Pier is a pier in Brighton, England. It was built in 1866 by Eugenius Birch and has been closed and deteriorating since 1975, awaiting renovation. It was Brighton’s second pier, joining The Royal Suspension Chain Pier of 1823, and it is one of only two Grade I listed piers in the UK, the other being Clevedon Pier.
The West Pier was opened in 1866 with a length of 1115 feet, and built with cast iron threaded columns screwed into the seabed. The pier did not have much of a superstructure until 1893 when a pier head was extended and a pavilion added. A concert hall was added in 1916 and a new top-deck entrance in 1932. In 1965 the pier was bought by a company that owned some seafront hotels and entertainment venues. They had ambitions for the pier but as maintenance costs increased the pier was closed in 1975 when Brighton Corporation declined to buy it and the pier passed into the hands of the Crown Estates Commissioners. A trust was formed to save the pier and in 1984 they bought it for a nominal sum.
The West Pier had been cut off from the shore (partly deliberately, for safety reasons) since 1975, but the West Pier trust offered regular tours of it until the structure suffered a serious partial collapse during a storm on December 29, 2002, when a walkway connecting the concert hall and pavilion fell into the sea. On January 20, 2003 a further collapse saw the destruction of the concert hall in the middle of the pier. On 28 March, 2003 the pavilion at the end of the pier caught fire. Firefighters were unable to save the building from destruction because the collapsed walkway prevented them from reaching it. The cause of the fire remains unknown. On May 11, 2003, another fire broke out, consuming most of what was left of the concert hall. The Fire re-ignited on May 12. Arson was suspected: the West Pier Trust refers to the fires as the work of “professional arsonists”. On June 23, 2004 high winds caused the middle of the pier to collapse completely.