Eastbourne Pier set to celebrate 150th birthday

Eastbourne's most iconic seafront landmark celebrates its 150th anniversary next month with a special exhibition detailing its long history.

Yesteryear: A steamer docks at the end of Eastbourne Pier
Yesteryear: A steamer docks at the end of Eastbourne Pier

The exhibition, to be held at the Eastbourne Heritage Centre in Carlise Road, includes photos and documents from Eastbourne Pier’s past including a rare set of original architect’s drawings.

Work began on Eastbourne Pier on April 18 1866 with an investment of £15,000.

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It was opened by Lord Edward Cavendish on June 13 1870, although building work was not completed for another two years.
Not long after opening to the public – on New Year’s Day 1877 – half of the pier was swept into the sea by a storm.

It was rebuilt at a higher level, creating a drop towards the end of the pier.

In 1888, a domed 400-seater pavilion was constructed at a cost of £250.

This was replaced by the pier’s Ocean Suites building in 1899, then a 1,000-seat theatre, bar and camera obscura. At the same time, two cafes were built midway along the pier.

The camera obscura fell into disuse in the 1960s but was restored in 2003 with a new stairway built to provide access.

During the Second World War, part of the decking was removed and machine guns were installed in the theatre designed to repel any landing attempts.

In December 1942, an exploding mine caused considerable damage to the pier and nearby hotels; it had been tied to the stanchions by the local police, who were under the mistaken impression that it was fitted with a safety device.

Tragedy struck again in July 2014 when a fire ripped through two-thirds of the iconic seaside attraction.

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service deployed up to 80 officers to tackle the blaze, which is thought to have started in the wood panelling in the walls of the games arcade.

A prolonged investigation into the fire by Sussex Police and the fire service found the cause to be inconclusive.

Richard Crook, authority on the architectural development of Eastbourne Pier, will cover more of its long history with a special talk at the Eastbourne Heritage Centre at 7pm on April 27. Tickets are available at the heritage centre now.

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