Great Yarmouth is something of an institution on the east coast of England and its pier is a well-known and much loved sight, throughout the area. Great Yarmouth is still a popular destination for people, either as day trippers or a longer break and it is a very typical seaside resort, but its pier is just that little bit special.
Originally, the pier was a relatively short (by pier standards) 210 metres, or about 700 feet when it first opened in 1858. Yet is was soon to be shortened even more when it was hit by a schooner in 1859 and it was left at 650 feet (195 metres).
As Great Yarmouth became ever more popular with tourists, it soon became apparent that the basic wooden structure needed to be replaced with one that would be more robust and durable. So, work began in 1900, to create a structure that was wooden with steel to structurally support it. In addition, a new and purpose built 2000 seater pavilion was added, to give the Britannia pier just that little bit more, since 2,000 is a fair capacity.
The pier opened in a blaze of publicity in 1902, but sadly, she was to experience another type of blaze in 1902, when the first of many fires was to strike. A new pavilion was opened in 1910 but was only to last until 1914. After this was rebuilt, the Floral Hall ballroom was opened in 1928, but this too was burnt to the ground after only four years. However, the rebuilding of the ballroom was relatively quick, with it re-opening in 1933.
Despite their lack of good fortune, the ballroom or pavilion were both to survive the Second World War. However, both were destroyed by fire in 1954. At this point the ballroom was not re-built, but the pavilion opened in 1958. This has survived and is now home to the many facilities and the theatre that the Britannia pier is so proud of.
Since this time, the Britannia has perhaps never returned to the giddy days of the early part of the 20th Century, but she still is very popular, particularly for people to visit for the day. Great Yarmouth has quite a reputation for being a little bit brash and loud, but with a real emphasis on fun and family and nowhere is this more evident than on Britannia Pier.
The Pier is perhaps most famous for its theatre and this is a much loved institution in the UK, with all the big names in comedy and the music scene having played here and many former big names, often still treading the boards. The shows are quite family orientated and also very much the typical seaside resort type shows. Shakespeare may not be on offer, but plenty of laughs and good old fun are very much available. Some shows are put on especially for children, which can make it a great place to go when the children want something specifically for them and the weather may not be at its best. Some evening shows may be adult only, or have some kind of age restrictions, but during the summer months they are mostly family orientated.
But the Britannia is more than just the theatre, because there is so much else to do for all the family, whatever your tastes. You can even participate in a Van Gogh workshop and unleash all your artistic capabilities. Or for those who like their fun a little more active, there are two amusement arcades, where you can play the slot machines, or try out the latest in interactive games, which certainly stimulate the senses.
Bingo and Camel Derbys, two very traditional seaside games are also played here or you can try shark shooting, if you dare. The bowling alley is also a great way to get some exercise. There is an excellent blend of the traditional type seaside games to attract Mum, Dad and grandparents, but the younger members of the family will also enjoy the latest games that keep the pier constantly up to date, with modern tastes.
There are plenty of places to eat, with food ranging from good old fashioned shellfish stalls to the SeaChef restaurant, where the whole family can eat. Doughnuts, waffles and ice cream stalls all tempt you to indulge and there are some fast food bars, for those who don’t like their fun to be interrupted!
For those who may be in need of stronger refreshments, there are two bars, the Pier Tavern and the Long John’s Showbar. Both are open till 4 am every night of the summer season, so it’s never too late for a drink. (During the other parts of the year, opening hours are more restricted, as you may expect).
So, why not test out your singing at the karaoke in the Pier Tavern? Or you can dance till dawn with the music on at Long John’s. Both offer quite a range of entertainment at different times, which makes them popular with local residents as well as tourists and they do have a fantastic atmosphere, which is very much about being on holiday and having fun!
Great Yarmouth Pier is not about genteel promenading, but it is about fun and it is quite a vibrant place, with lots to see and do. The view from the end of the pier is lovely and it can be great just to watch the sea, the different birds all going about their business and hear the waves lapping against the pier’s supports. You feel as if you are spanning two different worlds, the man made pier and all its attractions and the natural splendour of the sea.
Overall the pier is not as delicate and refined as say, Eastbourne, but if you want some good old fashioned and family orientated fun, then you will certainly find this in bundles at good old Great Yarmouth Pier and with plenty to see and do, you will never be stuck for something to do on Britannia Pier, whatever the weather.
Britannia Pier Website
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