Hythe Pier History
The Hythe pier, Hythe pier railway and the Hythe ferry provide a link across the Southampton water to Southampton itself. This provides a popular link for commuters and shoppers to Southampton. The pier allows people to commute quickly between Hythe and Southampton rather than to take the long road trip otherwise needed.
The pier at Hythe was started in 1879 and was completed two years later in 1881.The architecture is 700 metres long, it’s so long in order to reach out in to the deep water of Southampton water. It is quite narrow at only 5 metres wide but contains a walkway, a cycle track and the bedding for the railway that runs along the pier.
The railway was originally a narrow gauge version which was probably hand turned to move luggage up and down its length. In 1922 it was rebuilt and electrified to fit modern day needs, today it retains the design of that period of time.
The electric for the railway is supplied from a third conductor rail on the seaward side of the two feet gauge running line; it is a single straight stretch of track with no passing points or loops. The train carriages were originally used in a mustard gas factory in nearby Avonmouth during the first world. After the war they were transported to Hythe where the power was changed from batteries to the third rail method.
Upon taking a walk down the pier, once you reach the end by your chosen method you will reach the ferry stand for the ten minute trip to Southampton. The trip may be short but is very scenic, passing many famous sites and boats. This short trip is believed to have begun as far back as the middle ages although now is slightly more modern, the hills are ancient, and the boats of various ages and the landscape in can be seen as you pass by.
Modern times for the pier
Back in November 2003 the pier at Hythe was very close to ruin, this was when the dredger Donald Rutherford hit the pier and ripped a 150 foot hole in the structure. The collision completely separated the two ends of the pier.
The incident could have been much worse because shortly before the incident the pier had been crowded with football fans, also the train was also missed by the impact. A £300,000 repair was carried out by Dudley Barnes marine after design work by Beckett rankine. As a postscript the captain of the dredger received eight months jail for causing damage and for endangering life while drunk.
The ferry is connected from land by train and the service is half hourly seven days a week. The start and finish times vary slightly depending on season and the closing down time is later for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Although the pier is more functional then most piers it still attracts visitors that are not necessarily there for the ferry trip. The views that can be seen from the ferry are amazing and not really to be missed.
The pier has remained basic from the start until today; it has a small clubhouse for the local yachting club, where they gather for meetings. Hythe pier does share the unusual aspect with only a few piers that off the end of the pier is land.
There is the view of Southampton and its busy docks. Despite its business use it’s also the seventh longest pier in Britain and it has the oldest operating pier railway in Britain having been there since the year 1881.
The pier and ferry at Hythe allow you to stay or live in Hythe yet be easily connected to Southampton and surrounding areas such as Portsmouth. The late night ferry times also allow you to enjoy a night out in Southampton and to have an in expensive trip home in Southampton.
The trip also offers great views both during light and dark, the ferry and pier gives views of hundreds of boats including the qe2,the factories of the harbour, the houses of both Hythe and Southampton and of course the wildlife on the water and both shorelines.
The location of the pier allows you to commute from further afield on the Hythe area to Southampton and avoids road congestion, high fuel costs and expensive car parking charges. The bus links at each end allow you to commute to Southampton, Portsmouth and surrounding areas.
So although at first look the pier appears very basic and lacking in interest it is very interesting, has an exciting history and is very important to many commuters and shopper. It has survived damage, modern transport and expensive running costs to carry on as a ferry platform, the same as it has for over a hundred years with little change.
Who knows as with many of the modern day piers it could be bought out privately and up being renovated to a popular entertainment hotspot! The pier can’t be missed a great seaside architecture to take the kids to in the summer holidays. Hythe pier has a great element of tourism as you are able to take a step back in time.
Prices range from £1.80 up to £5.00 for an adult return
Family returns available for £10.40
The ferry runs every day bar Christmas day and Boxing Day. It’s better to call first as sometimes when the weather is bad the ferry’s are delayed or cancelled.
If you wish to visit the pier at Hythe it’s probably best to contact the below number where they will be able to tell you the details about the ferry opening times. Along with any additional information that you wish to know, another great place to visit in the UK!
Ferry operator contact details
Hythe ferry office
02380 840 722
Bus connections operate at either end of the ferry trip, and the cost of using the train without a boat trip is normally one pound.