The stunning Paignton Pier is an iconic structure in the seaside town of Paignton. For over 130 years, the charming pier has remained a a worthy attraction for visitors to the surrounding area of Devon, quite a feat for an iron structure of such advanced age. At over 740 feet in length, the pier has become a true part of the town, and will be preserved for many more decades to come.
The history of the pier in Paignton is quite unique. In the 1860’s, the thought of Paignton as a seaside resort was just a distant dream. Holiday makers headed elsewhere to enjoy the sandy shores and pleasant weather, but there were several people who believed the town of Paignton could become a prime destination-if only there were a pier. A pier, as much today as 100 years ago, acts as a focal point for a beach location, and breaks up the monotony of a long stretch of sand. A local barrister by the name of Arthur Hyde Denby understood that fact, and tried to bring in the pier from the nearby town of Teignmouth. Although he bought the wooden pier, its erection in Paignton was simply not meant to be.
Not deterred by the complications of transporting and then erecting a pier in a new location, Arthur Hyde Denby decided instead to build a new pier, but from iron instead of the commonly used wood of the time. In 1878 Denby commissioned an architect by the name of George Soudon Bridgman to undertake the design of this new iron pier, and it was designed, built and opened to the public by 1879.
Originally coming in at 780 feet, the pier was an immediate success. A grand pavilion graced the end of the pier closest to the sea, and it boasts several shows and attractions that brought in many visitors in those early years. Famously, the pier at Paignton was home to a performance of a comic opera titled “HMS Pinafore on the Water” by Gilbert and Sullivan and performed by the Mr D’Oyley’s company. Encouraged by this milestone, further work was done on the pier, enlarging the head in order to accommodate a new billiards room.
As the 19th century turned to the 20th, Denby continued to see his vision come to fruition as more and more people flocked to the seaside town of Paignton, always making a point to visit the pier. When Denby died, the pier was sold to the Devon Dock, Pier and Steamship Company, who increased the value of the pier by using it not just as a tourist destination, but also for maritime purposes. It was a regular port of call for the many paddle steamers traveling in the area along the coast.
A fire in 1919 destroyed the head of the pier and the beloved buildings along it, leaving only the length of the pier and an exposed and destroyed neck. In the decades that followed, no repair was done to the pier and like most piers in England, were abandoned while fighting raged on across Europe. After World War II, the pier was renovated, although it now measured 740 feet in length instead of 780.
In recent years, much work has been done to keep Paignton Pier modern and up to date. The town of Paignton is still a thriving holiday destination, and the pier remains a focal point of the beach. The pier-head is home several arcades and amusements, including rides and games. Cafes also fill the pavilion at the end of the pier, making it the perfect place to stay and enjoy a few hours by the sea. Though the pier has changed since from its conception 130 years ago, the vision of Arthur Hyde Denby is still clearly present.
Visitors to the pier today can enjoy activities like crazy golf, slides, orbiter dodgems and many more exciting rides and games. Shops and restaurant include everything from souvenirs from the area to home made fudge, a speciality mush sought after! Whether you are in the mood for seafood, donuts, burger or takeaway, the pier has it all. It has a fast paced environment, with a vibrant atmosphere day or night. Children will be pleased with the sheer number of attractions, but adults can enjoy the pavilions as well thanks to a range of cafes that offer seating overlooking the blue water below.