Bournemouth Pier is a truly splendid pier, with its fairly unique and charismatic façade. A real treasure on the Dorset coast, she is a very well loved and quite genteel attraction, situated in the heart of Bournemouth, with all its sandy beaches.
Yet this wonderful and grand pier actually came from very humble origins. The very first pier in Bournemouth was a simple jetty that was finished in 1856. Yet a mere 6 years later the jetty was replaced, with a longer pier, of wooden construction. Due to infestation by teredo worm, cast iron piles were installed in 1866 to replace the wooden ones. But the structure of the pier was simply not sound and in 1866, the landing stage was blown away, literally overnight, in a gale.
The remainder of the pier was replaced and in use until 1876, when a storm demolished even more of it, rendering it too short to accommodate steamboat traffic. Eventually a new and more fit for purpose pier was erected in 1880, following a series of ‘temporary’ arrangements. This was specifically designed to be more durable than the other piers had been. To make this happen, Eugene Birch, who had designed amongst other things the West Pier at Brighton.
Whilst not as long as many piers of that era, the pier was a decent 255 metres (838 feet or so) in length. Two extensions were built later, which took her up to around 305 metres (just over 1,000 feet).
Bournemouth Pier did have some quite good facilities, which gradually grew over time and soon she was home to a bandstand with concerts given by military bands on a regular basis.
Closed, like so many other piers during the war, she was then to re-open in 1946, having undergone some substantial repair work. Part of the pier had been demolished or had fallen into disrepair during the war as all efforts were directed to the war effort.
In 1950, she was treated to a refurbishment and survived well, until in 1976, it was discovered that she had suffered quite extensive corrosion and as a result, a major restoration programme began in 1979, to demolish most of the remaining building and replace it with more modern and up to date facilities, which were to be built on solid foundations, that would resist corrosion. The corrosion was surprising, given that Eugene Birch had designed it, however, the disrepair experienced during the war may have allowed the corrosion to take hold.
And so the modern, updated pier that is still in use today came into being!
Bournemouth Pier is home to a fantastic pier theatre, which plays host to some traditional seaside resort entertainment, comedians, magicians and singers all perform on a regular basis, with shows run several times a week. Some of these are reminiscence shows, whilst others feature old classics such as Chas and Dave or Marty Wilde.
The pier itself is also home to a good restaurant, Key West, which is a licensed bar and restaurant which welcomes children and offers a more healthy and gourmet type of menu than in traditional seaside resorts, with menus featuring game pie and beef with locally produced blue cheese. Prices are also quite reasonable.
Children can have hours of fun at the Children’s Funfair and there are some very up to date games to be played in the arcade. You can even try your hand at jet skiing without even getting your feet wet.
Similar to Eastbourne, Bournemouth is not home to a wild theme park or any large fairground, which makes it just that little bit different from so many of its contemporaries. It is just that little bit less dramatic and is almost a throwback to another time.
The theatre and the classical design of Bournemouth give it a sense of gentle decorum and although it has the arcade and the usual opportunities to partake of fish and chips or ice cream, it is also a rather sedate pier, when set aside many others.
When at the pier, in season, you could take a ride on the fabulous Dorset Belle and have a trip around the bay. Nature lovers will love this, because not only do you get to see the pier and Bournemouth from the water, but also there are some really good opportunities to see different kinds of birds and perhaps even some kind of form of marine life? It is a trip not to be missed and steam enthusiasts will be delighted by the fact that the Dorset Belle is a paddle steamer.
Many people hold Bournemouth and Bournemouth Pier very close to their hearts. There is even a website dedicated to sharing memories of the pier, so that in some way there can be a recognition of the role that this pier has played in so many people’s lives.
Similar to Eastbourne, Bournemouth is more refined and perhaps just that little bit more refined than many seaside piers and this makes it just that little bit more special. Some people put this down to the fact that she has a theatre at the end of the pier and that this livens it up in a way that simply can’t happen in other piers.
Who knows if this is the case, but it is a great place to visit and somehow there always seems a little bit of nostalgia associated with Bournemouth. There is something very special about a slow walk down the pier, looking out towards the sea and the great expanse of water. At night somehow the pier takes on a life of her own and seems quite resplendent in her glory.
Open all year round, but with only limited shows in the theatre out of season, Bournemouth offers a tremendous day out for all the family and really shouldn’t be missed.
If you do want brash and loud then Bournemouth is not the place to come, but if you simply like the idea of quite a gentle and quite traditional pier, without the shrieks from the fairground, then Bournemouth Pier is sure to delight.
Bournemouth Pier Website – Including Whats On
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