History of Penarth pier
Located 5 miles (8kms), southwest of Cardiff
The construction for the pier first started in 1894, the official opening for the pier was in 1895. The
structure was designed by HF Edwards. The commissioning for the construction of the pier was
ordered by the Penarth promenade and landing pier company Ltd.
The purpose of erecting the structure was for the pier to act as a central commuting point for the
steamer boat trips across the Bristol Channel. In fact the Waverley and Balmoral locals still call
into Penarth to this day.
The town of Penarth is well known for its coal exportation and also for its tourism; the initial
owners the Mayoh brothers knew this and had researched well. They used their research to make
the pier into a commercial empire for their financial security. Originally the pier was basic simply
being constructed as a boat landing stage with an additional seaside promenade to walk along.
Then later on in 1907 facilities to attract tourism were added to the pier. The first addition was a
pavilion at the piers head; also shops were added along the walkway. Penarth council took over the
piers ownership in 1926 and a concrete landing stage was added. The council also made a pavilion
at the landing end. The pavilion still remains at the land end and until today is a focal point of the
Although Penarth pier is fairly young, it has survived a number of incidents and history is rife at the
pier. In 1931 one august bank holiday a terrible fire began at the sea end and spread throughout the
pavilion along the pier. There were around 800 people on the pier at the time of the outbreak; all
escaped safely although some had to rely on boats after being trapped on the wrong side of the fire.
The pier, shops and deck were soon replaced but the pavilion was not so lucky! Thus the after effect
of the fire left the seaside pier a shell of its former self.
Soon after the Second World War another disaster was in making for the pier. A huge Canadian
ship was thrown against the pier in severe storms. The repairs included replacing concrete columns
and major repairs to the iron work. The repairs took two years and cost around £28, 000, a
substantial sum of money for the time.
Between 1964 and 1968 Penarth gained some notoriety as mods versus rockers riots happened each
bonfire night. As the locals had a year’s warning of the riots they boarded up the shops and houses
and also protected the pier against damage. The damage was a distinct possibility as much of the
fighting was done by throwing fireworks, obviously a worry for the wooden based pier, luckily it
escaped virtually un touched.
Recent years at the pier
There were fears for the piers economic future when one of the major boat companies that used the
pier went out of service. Luckily though, the paddle steamers Balmoral and Waverley still use the
pier to this day.
Other ideas such as removing the entrance tolls, allowing free fishing allows the public a free
entertainment program. The many tourists that visited the pier helped to fund the total restoration
of the full 650 feet of pier.
The fame of the pier is so much that it has been included in the filming of the doctor who spin off
torchwood; it featured as itself in a recent episode. This was possible as the show was set 40plus
years ago and the pier fitted perfectly.
In fact large areas of Penarth sea front remain the same as in years gone, although there are now
some more modern developments on the front. The pier can be viewed from numerous angles, there
are hills either side of it as well as behind for views from above. You can walk along the coast line
either direction so it can be viewed side on and of course there are the views from the boats that use
Up until the introduction of cheap foreign holidays in the early sixties Penarth and nearby Barry
island enjoyed the patronage of thousands of holiday makers from all over. Although the numbers
are far lower these days the area still gets plenty of visitors, a visit nearly always including a stroll
down the pier.
Visitors to Penarth can see thousands of years of history from the pier by simply looking round
the area. There are remnants of the old Penarth basin dock yard that was used initially by the coal
traders and was used after the Second World War to stable the war ships no longer used. Looking
further towards the Barry island end of the cliffs you will see large mountains containing high
amounts of both limestone and alabaster.
Looking back towards land from the pier you will see housing and shopping buildings that vary in
age by around 200 years. From the pier you are also able to see restaurants and houses that were
built years ago when the area was a popular tourist town.
The pier is one of the best reaming piers in the west of Britain, quite basic and simple, however that
doesn’t detract from its appeal in any way. It’s perfect for a day’s fishing, or a quite walk.
- Attractions at the pier
- Free fishing
- Entertainment at the pavilion
- Benches to sit down and rest
- Boat trips
- Covered seating
- Information booth
The pier is open all year
Penarth sea front
How to travel to the pier- Penarth train station is little more than a mile away, on a summer day it’s
the perfect walk.
Travelling by motorway –You need to leave the m4 at junction 33 and follow signs
Local buses call near the pier
Car parking can be found near pier on the road and at nearby car parks (fees for parking is
Additionally you can call 02920 70 88 49