On a lovely crisp autumnal day I decided to visit somewhere I had never yet ventured to before.
Having been brought up in a North Yorkshire coastal town, I have always had a fond place in my heart for seaside.
Brighton is a place I have meant to visit for years. The Marine Palace and Pier, now a grade II listed building, is amazing in its restoration and splendour. The fact it is still standing and functioning is as much a tribute to the people who frequent and support it, as it is to those who have fought the elements, the financial cost of rebuilding, and maintaining this splendid feat of engineering.
House of Horrors
Brighton's derelict West Pier
If you stare out to sea at the eerie, skeletal remains of the West Pier, built by Eugenius Birch in 1866 which was closed to the public in 1975 and then suffered fire damage to be ultimately ruined in 2003, you see a testament to what fire and storm can do to these grand structures if they are not lovingly tended and expensively maintained.
The newer pier is 1,722 feet long. The original structure, although built as a passenger landing for travel to Dieppe, France in 1823, suffered severe storm damage and was bought by The Marine Palace and Pier Company. However, their vision for it was to be frustrated when the angry sea rendered it too damaged to repair. The company nearly went into liquidation, but was saved by Sir James Howard. In May 1899 the newly designed pier, by Richard and George Moore, was opened.
Over years the original stalls and entertainments have been added to by a Lady Palmist, Punch Ball, Concert Hall, Dodgems and Big Wheel, but when WWII paused progress it was closed and timbers partly removed so that an invasion force could not land. Amazingly it survived the war.
To be relevant and keep up with current amusement trends, yet keep its original charm, the management of the pier have embraced the new along with the old. In the 1980’s space invaders and virtual reality arrived. The Italian thrill rides Air Racer and The Booster were added in 2006. Fish and Chips were served in the Palm Court and in 2010 Midsummer Murders used The House of Horror for a location shoot.
Big Horses merry go round
Today it provides local employment for hundreds. Its three month repaint is completed yearly. Divers work to maintain the steel substructure and help to keep the marine environment clear of debris and clean. It has had a budget of £millions over the years to keep it in its pristine condition.
Brighton's Marine Palace and Pier
Looking at the pier it is easy to feel nostalgic about its past. This is part of its charm. Yet it has kept up with the times making it, not only a place of beauty and wonder as it is still hammered by a tumultuous sea, but one where fun can be had across generations.
Ample seating along the Pier to admire the view
When I visited Brighton I used the Park and Ride facility at the Withdean Sports Centre and bought the £5 all day Rover ticket on the No. 27 bus. There is much more to explore in Brighton.