Brighton Palace Pier is a 1,722ft long Victorian pier, located in the heart of Brighton and Hove’s 8 miles of coastline. The smell of freshly rolled doughnuts greets you at the entrance , the lines of free deckchairs with people snoozing in the sun, more ice cream stands than you can cope with, with it’s famous fish and chip restaurant, loads of hot food and drink stalls, fairground attractions and rides, two massive arcades, a couple of old school bars plus a big indoor soft play area for the kids- you simply can’t go to Brighton without a visit!
The pier was designed and constructed by R. St George Moore. It was the third to be built in Brighton, following the Royal Suspension Chain Pier in 1823 and the West pier in 1866. The inaugural ceremony for laying of the first pile was held on 7 November 1891, overseen by Mayor Samuel Henry Soper. Work was mostly completed in 1899 and the pier was officially opened on 20 May by the then Mayoress of Brighton. It was named the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, whose name was inscribed into the pier’s metalwork. It cost a record £27,000 (£2,985,000 in 2018) to build, including 3,000 lights to illuminate the pier. It was designed to resemble kursaals, which were entertainment buildings found near spas on the Continent, and included reading and dining rooms.
The pier was an immediate success and quickly became one of the most popular landmarks in Brighton. By 1911, the reading rooms had been converted into a theatre. Both Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin performed at the pier to hone their comic skills early in their career, before migrating to the US and finding major commercial success in Hollywood. During the first World War the sea surrounding the pier was extensively mined to prevent enemy attacks. In the 1920s, the pier was widened, and a distinctive clock tower was added. During the 2nd World War the pier was closed as a security precaution. A section of decking was removed in order to prevent access from an enemy landing. The pier regained its popularity after the war, and continued to run regular summer shows including Dick Emery.
The pier was grade II listed on 20 August 1971. During a storm in 1973, a 70-long-ton (71t) barge moored at the pier’s landing stage broke loose and began to damage the pier head, particularly the theatre. Despite fears that the pier would be destroyed, the storm eased and the barge was removed. The landing pier was demolished in 1975, and the damaged theatre was never used again. The theatre was removed in 1986, on the understanding that it would be replaced; however a domed amusement arcade was put in place instead. Consequently, the seaward end of the pier was filled with fairground rides, including thrill rides, children’s rides and roller coasters. Entertainment continued to be popular at the pier; the Spice Girls made an early live performance there in 1996 and returned the following year after achieving commercial success.
The Palace Pier remains a popular tourist attraction into the 21st century, particularly with day visitors to the city. In contrast to the redevelopment and liberal culture in Brighton generally, it has retained a traditional “bucket and spade” seaside atmosphere. With over four million visitors in 2018, it has also been featured in many works of British culture, including the gangster thriller Brighton Rock, the comedy Carry On At Your Convenience and The Who’s iconic film Quadrophenia.
Its open morning til’ night literally every day and if you fancy a bit of that traditional Seaside Holiday fun you simply have to have a stroll along it, if you find yourself there at dusk on any day you’ll see the incredible sight of hundreds of thousands of starlings which gather to dance and swirl around it which really is a scene of absolute wonder!