Bournemouth Pier 2022


Bournemouth Pier History

1856 – The first seaside piers were built in the 1810s, as people discovered the joy of visiting the seaside. Piers soon became major landmarks of these developing resorts, allowing visitors arriving by sea to disembark, and those visiting by land to enjoy a sea-going experience. In 1856, A 100ft wooden jetty was completed on Bournemouth beach.

1861 – This was replaced in 1861 by a larger wooden structure extended to a length of 1000 feet and given a T-shaped head designed by the noted Scottish engineer, George Rennie, son of the celebrated bridge builder John Rennie. It was built by David Thornbury of Newcastle, an engineer of some distinction, who is said to have been on holiday in Bournemouth at the time. The new pier was opened by local landowner, Sir George Gervis, with great ceremony, including a visit by the paddle-steamer Ursa Major.

1876 – A storm rendered the structure and was also attacked by shipworm, the pier was pronounced unfit for paddle steamers in 1876 and was demolished.

1877 – A temporary landing stage was erected in 1877, then an engineer named Eugenius Birch came forward with a plan for an iron pier.

1880 – At a cost of £21,600, the new Bournemouth Pier was opened by the lord mayor of London in August 1880.

1885 – Covered shelters and a bandstand were added.

1890 – The ‘Punch and Judy Show’ appear to be the main attraction at Pier Approach drawing in large crowds. Punch and Judy dates back to 1790 and was the one of most popular attractions of the seaside resort in the 19th century.

1898 – Roller skating on Bournemouth Pier began in 1898, when a special deck was built and opened by the Lord Mayor of London. Several hours were reserved for skating on Tuesdays and Friday afternoons.

1894 & 1905 – Extensions were added increasing the piers length to 1,000ft. By this time, with people pouring into the resort via Bournemouth’s two busy railway stations, the pier was at its Victorian zenith. Piers were the places to see and to be seen in your best clothes. For people on holiday, it was the only time of the year when they could listen to music – in the days before the wireless and the gramophone record – which was played daily on the pier by the band section of Bournemouth’s Municipal Orchestra, the country’s first.

1940 – In 1940, for security reasons, a gap was blown in Bournemouth Pier that remained for the duration of World War 2 – a feat that the IRA was prevented from emulating in 1993 by some quick-thinking action. The repaired pier was re-opened in 1946.

1950 – The pier head was reconstructed.

1960 – A substructure was built to hold the weight of the new 850-seat pier theatre. The pier theatre structure was designed to resemble a paddle-steamer going out to sea and is tempered with festival of Britain-type elements including the glazed captain’s nest – at the back of the fly tower. It was designed by local architect Elizabeth Whitworth Scott. Along with the Pier Theatre, a cafe & bar were also built onto the back of the theatre introducing Key West to Bournemouth Pier.

Mid 1970’s – The Pier Approach saw a complete re-decking on top of the current concrete substructure and a new entrance, incorporating a leisure arcade and show bar.

1979 – Work commenced to re build the pier after corrosion damage was found and cost £1.7 million.

1981 – The new re-designed Pier Approach opens including a leisure arcade and new shop fronts including ice cream kiosks and gift shops.

2006 – Operation of the pier was taken over by Openwide International Ltd.

2011 – The last decade of the Pier Theatre showed a sharp drop in customer numbers and outdated performances. It was announced that the pier theatre would close in preparation for exciting new plans.

2013 – The Pier Theatre closed. In November plans were approved for a zip wire and indoor attractions with work due to commence in January 2014.

2014 – In May the new RockReef indoor adventure attraction opened, with 25 climbing walls, an aerial obstacle course, Pier Cave, Vertical Slide, Leap of Faith jumping challenge and a café on the top floor . Then in September 2014 the world’s first pier-to-shore zip wire opened.

2024 – RockReef indoors adventure attraction and the world’s first pier-to-shore zip wire celebrate 10 years of operation. In March, Openwide International Ltd which operates the businesses on the pier rebrands as Adventure Attractions Ltd.

Photo credit: Tim Phillips/National Piers Society