Hastings Pier – Key Dates

1595-97 – A large and expensive harbour, known as the ‘pier’, was built of in front of Hastings Old Town, but was swept away by a storm on 1 November 1597.

1831-34 – James Burton, founder of the new town of St Leonards, tried but failed to raise funding for a harbour at the west end of Marina in St Leonards.

1834-40 – Several ideas for a harbour at Hastings were considered, but came to nothing.

1861 – The 1861 General Pier and Harbour Act made it easier for piers and harbours to be built.

1862 – Britain’s leading pier-builder, Eugenius Birch, formed a company, the Hastings Pier and Harbour Company Ltd, which obtained the legal power to build a combined harbour and pier, but it came to nothing because of local opposition and other problems.

1865 – Birch produced new plans for just a pier, sited at White Rock.

1866 – Plans for a rival pier at Warrior Square were approved by the Board of Trade, but came to nothing.

1867 August 12 – The 1867 Hastings Pier Act was passed, giving Birch the legal power to form a statutory company, the Hastings Pier Company, which could build a pier at White Rock.

1869 December 18 – The first iron pile of Hastings Pier was screwed into the seabed. The contractor was Laidlaw & Son, of Glasgow, and the contract price was £23,250.

1870 – The St Leonards-on-Sea Pier Company was set up and obtained the legal right to build a pier to the east of the Royal Victoria Hotel, but local opposition in 1872 stopped it happening.

1872 August 5 – The new Hastings Pier – the “Peerless Pier” – was officially opened by the Earl Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, on a very wet and windy day. It was unique, as it was the first pier in Britain to be built with a large entertainments pavilion as part of its design. It was 910 feet long and 45 feet wide in the middle. The last 300 feet holding the pavilion were 125 feet wide.

1875 August 2 – A small camera obscura was set up in front of the north end of the pavilion, remaining there until c1904.

1877 January 1 – A severe storm wrecked one of the pier’s tollhouses and caused other damage.

1878 May – The new White Rock Baths opened, on the promenade just to the east of the pier.

1883 October – A bandstand was put up on the seafront, beside the White Rock Baths.

1884 – The two landing stages on either side of the seaward end of the pier were removed and replaced by similar small-sized new ones.

1884 January – Electric lighting was beginning to challenge gas lighting nationally, so three tall electric poles were erected along the main deck, plus one on each corner of the seaward end of the pier. The existing gas lighting, there since the pier was built, was retained.

1884 September 2 – A three-week trial by a fairly large pleasure steamer was a success, leading to the setting up of the Hastings and St Leonards Passenger Steamship Company in early 1885 to run Hastings Pier-based steamer services. This was to be the first of a series of four locally-owned companies with similar-sounding names that ran in succession from 1885 to 1907.

1885 summer – To accommodate the forthcoming use of the pier by large steamers, work began on building a bigger and stronger landing stage on the east side of the pier. This was completed in March 1886, but was soon found to be too short for the increasing number of steamers wishing to use the pier, so this landing stage was extended round the seaward end of the pier from June 1889 to April 1890.

1886 September – The St Leonards-on-Sea Pier Company was formed.

1887 October – The new East Sussex Hospital at White Rock, opposite the pier (and seen in many photos), was opened.

1888 March 1 – The first iron pile was screwed into the seabed for the St Leonards Pier, just to the west of the Royal Victoria Hotel.

1891 October 28 – The St Leonards Pier opening ceremony took place. The pier was hailed as a masterpiece of design and construction, with its main feature being the 750-seat semi-Moorish pavilion at its landward end. It was 900 feet long, but only 25 feet wide along its central section.

1894 summer – A tea cafe, designed especially for women, was erected at the seaward end of Hastings Pier.

1896 June – Work began on building a harbour at Hastings, but stopped in 1897 when the company ran out of capital. The company was wound up and the harbour was abandoned; its remains form today’s Hastings Harbour.

1896 October – Gale damage to the new St Leonards Pier smashed its timber landing stage into pieces. Some of the beams were driven along the shore to hit Hastings Pier, damaging the pier’s ironwork structure.

1896 November – Both piers stage ‘animated picture’ shows, making them the first cinemas in the town. St Leonards Pier had them on display a week before Hastings Pier.

1899 – The Hastings Pier pavilion was reroofed and enlarged in early 1899, reopening on 15 May. A large clock was installed on top of the north frontage.

1899-1900 – An expanded electricity supply was installed. The electric poles put up in 1884 were taken down and four electricity-lit arches were installed next to the two toll booths.

1904 late (or early 1905) – The small camera obscura in front of the pavilion was removed.

1905 Summer – The new Hastings trams system opened. Its overhead electric power line was not installed along the seafront until March 1921. The trams were replaced by trolley buses in April 1928.

1907 September – The last paddle steamer to be owned in Hastings and run from Hastings Pier, the Cynthia, was sold to an Irish company, bringing to an end 23 years of locally-owned steamers. However, steamers continued visiting the pier.

1909 April 1 – The ‘American Syndicate’, also known as the Rinkeries, took out a lease on St Leonards Pier and carried out big improvements. It reopened on 23 May 1909 as the ‘American Palace Pier’ (but usually just called the ‘Palace Pier’). The whole pier was painted and decorated, a new restaurant was built on the south side of the pavilion and six ornamental kiosks were erected, each accommodating three shops. About 4,000 lamps were fixed all over the pier, making it a big attraction in the evenings. In July that year a new pavilion was built as a roller skating rink at the seaward end of the pier.

1910 summer – The first significant new building to go up on Hastings Pier since it was built was the American Bowling Alley, erected in the summer of 1910 roughly a third of the way along the pier. It was used as a cinema from November 1912 to December 1913, and then had a variety of uses. It was integrated in the major development all over the pier in the 1930s, but its roof, with a dome in the middle of it, survived until being destroyed in the 2010 fire.

1910 autumn – A large joywheel roundabout was put up next to the seafront promenade, opening on 12 November. It was removed in the autumn of 1914.

1910-11 winter – A shooting gallery, with ‘animated pictures’ (films) on show and amusement machines, was built near the pavilion. By the autumn of 1912 the bowling alley had moved into it in order to share the space.

1911 early – A windbreak was built, connecting the joywheel and bowling alley.

1911 spring – The Rinkeries, the managing company of St Leonards Pier, suddenly surrendered its lease. This was taken over by a small group of local people, who ran that pier until 1917.

1914 September – The 220 feet of Hastings Pier nearest the promenade were sold by the Pier Company to Hastings Council, just as the First World War broke out. Work began immediately on creating the ‘parade extension’ by widening that part of the pier to 220 feet. The tollgates and the four-year old joywheel were removed that autumn, and by the end of 1914 new columns and girders were being installed as part of the pier’s substructure.

1916 April 19 – The official opening ceremony of the new extension took place in and around the new bandstand, which had just been finished. Over the following four months the two curved shelters (known as the ‘bandstand shelters’) were put up, along with a well-designed building which formed the Pier Company’s frontage onto the Council’s parade extension. By late summer all the new parade extension and pier frontage were in operation.

1917 July 15 – The pier’s pavilion was destroyed in a huge blaze.

1917 August – The St Leonards Pier was bought by Mr John Henry Gardner, the owner of a Welsh coal-mining business.

1921 mid – A wooden floor was laid on the site of the burnt-down Hastings Pier pavilion, to be used in fine weather.

1921-22 winter – Work began on putting a simple steel-framed sheltering pavilion over the top of the new wooden floor.

1922 July – The new pavilion opened. It quickly became clear that this frail and unattractive barn-like structure should have been built as a weather-proof replacement of the 1872 pavilion. The 1922 structure was to form the basis of the pier’s main pavilion (from around 1960 often known as the ‘ballroom’) until destroyed in the 2010 fire.

1923 summer – Demolition began of the East Sussex Hospital opposite the pier, after the opening of the replacement Royal East Sussex Hospital in Bohemia Road in May 1923.

1926 – The Pier Company decided to carry out many major changes to the pier from this time onwards. It began in 1926 with a three-year programme of widening (from 45 feet to 90 feet) all of the company’s part of the pier as far south as the inland side of the pavilion, starting at the parade extension. This included replacing all the necessary parts of the substructure in that section.

1926 July – A new ‘pavilion’, used as a theatre, opened on the west side of the newly widened part of the pier, close to the parade extension.

1926 – Several buildings were attached to the north end of the main pavilion, including a refreshments saloon.

1927 April 6 – The new White Rock Pavilion, built opposite the pier on the site of the hospital, was opened by the Prince of Wales. Prior to this the borough engineer Sidney Little had rebuilt part of the promenade and road at White Rock close to the east side of the pier.

1927 October – St Leonards Pier owner John Gardner offered to sell it to Hastings Council for £9,000, but they refused. In March 1928 Gardner rented the pier to a new company, who added many bright and attractive features to it, but then gave up in early 1929. Gardner subsequently ran the pier till 1933.

1928-29 – The much-criticised unattractive rifle range on Hastings Pier was removed and replaced by a much wider multi-purpose building, first known as the ‘games pavilion’. In the gap between this building and the sea-end pavilion a big camera obscura was erected.

1929-30 – All the pier’s substructure under the sea-end pavilion and to seaward of it was replaced as necessary, and the pier was widened on both sides of this pavilion. A small bandstand was then sited on the point at the sea-end of the pier; it opened in the spring of 1931.

1929-30 winter – The former bowling alley was taken down and rebuilt slightly to the south of where it had been, with extensions on both ends. Its dome was retained, and the building looked almost the same as before.

1930 spring – The 1928-built games pavilion was largely rebuilt to a higher standard.

1930-31 – The town’s seafront to the east of the pier, between Marine Parade and White Rock, was reconstructed. The new structure included the world’s first underground car park, and it had high sea walls to prevent flooding. This was finished in December 1931.

1931 June – The first stage in rebuilding and extending the White Rock Baths was completed; the second phase was finished in May 1933.

1931-32 – The pier’s landing stage was doubled in width and extended 60 feet to the west.

1932-33 winter – The whole frontage to Hastings Pier abutting the parade extension was rebuilt in the fashionable art-deco style. It survived, with some changes, until the 2010 fire.

1933 May 27 – The new bathing pool at West St Leonards was opened; it was said to be the largest in the UK.

1933 September – Following the collapse of John Gardner’s company, he sold St Leonards Pier to two London brothers, David and Philip Lannon. They carried out many major changes over the following winter, and in March 1934 it was relaunched as the ‘New Palace Pier’.

1934 – The 1926-built theatre on Hastings Pier was replaced by a bigger and better building.

1934 May – Bottle Alley and all the rebuilt promenade between White Rock and London Road, St Leonards, were opened.

1935-38 – The rebuilding of the promenade and sea wall between London Road and the new bathing pool took place, finishing in December 1938. Marine Court, the 170-feet high block of flats modelled on the ocean liner Queen Mary, was also completed in 1938.

1936 – The Pier Company decided to greatly improve the sea-end pavilion (then still looking like a barn) by removing all the buildings close to its northern end and extending it, to include two large pointed towers. Most of the work was completed by the summer of 1937, but there had been major problems with the pier’s substructure, which had to largely rebuilt underneath the pavilion, at a cost of over £20,000.

1938 September – St Leonards Pier was not a financial success, and so it was put up for sale, but no buyer was found.

1939 September 3 – The Second World War started, and Hastings Pier remained open initially, although with scaled-down operations. But St Leonards Pier closed and never reopened to the public.

1940 May 22 – A Belgian tug arrived at Hastings Pier. Two of the men on board were carrying two suitcases crammed with 13 million Belgian francs in banknotes, being the funds of the Belgian Railway.

1940 early summer – Both Hastings Pier and St Leonards Pier had been requisitioned by military authorities by early 1940, and early that summer each had two sections removed, one near the middle of the pier, and the other adjoining the promenade, in order to stop invading Germans using the piers as landing stages.

1944 March 7 – A major fire seriously damaged all the shore end of the St Leonards Pier, wrecking the pavilion and its adjoining buildings. The owners, still the Lannon brothers, made no attempt to restore the pier, and it was effectively abandoned.

1946 June 8 – The parade extension and the inland end of Hastings Pier reopened for the first time since 1940, following the replacement of the 10 yards of the parade extension’s decking which was removed in that year.

1947 summer – Following the rebuilding of the 25 yards of the mid-pier which had been taken away in 1940, the sea-end of Hastings Pier reopened.

1951 January – Hastings Council gave the Lannon brothers £1,000 for St Leonards Pier and began demolishing and clearing it. Most had been removed by mid-1952, with the last piles still in the seabed being removed with explosives in the summer of 1953.

1951 autumn – A combined covered way and solarium was built along the west side of Hastings Pier, connecting the arcade to the main pavilion. This was popular, so in 1956 the move was duplicated on the east side of the pier, helping to boost the pier’s claim to being an all-weather centre of entertainment.

1957 November 4 – A severe gale caused major damage to the main pavilion, which had to close for three months.

1960 – The main pavilion was modernised, with the aim of turning it into an up-to-date ballroom attracting major pop stars.

1960 and 1961 summers – A Hastings fishing boat took passengers from the pier on short trips to sea, but this was not financially viable.

1960 July – The Hastings Pier Act 1960 was passed, giving the pier company the legal power to do certain things it had been doing wrongly.

1961 May – The 45-year old bandstand on the parade extension was found to be in a dilapidated condition, so it was removed in May, and in June was replaced by a new moveable bandstand.

1961 October – Bingo, the newly-fashionable game of chance, was launched on the pier, in the theatre. It drew big audiences through the 1960s, and was still an attraction when the pier closed in 2008.

1964 August bank holiday – Thousands of youngsters took part in ‘mods and rockers’ riots in Hastings. This followed an appearance by the Rolling Stones on the pier on Saturday 1 August, and climaxed on the bank holiday Monday.

1966 May 25 – The Triodome was opened. It was a large domed and circular exhibition hall on the parade extension, between the two shelters, housing the 247 feet long Hastings Embroidery, which had been made to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1966. It took over the space used since 1961 by the moveable bandstand, which was moved to Warrior Square gardens. The Queen visited the Embroidery on 28 October. The Triodome cost about £12,000.

1968 January – Hastings Council gave ownership of the parade extension back to the Pier Company, along with £40,000 to carry out repairs to its substructure which the Council had failed to do.

1968 November – The Pier Company bought the Triodome off Hastings Council for £2,500. The company from then on owned all of the pier, and all the buildings upon it.

1972 – The centenary year of the pier was marred by the redecorating in white paint of the multi-coloured art-deco exterior of the 1933 frontage.

1974 – By this year the two bandstand shelters had been divided up and let as shops and kiosks, and the Triodome had become an amusement arcade.

1974 April – The landmark clock on top of the pier’s entrance was removed because of the deteriorating condition of the frontage.

1976 September 14 – The pier was listed as Grade Two by the Department of the Environment as a building of special historic and architectural interest. The listing applied to all of the pier, Including the buildings.

1981 April – The last sea-going passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world, the Waverley, tried to make what turned out to be the last attempts by such a vessel to take passengers from Hastings Pier.

1983 April – The pier was sold for £200,000 to a company, Hamberglow Ltd, which was owned by the pier’s two largest concessionaires: John Shrive, who had two amusement arcades, and Peter Fisher, who ran the bingo sessions.

1983 November 26 – A severe storm caused the worst damage to the pier for many years, especially in the centre section.

1985 August – Messrs Shrive and Fisher set up a new private limited company – the Hastings Pier Company Ltd – re-using the name of the original statutory pier company which they had bought and had been running.

1986 early – The Pier Company sold the Triodome, which was dismantled and taken away in May. It later reappeared on the sea end of Brighton Pier as the Dome, a multi-purpose amusement arcade, where it is today.

1990 February 26 – A severe gale did much damage to the pier, especially the parade extension, where about half the decking and several shops were wrecked.

1990 April – The Hastings Pier Ideas Competition prompted many people to think about ways to redesign and use the pier.

1990 November – A new pressure group, the Pier Preservation Society, was started, aiming to restore the pier’s 1930s art-deco frontage. In June 1992 the society was offered a European Commission grant of £28,000 towards the £110,000 which was needed, but it could not raise big enough extra grants because the pier was privately owned. The society was wound up in late 1993.

1996 July – Another new group, the Hastings Pier Consortium, made a bid for pier funding. It applied to the Millennium Commission for half the £42 million cost of a full-scale face-lift, using the winning entry in the 1990 Pier Ideas Competition as the basis of the proposal. But the Commission rejected the proposal in January 1997.

1996 September – The pier was put up for sale, with the Pier Company saying that they had been approached by a potential buyer. But nothing came of this.

1999 October 13 – The pier closed suddenly on a Wednesday afternoon. The company had gone into voluntary liquidation on the advice of insolvency experts Fisher Curtis, who had said they should cease trading immediately because of the poor financial position of the pier.

2000 January 28 – The Hastings Observer launched a Save Our Pier campaign.

2000 August – Andorra-based speculator Ian Stuart bought the pier from the receiver for what was believed to be about £100,000. He immediately began major above-deck renovation, much of it without prior planning permission. The appearance of the pier’s 1933 frontage was changed dramatically.

2001 May 5 – The pier reopened, in a low-key launching event.

2006 January – Hastings Council received an engineer’s report which said that the pier’s substructure needed a considerable amount of work to guarantee the pier’s future in the short-to-medium term. Council officers tried unsuccessfully to persuade Mr Stuart’s company to take remedial action.

2006 June 16 – The Council used emergency powers under the 1984 Building Act to shut the pier to seaward of the frontage (excluding the parade extension), following another engineer’s report saying the condition was far worse than originally believed, and because a large-scale event had been booked for the ballroom.

2006 September 12 – The Hastings Magistrates Court ruled that the 16 June closure by the Council was correct. Mr Stuart’s company Ravenclaw lodged an appeal.

2006 November 1 – The pier closed after all the businesses on it had given up trying to trade.

2007 February 10 – A public meeting at the White Rock Theatre agreed to set up a campaigning group called the Friends of Hastings Pier. On 1 February 2008 it was registered as the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust, a charitable company limited by guarantee, whose primary aim was to raise a substantial sum of money that would enable it to take on the ownership of the pier.

2007 July – Stylus Sports, the pier’s largest tenant, which had been running bingo and amusements in the former theatre, reopened its business with the aid of Hastings Council.

2008 August 25 – Stylus closed down because of the poor income.

2008 August 31 – The pier finally closed completely, following the last of the Sunday markets which the Pier Trust had been holding on the parade extension.

2009 October 17 – In a year of great uncertainty about the future of the pier, the Pier Trust held a march from the pier to the town centre, with 2,000 taking part and showing their support for the Trust’s aims.

2010 July 12 – The Labour Party had taken control of Hastings Council in the May elections, and a meeting of the Council’s cabinet on this day decided to commence compulsory purchase order (CPO) proceedings. The Pier Trust then began seeking a £5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Trust’s £13.5 million budget for restoring the pier.

2010 October 5 – A massive blaze destroyed or ruined much of the pier’s decking and all of its buildings, except for the western bandstand shelter (now called the Bandstand Pavilion).

2011 April 21 – The Trust registered a new charity-type body, the Hastings Pier Charity, to take over the pier if the CPO was successful.

2011 May 10 – The Heritage Lottery Fund provisionally agreed to give a grant of £8.75 million, with a preliminary award of £357,400 from the grant to prepare detailed plans.

2011 July 19 – Hastings Council served an ‘urgent works’ notice on the pier-owning company Ravenclaw. There was no response, so the Council carried out the urgent works in the following months.

2011 October – Simon Opie was appointed by the Trust to be its first chief executive officer (CEO).

2012 March 19 – A CPO was issued to Ravenclaw, but, as there was no significant opposition, the order was given the go-ahead by the government on 12 September 2012 for its next stages.

2012 November 19 – The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded an increased grant for the pier of £11.4 million, with the Pier Trust having to find another £2.5 million to meet the budget at that time of £13.9 million.

2013 March 9 – The members of the Pier Trust formally agreed that its assets and role should be transferred to the new Hastings Pier Charity (HPC), which was officially incorporated as ‘community benefit society’ on 10 October 2013.

2013 April 12 – The High Court ruled that Hastings Council should pay substantial damages to Stylus Sports for stopping the company trading between 16 June and 12 September 2006 by closing the pier. A final appeal has still not been heard.

2013 August 14 – The CPO had been completed and it was enacted on this day, with the HPC taking possession of the pier on the next day, August 15. Preliminary work on rebuilding and restoring the pier took place in the rest of 2013.

2013 October 5 – The HPC launched a ‘community share offer’ as part of its role of raising £2.5 million. The shares were sold for £100 each, with over 3,000 people buying a total of about £600,000 when the offer closed.

2014 early January – Major work began on the pier.

2014 February 4 – A severe storm caused serious damage to the pier’s substructure, near the seaward end, which was to cost £1 million to repair.

2014 March 4 – The first piece of new decking was laid.

2014 September 18 – A ‘jack-up’ barge with four legs began a month of helping demolish the remains of the sea-end pavilion and repairing the February 4 storm damage. At the end of 2014 the only building on the pier was the former bandstand shelter, on the west side of the parade extension.

2016 April 27 – The pier opened ‘unofficially’.

2016 May 21 – The special gala opening of the pier took place.

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