Worthing Pier has been enjoyed by generations of holidaymakers for over 150 years. Designed by Sir Robert Rawlinson and built by the Worthing Pier Company, it was officially opened on the 12th April 1862, and was the 13th pier opened in England. It was a great success from the start and was instrumental as a visitors attraction in helping Worthing blossom into a popular, thriving seaside town. The Worthing Pier Company soon realised the potential, and plans for improvements were soon put in place. Before the end of the 19th century, these included two kiosks, a tollhouse, souvenir shop, a pavilion, and a landing stage to welcome Paddle Steamers such as the Worthing Belle. When Worthing Borough Council purchased the pier in March 1921, they continued with developments and improvements, including a new 1000 seater Pavilion which is still in use today.
The Pier has fought off a number of disasters in it’s lifetime. A storm with winds reaching 80mphs battered the south coast on Easter Monday 1913, and tore apart the decking between the Pavilion and the shore as crowds gathered to watch. It was closed for over a year for repairs. In 1933, a fire broke out and destroyed the entire South Pavilion, as residents desperately helped fire crews rescue furniture and items from the building, and ripped up decking to stop the fire spreading. After a 2 years repair, it was reopened with great improvements, and was dubbed “the sun-trap of the south” by the Daily Mirror. However, the respite didn’t last long as the pier was deliberately sabotaged by the Government in 1940 to hinder a potential enemy invasion, by blasting a 120 foot hole in the decking! As fears of invasion eased, it was then occupied by the military, and suffered severe general neglect. It was finally reopened to the public in April 1949, having benefited from funds from the War Damage Commission to repair and restore it to it’s former glory.
As it stands today, the pier is 960ft (296m) in length and 36ft wide. Due to various repairs and reconstruction efforts, many sections date from different periods of time, such as recycled cast iron water mains used for some of the Pier’s piles during the post-WWII repair work due to shortage of supplies. The condition of various sections also varies greatly along the structure.
Worthing Pier Timeline
1860 – Worthing Pier Company formed to build Worthing’s first pier. Sir Robert Rawlinson commissioned to design it.
1861 – 4th July, construction starts with first pile driven in.
1862 – April 12th, Worthing Pier opens to the public. The structure cost £6500.
1874 – First band performance on the pier
1881 – The Rhine Band performs daily
1887 to 1898 – Major developments spearheaded by renowened civil engineer James Mansergh: The decking is widened, a 650 foot pavilion was built at the pier head, and entry kiosks built at the entrance.
1898 – July 1st, the new Worthing Pier has a grand opening, attended by Viscount Hampden
1913 – Easter Monday, the decking collapses during a violent storm, isolating the Southern Pavilion which become known as “Worthing’s Easter Islands”. Pier closed to the public.
1914 – May 29th, Lord Mayor of London officially reopens the pier.
1920 – Worthing Corporation purchase the pier for £18,978, and spend £40,000 on repairs in the following years
1925 – Building begins on a new shoreward end pavilion, designed by Adshead and Ramsey
1926 – June, new shoreward end pavilion is officially opened
1933 – September 10th, fire destroys the Southern Pavilion.
1935 – July, new Southern Pavilion opens, costing £18,000
1937 – Amusement pavilion is built and opened halfway along the pier
1940 – World War II – Pier is closed to the public, and a 120 metre section of the decking is destroyed to thwart potential enemy invasion
1942 – The shoreward pavilion is used as a troop recreation centre
1946 – With the war over, the shoreward pier is reopened to the public in June, however the rest of the pier remains closed due to a shortage of steel delaying reconstruction efforts.
1949 – April, the pier finally reopens to the public. Steamer services restart with the PS Waverley and MV Balmoral visiting regularly.
1958 – March, the shoreward end pavilion receive a £9000 restoration, much needed after neglect during war use.
1959 – The Denton Lounge is built.
1979 to 1982 – The shoreward pavilion is redeveloped as an entertainment centre
2008 – The Birdman competition moves to Worthing Pier
2012 – April, Worthing Pier celebrates it’s 150th Anniversary.
2012 – August, nightclub lease runs out on southern pavilion, which stays empty and unused for the next 20 months
2014 – Southern Pavilion reopens as a new all purpose venue, to wide acclaim.