A potted history

The West Pier was built between 1863 and 1866 by the Brighton West Pier Company and designed by the doyen of pier engineers, Eugenius Birch of Westminster.

The original construction
Consisting of iron screw piles which support iron columns – with iron girderwork supporting wooden decking, it originally only had two square kiosks at the entrance, two octagonal kiosks with minarets in the centre and four more octagonal kiosks at the corners of the large pier head platform.

Later additions to the pier
Later additions were the central windshield in 1890; the pavilion at the head in 1893 (designed to seat 1,400 people and converted into a theatre in 1903); the concert hall in the centre in 1916 and the raised entrance at the shore end in 1932.

World War II precautions
The pier was closed during the Second World War, and was cut in two to prevent an enemy landing. When it reopened, the the theatre was converted into an amusement arcade.

A famous film
Scenes in the very famous film ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’ were shot on the West Pier.

A listed building in 1970
By 1970, the owners of the pier were seaking to demolish part of the structure. The pier was listed to protect it, but the head of the pier was sealed off as dangerous. The pier was closed completely to the public in 1975.

Plans for restoration
There have been several plans to restore the Pier, and it became the only Grade I listed pier in the country in 1982. Some basic restoration work has been completed, but none of the development schemes have prevented the continuing decay of the pier. A kiosk fell into the sea in 1984, and the pier has been closed to tours on safety grounds.  In December 2002, the concert hall slumped into the sea when a temporary walkway collapsed. Despite this, a major restoration of the Pier is still being planned.

Comments about this page

  • Thank you so much. The information was so quick and easy to find. It was short to read but told me want I needed to know. Keep up the good work.

    By Jen (26/02/2003)
  • I was a member of the Sussex Police Force working in Brighton during the filming of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’. Together with many of my colleagues, we were employed by Richard Attenborough for the security when filming on the West Pier. We worked 8.00 am to 6.00 pm in between two night shifts – the pay was approx. double what we received as police officers. We ate the same food as the cast and the crew in a marquee erected on the pier itself just below the concert hall. Watching retake after retake got to be a bit boring after a while but it was very interesting seeing the stars so close up.

    By David Rowland (18/11/2003)
  • My grandmother used to work on the West Pier in the early 1920s. she worked in the concert hall. I remember her telling us about how she used to iron out the programmes and resell them to unsuspecting theatre goers!

    By Gill Bradshaw (10/03/2004)
  • Really useful info: easy, direct, and to the point! Top notch!

    By Bertha-Wallson Jones (15/03/2004)
  • My father, Rot Brookes, used to perform exhibition dives off the West Pier before the War. He would be tied in a sack and set alight only to escape under water after the dive!

    By Nikki Wells (13/07/2004)
  • This website saved me from a detention for not handing in homework – thank you!

    By Nikki Wells (13/07/2004)
  • Believe it or not, I also remember a chap doing exhibition dives from the end of the West Pier, however this was early to mid Sixties. Perhaps not Nikki Wells’ father, but a very similar show! The man was first tied up, then put in a sack with the top tied, then pushed from the end of the pier into the water. Within a very short time he somehow made his escape and swam to the surface to the cheer of a large crowd. I must have been under ten at the time but have remembered it ever since, it left a big impression on me. How could he possibly get out? Even now it seems very dangerous, just the drop to the water must have been some distance, never mind the deep cold water. To escape as well, to a young boy, seemed like magic.

    By Peter Groves (10/10/2005)
  • Thanks for this page! I had to do some research on the West Pier for my homework and this is best page I have found so far!

    By Victoria (09/01/2006)
  • It is very nice but I think it is a bit too old and needs to say what is going to happen to it in the future.

    By poo face (16/03/2006)
  • Mum took me on both piers at least once a fortnight. I remember when ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ was filmed there – I think most of the locals were in it! My good mate Eric Lomas had to wear an army uniform and use crutches which made his arms very sore. Happy days.

    By Sandie Waller (24/05/2007)
  • Are they still going to rebuild her?

    By Ian Goodman (11/01/2008)
  • Will the West Pier ever be reconstructed? It is an enormous shame and huge sadness that this historically important part of our heritage seems to be ignored.

    By Sandi Marchant (26/01/2013)
  • I led the second to last West Pier tour back in 1992 so have a keen interest in the fate (and the future) of the pier. The first aim of the Brighton West Pier Trust is to see the pier reconstructed – however the huge amount of damage inflicted on the structure by two severe fires and later storm damage means that this is now a long term objective; especially when the promised support and funding from English Heritage and the National Lottery was withdrawn. The proposal by Marks & Barfield for the i360 (sadly delayed by the financial crises of recent years) means that there is a hope for funds in the future to be directed to a pier rebuild. The website of BWPT can give you more information.

    By Geoffrey Mead (28/01/2013)
  • My father worked on the West Pier for about 20 years in the ’50s and ’60s. He was an electrician looking after all the electricity supplies to the lighting, and various machines and entertainment facilities. I especially remember the Old Time Music Hall which was held in the concert hall and the making of the film ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’. He loved his job and was very sorry to leave when the old pier was closed. I did manage to take him to see the ruins of the old pier a couple of years before he died and we both shed a tear or two on our visit. Good old days never forgotten.

    By Jill Mundy (nee Washington) (13/10/2015)

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