The evolution of Great British seaside piersThe evolution of Great British seaside piers

When you think of seaside piers, you’re probably filled with wholesome memories of fish and chips, sugar dummies, slot machines, and funfairs that you’ll treasure for life.

Taking a trip through time, Away Resorts teamed with Dr. Anya Chapman from the National Piers Society to showcase the past, present, and the potential future of the UK’s most talked about piers.

Dr. Anya Chapman and the National Piers Society badge

Use the sliders below to see the evolution of British seaside piers

regenerated piers

Badge Clevedon is the only surviving
Grade-I listed pier in the UK

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Are there any piers that are set for regeneration in the coming months/years?

Dr. Anya Chapman - National Piers Society

There are so many piers currently undergoing repair, rebuilding, and regeneration, which shows how important it is to keep our seaside piers. Ramsey Queen's Pier in the Isle of Man and Totland Bay Pier on the Isle of Wight are set to be repaired and rebuilt in 2020. Colwyn Bay Pier in North Wales was washed away by a storm in 2017 and subsequently dismantled. In 2020 work on rebuilding a truncated pier will commence, as the Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust campaigned for the re-reinstatement of their much-loved pier. The pier revival around the coast continues and I can't wait to visit these 'new' piers!

Lost piers

42 The UK has lost 42 piers since the 1800s
61 There are currently 61 piers still standing

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Which piers are on the verge of becoming ‘lost’? (what can we do to save them?)

Dr. Anya Chapman - National Piers Society

As most seaside piers are around 150 years old you would expect the rate of loss and decline to increase, but in fact the reverse is true. As piers are increasingly recognised as important heritage structures, more piers have been saved than have been lost in the last 10 years.

Currently there are only two piers that are at significant risk of being lost: Weston Birnbeck Pier, and Southampton Royal Pier. However, piers are at risk from climate change - rising sea levels, storm surges, and beach erosion are constant challenges faced by all of the 61 seaside piers on the UK coast. In future years, maintaining and repairing these iconic structures will become increasingly costly, and so it is important that we visit and support piers as much as we can now.

The future pier

A top priority on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk national register, Weston Birnbeck pier is rapidly deteriorating, as its owners failed to serve the repairs notice, issued in September 2019.

Fighting for restoration, the Birnbeck Pier Regeneration Trust, a registered charity, has been working for several years looking at the feasibility of projects to bring the structure back into use. The future of the Birnbeck is uncertain, however recent discussions suggest North Somerset Council could buy the pier and give it a new lease of life.

In a bid to reveal what Birnbeck Pier could look like if it was regenerated for the 21st century, we worked with the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust and a top 3D designer to restore the pier to its former glory and give it a new lease of life.

The entrance gates, turnstiles, toll house lodge, North jetty, and lifeboat house are all Grade II listed buildings, meaning they cannot be demolished, and must instead be restored. Keeping in line with proposals from the Trust, we restored the veranda, with a vision of creating artisan workshops and market stalls for tourists.

By replacing the haunting ruins that lie in the East pavilion with an arts and culture centre, it is hoped that this design would encourage more young people to visit the pier throughout the year.

Taking inspiration from some of the UK’s most popular piers, we also added a funfair wheel, outdoor entertainment space, and a vintage style cinema.

Birnbeck Pier 1909
Birnbeck Pier 1909

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What does the future hold for UK seaside piers/towns?

Dr. Anya Chapman - National Piers Society

The future is bright for resorts and their piers as holidaymakers are increasingly returning to the delights and simple pleasures of the British seaside. Holidays at the coast provide family fun, outdoor activities and water sports, great views, an opportunity to unwind and enjoy a relaxed pace of life, and of course piers are an important part of this experience. 70% of all visits to the seaside include a walk down a pier, and there's nothing quite like the joy of walking out over the waves to make you remember that 'oh we do like to be beside the seaside’!

If you too would like to live beside the seaside, during your holidays, why not take a look at the holiday homes available for sale at Away Resorts.