Fire engulfed our iconic Pier on Wednesday … smoke billowed upwards, the flames took hold and a great deal of the Grade II listed building was reduced to a shell …
… thankfully, as had not happened with Brighton West Pier and Hastings Pier, the fire was contained around the original ballroom – that in recent years housed gaming machines …
… so we have lost the middle third of the pier – but the fire-fighters did an amazing job at saving both of the ends … as piers usually burn along their length.
The Royal National Lifeboat Association sent lifeboats from various towns to help with the operation … as too the police, the coastguards and emergency services – it appears everyone was evacuated safely.
The Government has promised £2 million towards the restoration, while the Council are promising to get the repairs up and running as soon as the structure has passed its assessment.
Businesses face a major loss of trade at the start of the busiest month of the year for the pier and town … a benevolent fund has been set up, the Council is seeing how it can facilitate the traders, while the town seems to be rallying round. Obviously it’s early days yet.
Eastbourne Pier was opened in 1870 … work had begun in April 1865 … on New Year’s Day 1877 the landward half was swept away in a storm – nothing changes then!
There was a concert hall and main pavilion – the structure that was reduced to a pile of metal work this week – date from 1888; another pavilion was added in 1925.
In 1899 a large building (what – is not disclosed!) was removed from the pier and taken, probably by train – but possibly by sea and then up the River Ouse, to Lewes (our (East Sussex) county town) for use as a cattle shed.
|Camera Obscura tower|
In 1901, Neil Ridley’s camera obscura (an early precursor of the camera) was housed in a new building on the pier. It was the largest in the country and is thought to be the only one on a pier in the world: a rare surviving example of a once popular attraction.
During WWII there was an order to blow up piers … however it was spared with gun platforms being installed in the theatre to fend off invasion. The majority of the wooden decking was, at this time, also removed – concrete slabs replaced these later on.
|Gattina's pictures: top two taken on Monday,|
bottom two taken on Thursday, day after the fire
In 1945 the bandstand, erected in 1903, was removed.
The camera obscura fell into disuse in the 1960s but was restored in 2003 with a new stairway to provide access – fortunately this has not been damaged.
Eugenius Birch designed Eastbourne’s 1,000 foot long and 52 feet wide pier – he was a distinguished civil engineer, who designed 14 of the best piers in the country … including the two mentioned above.
Paddle steamers operated from the pier along the coast, and even over to Boulogne, from 1906 until the outbreak of the second World War.
At the end of the pier various traditional theatres were built over the years – but after a fire in 1970 the latest was replaced by a nightclub and bar – which remain to this day.
Fishing licences operated from the end of the pier … and it was a strategic place to be to watch the Airborne Show, which happens in August each year …
|Red Arrows flying past Eastbourne pier during|
one of the August Airborne shows
The pier, one of the best in the country, has had an interesting history, full of changing fortunes … and in 2009 was upgraded from a Grade II to a Grade II* listed building, following a review by English Heritage.
The pier and seafront have been used in numerous films, tv programmes and adverts … including the remake of Brighton Rock, a 2010 crime film loosely based on Graham Greene’s 1938 novel.
Social media has come to the fore in the call out to see if the perpetrators can be found from the many photographs and videos that people will have filmed during the day, and particularly just before the fire started to the evacuation of the building … behavioural scientists may find some clues …
My Wednesday started out quite quietly and continued on that way … with a trip out to Batemans (Rudyard Kipling’s home) with Gattina, who has been over from Belgium … she has great friends down here, so has a once a year visit.
|Gattina and I at Batemans - a 'collage'|
We’d met last year so had a comfortable day together ... chatting and wandering around Kipling’s gardens, estate and house.
We had coffee out there, then an early lunch! Wandered around the magnificent orchard, admiring the flower borders, checking out the rose garden around the pond, and on to the working mill (2 afternoons a week) … but up to the mill stream, the oast houses …
|Rose Garden leading to pond and on up to house|
Then tea and a tour of the house but I returned on Thursday to check out the WW1 exhibition based around John, Kipling’s son, who was killed two days after the Irish Guards were deployed at Loos, France … and other pertinent letters, treasures or reminders …
We then after a warm day in beautiful surroundings thought we’d better get back to Eastbourne … only to be greeted by Anne, Gattina’s friend, with “Eastbourne Pier’s burning”!!!!
|Another collage by Gattina|
Gattina went in for supper and a glue to the tv – while I wandered home to be greeted by “Eastbourne Pier’s burning” from my neighbours … and another pair of ears and eyes, after a dash up the stairs, were glued to the tv …
These photos are from Gattina – thank you … and for an enjoyable day … with the information coming from the National Archives …
A day in the life of an Eastbourne blogger?!
A day in the life of a Belgian blogger in Eastbourne ... thanks Gattina!
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories