A people’s pier

Hastings Pier has survived war and 144 years of change. After a devastating fire, grassroots action has helped it to re-emerge from the ashes (twice)

Hastings Pier was built in the Victorian era – completed in 1872 by engineer Eugenius Birch – and has undergone multiple changes over the years. From traditional pavilion and funfair in the early 1900s to an art deco makeover in the 1920s, it then stood as a training site during the second world war before becoming a music venue in the 60s and 70s. After years of neglect, Hastings Pier was lost to a fire in 2010.

But the community refused to give up on the landmark, and the Hastings Pier Charity (HPC) bought the remaining original substructure from Hastings Borough Council for £1 in 2013. In May, six years after the Grade II-listed structure burnt down, the HPC reopened the newly renovated pier.

More than 3,000 shareholders invested £100 or more into the restoration project and an £11.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabled the pier to be recreated. The project is governed by the HPC, which is a community benefit society, and operated by management, staff and volunteers.

Hastings Pier, 2016 Image: Daniel Sheering/Ramboll

‘Like a phoenix from the ashes’ – the new Hastings Pier opened to the public in May

The group believe the model could be a blueprint for threatened English seaside towns by helping boost tourism and employment. They liken the pier to a phoenix from the ashes, having made use of recycled sections of the old deck to create walls for the new information centre. Smaller pieces were sold as souvenir key rings. The pier is also set to host arts and cultural events, including film screenings and concerts.

“Having been a visitor to the pier during many summers of my life, I have a lot of fond memories of the old structure. But after it burnt there was little left,” said one recent visitor, Rob Cursons.

“They’ve done an amazing job of salvaging something from the remains. It’s now a tranquil and modern space. Plaques mark the original uses of the pier over the centuries, and the venue that now stands tall in the middle is beautifully designed. I’m glad I visited again to experience the pier in its newest and, I’m sure, not its last transformation.”

They’ve done an amazing job of salvaging something from the remains. It’s now a tranquil and modern space

Images: Daniel Sheering/Ramboll