Chronological Data1802. First small jetty built, at the western end of the path below the Shrubbery, for the convenience of those who made use of the pleasure boats.1828. Meeting of local landowners called to discuss how to improve the amenities of Southend, one of the proposals was to construct a new pier and jetty or causeway from the shore to deep water where the flag will be hoisted and a light constantly burning at night, so passengers and goods may be landed at all times of the tide without delay, inconvenience and risk of accident.1829, 14th May. The first Pier Act received Royal Assent.1829, 25th July. Lord Mayor of London lays the foundation stone of the first section of the new structure.1830, June. The first section of the wooden pier, which did not exceed 1,500 feet in length was opened.1834. The loading pier called the “Lighthouse” or “The Mount” opened replacing Clarence the 100ft vessel moored in the deep channel.1835. Plans to extend the pier again to the deep water channel in the estuary.1835. The pier is first marked on the Admiralty chart, as the result of a survey in 1834-1835.1846. Extension completed, the pier runs from shore to the deep water channel. Southend claims to have the longest pier in Europe, length was now 1 mile and a quarter in length, with a tramway that runs the length, the car being drawn by two horses.1846. Pier sold by the mortgagees to developers of Cliff Town for £17,000.1846, September. Naval officer falls from the promenade into the sea, luckily he was rescued. For the next ~28 years the pier had various owners.c1874. Pier offered to the Southend Local Board for £12,000 eventually sold for £10,000.1877. Southend Local Board vote to build new pier and is authorised by an Act of Parliament.1877. First yacht race around the UK, starts and finishes at the pier.1879. First lifeboat is stationed on the pier.1881. January. Pier damaged during a great storm. 1881. The Barge West Kent owned by Messrs. Vandervored hits the pier, a large portion was carried away.1883, 30th July. Commercial maritime signalling for Lloyds of London set up on the pier head.1885. New Pier Entrance Toll House erected.1885. Construction starts on the new iron pier next to the original wooden pier.1887. Pier extended by 150 yards.1887, 29th March. Act of Parliament passed for new iron pier.1887. 1st September. At the request of the General Post Office the signal station at the pier head commenced to function as a public telegraph office. Later being rehoused to a new signalling station on the new extension.1888. Southend becomes a Borough the new Town Council faces gradual silting up of the channel at the pier Head. This problem was met with an extension of the new pier and new pier head costing £21,000.1889. First section of the new iron pier is completed and opened to the public. This was the first pier in England to have an electric railway, the old Toast-Rack tram ran on a single track.1890, May. The old pier was not to go without excitement. As its structure was made of wood It was not unusual for outbreaks of fire to occur. Up to this date they had all been easily dealt with a bucket or two of water. Some fifty yards of decking was destroyed on the last Sunday in May. The following Thursday the old pier was on fire again nearly a quarter of a mile of planking was destroyed. The efforts of the firemen was hampered because this section of the old pier was loaded with materials used for the building of the new pier structure. The reflection was seen for miles, and took some hours for the outbreak to be subdued. The fire created much alarm among the townspeople. 1890, 24th August. Newly constructed iron pier officially opens to the public although still incomplete.1895, July. Pier sliced in two by a lighter barge owned by the Thames Lighterage Company during a gale.1896-1897. Construction of pier extension starts due to silting up of the Thames.1898. Formal opening of the new extension and pier head.1898. Article from a Southend Guide on the new iron Pier.THEPIERhasawideplatform,andvisitorsarechargedonepennyeachforpromenadinguponit.Atramwayalsorunsdownone side.Itisoneofthefavouritepromenadesoftheplace,andisusuallywellattendedbypedestriansandanglers,whoattachbaited lines to the side rails and catch or attempt to catch many kinds of fish.CAPTAINKELLYwaselectedPierMaster,March1891.TheRevenuefromthePiertheyearbeforehis appointmentwas£5,250,butitwasanticipatedthat,withgoodmanagement,itwouldreach£7,000,butasa matteroffactitreached£9,340,andtheyearendingLadyDay,1896,itwas£13,579,whichagainwas exceeded the following year and reached no less a sum than £14,300.Hisdutiesaregreatandhedoesthemwell.HehassolechargeofthePieranditsapproaches,theloadingpier jetties,beachandforeshore,allplant,goodsandproperties,theproperconductoftrams,andhehastoreport onallapplicationsforlicenses,thecollectionofrentsandtolls,andtocheckandcertifyallaccounts.The Corporationhasnot,probably,amorehardworkingservant.Shouldheeverretire,itwillbeadifficultmatterto fill his place.THEPAVILIONiscapableofseating1,200people,ithasanexcellentstage,andduringtheseasonperformancesaregivendaily, afternoonandevening.TheelectriclightisusedtoilluminatethepierandPavilion.Aboutaquarterofamileapartsheltershave beenerectedforrestingpurposes,shouldrainorfatigueovertakeonewhilestrollingdown. AttheextremeareLloyd’sofficesanda flagstaffwhichisusedforsignallingpurposes;therearealsoarefreshmentroom,lighthouse,cloakroom,etc. Thereisalsoalanding stage for the steamers which arrive daily form London, Sheerness, Chatham, and Rochester, during the summer months.THENEWPIEREXTENSIONwasconstructedintheyears1896-97bytheCorporation,atacostof£20,000,forthepurposeof givinggreaterfacilitiesandsafetytotheSteamboatPassengers(numbering,landingandembarking,lastseason211,000)andalso to give sufficient water to the larger class of steamers now plying.
Building the first wooden pier.Intheyear1814thefirstpassengersteamercompletedavoyagefromLondontoMargateontheRiverThames.Thatdaywasan importantoneforthelittleKenttownforuntilthentheonlymeansoftransporthadbeenthestagecoachorsailingboat.Itwouldbe twentyyearsormorebeforevisitorscouldtravelbyrailwayanditwas,therefore,notsurprisingthatthesteamboatservicewasan immediate success. So much so that in 1825, only 11 years later, steam vessels carried 50,000 people on the Margate run.PeoplewhowereinterestedindevelopingSouthendasa“wateringplace”becamealarmedattheprosperitywhichthesteamboat wasbringingtoMargate.TidalconditionsatSouthenddidnotpermitevenasmallsteamertodisembarkpassengersclosetothe shoreexceptathighwateranditwasevidentthatifSouthendwastosurviveasaholidayresorttheprovisionofbetterlanding facilitieswasessential.Therewerelocalpleasurecraftandbarges,ownedbyMr.Mayall,Mr.Cockerton,andMr.Vandervord; however,apartfromshortjettiesand‘hards’,nopierexistedforpassengersandgoodslandingatlowwater.Agroupoflocal landowners,whocouldforeseethebenefitofincreasedtradeandtraffic,metattheRoyalHotel,andproposed,amongotherthings, thatapiershouldbeerected. Thereforean ActofParliamentwastobesought,promptedbybySirWilliamHeygate,oneofthelocal landowners,formerresidentofRoyalTerrace,andformerLordMayorofLondon.Theschemewastobefinancedthrough subscriptionsandshares,andthemoneyrecoupedthroughtollchargesongoodsandpeople.Aftersomearguments,andvarious objectionsthepierwouldstartatthefootofRoyal Terraceridge,withatollhouseerectedatitsentrance.Ontheeastsideofthepier would be a harbour, consisting on little more than breakwater.Thefirstsectionofthepier,some1,500ftinlength,wasopenedin1830andwasbuilt almostentirelyofwoodandeventuallycontinueduntilitextendedtoabouthalfamile fromtheshore.Asthetiderecededbeyondthispoint,passengersdesiringtoembark hadtoproceedfromhereonfootorbycartalongahardwayofshingleforafurther quarterofamilewheretheywerefacedbyastretchofwateroverwhichtheyhadtobe ferriedinsmallboatstothepierheadinthedeepwaterchannel. Thiswasatfirstanold vesselnamed“Clarence“about100ftinlength,laterreplacedbyastructureofpiles calledthe“TheLighthouse”or“TheMount”.Neverthelessinspiteofitsinconveniencea dailyserviceofsteamboatsfromLondonwassooninoperationandexcursionswere run to Herne Bay.ThebuildingofthepierwasnotonlytheprojectforwhichthePierCompanyhad receivedParliamentarysanction,butincludedalsotheprovisionofaproperharbourfor barges,etc.,ontheeastside,themakingupofPierHill,theconstructionofaroadby theseatoShoeburynessandalsoaroadtoPrittlewell.Butby1835allthemoneyhad beenspent,thepierwasincompleteandnoroadshadbeenmade.Furtherapplication toParliamentwasnecessaryandasaconditionofsanctioningtheraisingoffurther capital,thecompanywererequiredtocarrythepiertodeepwater.Thiswas accomplishedin1846andSouthendcouldthenclaimtohavethelongestpierin Europe,thecompletedstructurebeingamileandaquarterinlength.Itwasbuilt entirelyofwood,thefirst600fthavingawidthof20ftbeyondwhichthepromenade graduallydiminishedtoaminimumwidthof8ft. Atramwayranthelengthofthepier,the carbeingdrawnbytwohorsesdriventandemfashion.Thepierheadwas102ftin width,hadthreeberthingplacesforsteamandsailingvessels,whichenabled passengers to land and embark at all states of tides.
1830 The Pier and Pier Hill.
The original Pier with harbour.
1898 The Iron Pier with entrance Toll House and Pavilion.
The original Pier with harbour and octagon
The original Pier with covered octagon platform.
1898, 10th December. Nearly 100ft of the pier is wrecked by the ketch Dolphin causing damage at a cost of over £1,000.1900, March & December. Pier wrecked by vessels causing damage to the structure.1902, Water chute opens left to the pier entrance, this was in built part of the old harbour only to be replaced quite soon afterwards by a boating pool.1907. Permission granted for extension of the railway & covering of pier head station. 1907, 14th December. Pier hit by the barge Robert, laden with hay causing a 60ft gap, damage was to the western promenade side near the old Pier head over twelve piles were broken.1908, 25th July. Upper Promenade Deck pier extension opened by Mayor Alderman J. C. Ingram. 1908, 23rd November. Thames Conservancy hulk Marlborough broke from her moorings in a gale and was carried through the promenade between the old and new pier heads destroying 60ft of decking.1909, 12th July. Barge Alzima hits the pier between third & fourth shelters with slight damage.1914. Admiralty takes over the signal station pier head.1914, November. Three prison ships moored off the pier holding German soldiers and civilians. Due to safety concerns in spring 1915 prisoners were moved away to other camps. 1915, March. Captured German U-boat exhibited at pier head.1917, August. Plane crash lands on pier causing light damage.1919. Railway track found to be of poor condition, new running rails fitted.1921, 18th January. Pier broken in two when the concrete motor ship Violette went through the pier between the last shelter and the old pier head. Piles were broken for about 160ft, decking and tramway etc had to be replaced.1921. Red lights installed along the length of the pier to warn sea craft of structure. 1921, 14th July. Pier reopens. King George V visits Southend for yachting week 1927. Upper pier deck extended. 1928, 20th September. Pier train crash. Shore bound and pier head bound carriages collided at the entrance to the changeover causing damage to both the pier and carriages. No serious injuries were reported and an emergency rail service was resumed three hours later. 1929, 7th July. Prince George extension opens at the cost of £57,700.1930: Improvements to railway track start.1931. The old entrance toll house is demolished. 1931. Louis Tussauds waxworks opens next to entrance of the pier. 1931, 7th June, Mr. Ernest Turner fell from and was run over by one of the electric trams. He was instantly killed, verdict was accidental death. 1932. Further extension work carried out the pier becomes the worlds longest at 1.49 Miles (2.4 kilometres).1933,17th March. Pier damaged by Matilda Upton barge in a gale, about 20 yards of the promenade deck was damaged costing £3,000 to repair. 1933,16th April. Pier railway reopens as a two track system.1935, January. First launch from the new lifeboat station.23rd July. The Pier’s centenary. Unveiling of a tablet on the boathouse and official opening of the slipway by the Chairman of the Port of London Authority Lord Ritchie of Dundee. 1935, May. Home Fleet visit for King George V Silver Jubilee.1937. Man falls from pier train landing on sand below. 1937, May. Visit of the Home Fleet for the Coronation of King George IV.1939, 25th August. Southend pier is taken over by the Royal Navy and becomes HMS Leigh. Southend becomes the headquarters of the Thames and Medway Control. The Army thought is was tempting to an invader. Two hundred Pioneers lived on it months. Pill boxes were built beyond the pavilion. Depth charges and chutes and U.P. rockets were installed on the pier head. A special upper deck was built on the Prince George Extension and mounted anti aircraft guns in concrete emplacements from which fine work was done against the Luftwaffe and flying bombs. 1939, 9th September. Pier closes to the public. 1939, 22nd November. Southend Pier and anchorage attacked from the air by the Germans. 1940, August. Heinkel He111’s stick bomb the pier. 1941, February. Pier station hit by bomb slight damage.1939-1945. V2 hits the pier pavilion, rocket went through the roof then the floor before embedding its self in the mud below, luckily it failed to detonate.1945, 17th May. After restoration to peace time condition, the full length of the pier is opened to the public.1949. End of life for Toast Rack carriages, it is reported they had travelled in excess of 3 million miles carrying 65 million people. 1949, March. New railway carriages delivered. 1949, April. Inauguration of the new pier electric trains by Lord Broadbridge, Lord Mayor of London.1950. The Dolphin Restaurant is built.1950, 20th May. Pier railway Jubilee Season.1953. Pier entrance gets a special Royal Archway to celebrate the 1953 Coronation.1959, October. The pier pavilion is destroyed by fire.1963, September. Medway Queen paddle steamer makes her last visit. c1963. New bowling alley built on the site of the pavilion.1969, 8th August. Fire in the Dolphin Restaurant, pier head. 1969. Steamboat service from the pier head is suspended.1970. Californian Consortium offer to buy for £12.5 million and move the pier to the USA. 1971. A child falls through rotten decking prompting the start of a total rebuild of the deck. 1971,11th August. Fire in storeroom & disused restaurant pier head.1973. The Save Southend Pier Action Group is set up.1973, December. The pier becomes grade 2 listed.1974. Pier railway goes back to single track operation.1976, 25th March. Lifeboat operations are stopped due to the silting up of the area around the lifeboat slipway. 1976, 29th July. Fire destroys the pier head.1977, May. Remaining pier head businesses reopen.1977, November. Fire in the roof of the bowling alley building.1978, 1st October. Railway track found to be unsafe pier trains withdrawn from use.1980, 31st July. Emergency budget meeting held by Southend Borough Council. Voting concluded that the pier should close although this never happened.1980. Lecorgne Amusements take over pier operations.1984, November. Restoration project starts.1985. Reconstruction of pier railway starts.1986. Brent Walker take over running the pier. 1986, 11th & 12th March. New diesel powered pier trains are delivered. 1986, 2nd May. New pier train service runs again and is officially opened by HRH Princess Anne. 1986, 30th June. The sugar tanker Kings Abbey slices the pier in two and destroys the lifeboat house. Later a temporary boathouse station was set up. 1986. 11th August. Gap left by the Kings Abbey tanker collision bridged from the pier head to the main pier. 1988. Brent Walker ceases running of the pier.1989. Centenary of the iron pier. New pier Museum opens.1995, 7th June. The bowling alley is destroyed by fire.1998. Bowling alley area re-decked. 2000. 17th November, New pier illuminations are switched on.2001, 13th August, The pier bridge is hit by double decker bus. 2001, October. Ideas are discussed to replace the trains with a monorail or cable cars. 2001, October. Upgrade to the fire fighting facilities on the pier.2002. Pier bridge and entrance demolished. 2002. New lifeboat house opens. 2002. Re-decking of last remaining section of the1976 fire damage begins. The sun deck is also rebuilt.2003, February. Yacht collides with pier head, crew climbs up pier supports to safety, boat sinks in the heavy seas. 2003, May. New glass pier entrance and bridge constructed. Refurbishment to the pier shelters and toilets.2004, 16th June. Speed boat hits pier and sinks, three people on board suspected of drinking are injured.2005. Pier trains are given a new look and painted from red to blue. 2005. Hexagonal pier head pavilion demolished. 2005, 9th October. Fire destroys the old pier head including the railway station, pub, shell shop, snack bar and ice-cream shop.2005, 12th October 2005. Fire reignites on the pier head decking but is soon extinguished.2005, 1st December. Pier reopens, visitors can view the pier head from temporary platform.2006, 5th August. Pier fully reopens after damage is repaired.2009, 17th September. Pier train derails, on its way to the opening of the new pier head station. 2009, 17th September. New pier head station opens costing £2.4 million.2010, 24th December. Pier closed due to damage caused by bad weather. 2010, 30th December. Emergency repairs complete pier opens again.2011, September. Maintenance barge moored at the pier slams into the pier by bad weather. Pier closes until damage is repaired.2012, February. Pier closes due to being struck by fishing boat.2014, October. Small fire on the shore end of the pier little damage.2012, 17th May. A new pavilion built at Tilbury is lowered onto the pier head by crane. 2012, 19th July. The new pavilion opens to the public as the Royal Pavilion Cultural Centre on the pier head.2016, June. Pier closes for repairs and checks on the structure.2020, March. Pier closes to the public in line with national government guidelines as the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold of the country and a blanket lockdown is introduced.2020. Pier re opens with COVID-19 restrictions in place.2020. 5th November. Pier closes again due to another COVID-19 lockdown.2020. 2nd December Pier reopens with COVID-19 restrictions in place.