“A walk on the sea without the disadvantage of being sick” - John Betjeman
Initially built for entirely practical reasons, as a landing stage for ships, the 'pleasure pier' soon evolved and became a 'must have' feature of the Victorian seaside resort. In the 1860s and 1870s, Britain was averaging two new piers a year.
Eastbourne Pier opened to holidaymakers in 1872. At 303m long, it was a standard pier in length and style. It was built purely as a promenade with a pair of tollbooths at the entrance and six small kiosks along the length.As more Victorian holidaymakers arrived by train, the need for landing stages waned and the piers turned into amusement arcades, ballrooms and places for simply looking out to sea.
During the Second World War machine gun platforms were installed at the end of Eastbourne Pier, turning it from a lighthearted pleasure ground into an effective defence against enemy landings.
Traditional summer holidays
Much of what we associate with traditional summer holidays - buckets and spades, donkey rides, candy-floss, paddling and rock-pooling - was invented by the Victorians. The rapidly expanding working-class holiday market of the late 19th century meant beach resorts sprung up around Britain in places like Blackpool and Southend.
Combining music halls, pleasure gardens, funfairs and exhibitions, the Victorians created entertainment centres that provided an annual escape from our dark industrial towns. They are still popular holiday destinations today.
Today we think of beach huts as popular places to relax, make cups of tea and keep out of the rain. These huts are another legacy of the Victorians. Beach huts originated from wheeled bathing machines, which were pushed down the beach and into the sea to keep prudish Victorian swimmers, in their modest bathing suits, out of sight until they were safely immersed in the water.