A new book celebrates our seaside piers

The rich architectural heritage of pleasure piers is promoted in a new book, British Seaside Piers, published to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the first public pier, at Ryde on the Isle of Wight, in 1814. This comes just as the nation woke up to pictures of fire ripping through the atrium of Eastbourne’s 1870 pier last week.

The book is published by English Heritage on behalf of the National Piers Society, which was founded under Sir John Betjeman in 1979 to campaign for the conservation of these largely Victorian structures, of which there are now only 58 left from more than 100 at the beginning of the 20th century.

The book is the most authoritative and readable on the subject yet and is likely to become the first point of reference for those studying the subject. Somewhat controversially, the Brighton West Pier, which technically still stands as a defiant monument to years of neglect, and is described in the book as ‘arguably the finest pier ever constructed’, is omitted.

However, with gems such as Bangor and Clevedon surviving, the book shows there should be cautious optimism for the future of a structure whose days were thought numbered only three decades ago. British Seaside Piers by Anthony Wills and Tim Phillips costs £28; to order, telephone 01829 271275 or visit www.piers.org.uk.