Palace Pier

Brighton’s Palace Pier, originally known as Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, opened to the public for the first time on 20 May 1899. The pier was not actually complete on this date. Like many ambitious schemes, its construction had been severely delayed, requiring Acts of Parliament and the intervention of a local benefactor to keep the project alive. But the fact that it had come this far was obviously seen as a cause for celebration; the promenade deck was duly unveiled and the Mayoress, Mrs Clara Hawkes, gamely secured the first column of the soon-to-be-built pavilion with a silver spanner.

The Brighton Herald, May 1899
The Brighton Herald, May 1899

The opening ceremony, which was blighted by stormy weather, was reported in detail in the local papers. The Brighton Herald described how the Mayoress found herself, with a group of local dignitaries, ‘on the planked decking of the Pier, at least fourteen hundred feet out at sea, surrounded on all sides by a tumultuous swirl of waters, speeding shorewards in great, white, foam-topped waves.’ Speeches were made to honour the occasion but ‘the boisterous wind blew the words far away’ and, once the formalities were complete, the group retreated to the Royal Pavilion’s Music Room. There, according to The Brighton, Hove and Sussex Society, ‘under the comforting influences of dainty viands and choice wines, the discomforts of an hour ago were quickly forgotten.’

Palace Pier, 1902 Image courtesy of James Gray Collection / The Regency Society
Palace Pier, 1902 Image courtesy of James Gray Collection / The Regency Society

Kate Elms, Brighton History Centre

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