Bognor Regis Pier, West Sussex
Plans for a pier at Bognor go back to 1835. The first pile, however, was not driven until 1864. The 1000 foot pier opened on 5th May 1865 to the design of Sir Charles Fox and J.W.Wilson.
The local Board (later Bognor Urban District Council) bought the structure in 1876 for £1200. A small bandstand was added in 1880, followed by a seaward end pavilion which opened on July 9th 1900. A small landing stage was added in 1903.
When the pier became dangerous, it was sold privately, in 1909, on condition that repairs were carried out. In 1910/11, the new owners built a £30,000 complex at the shoreward end which contained a cinema, an arcade, a roof garden restaurant and a theatre (which opened on August Bank Holiday, 1912).
In World War One, 200 men were billeted here and in World War Two the pier became HMS St Barbara, an RN observation station.
Storm damage in 1964 and 1965 caused the pavilion to sink into the sea. The pier was sold in 1966 to the British American Novelty (Pier) Company for £35,000 but, after two fires in three months, it closed in December 1974 and was eventually sold to J.Harrison (Automatics) Ltd.
By 1992, its condition was very poor and restoration costs were estimated at a minimum of £500,000. In 1994, an application was made to demolish the decaying seaward end.
In 1995, a new company was formed to bid for National Lottery funding. John Ayers became owner in 1996 and, in 1997, it was reported that he was prepared to commit £576,000 (one quarter of the total estimated repair bill) towards re-development. However, the rejection of the bid (in March 1998) put the derelict seaward end at great risk of demolition.
On 27 June 2010 the Royal Air Force Association marked Armed Forces Day by erecting a plaque on Bognor Regis pier commemorating its use as a naval station, HMS St Barbara, during World War II. The flag now hangs in the RAFA building in Waterloo Square facing the pier. Click here for photographs of the event.
Each year, up to 2008, the pier hosted the annual Birdman Rally. However, following the removal of sixty feet of the remaining decking at the end of the pier on safety grounds, the event was transferred to Worthing. However, in 2010, despite initial concerns about the depth of water, the event returned to Bognor and there are now annual events at both Bognor and Worthing.
In August 2011 a fire in a storage unit at the end of the pier caused several thousand pounds worth of damage.
The International Birdman competition returned for a second time in September 2011 after high winds and a choppy sea stopped flying in July. It was back again in 2012 and 2013.
In July 2013, it was reported that Bognor Regis Town Council was aiming to submit a Heritage Lottery bid for up to £5m for the historic seafront structure and the Picturedrome cinema. And in August 2013, the town mayor called for the whole town to support the bid.
In September 2013, the Bognor Pier Trust, chaired by the mayor, was formed with the hope of taking ownership of the pier, with the support of the then owner John Ayers.
Heritage experts began assessing the Pier and Picturedrome bid in November 2013 and in December 2013, the local MP leant his support to the Trust’s project.
Fund raising activities began in earnest in February 2014 as enthusiasm for the project developed., and in April 2014, it was reported that Jess Steele, the fund raising expert that had assisted the Hastings Pier project, was being employed by the Trust.