Hastings Pier was a pleasure pier in Hastings, East Sussex, England. Built in 1872 and enjoying its prime in the 1930s, though becoming a popular music venue in the 1960s, it received major storm damage in 1990, closed to the public between 1999 and 2002, then closed again from 2006. Efforts continued to save the pier, which was in need of much investment. In the early hours of October 5, 2010, the pier suffered from a devastating fire (the second in its history) that destroyed 95% of its superstructure. The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust say that, pending a structural survey, the substructure (the cast iron supports under the pier) may be salvageable. However, developers for Hastings Borough Council confirmed in an interview on 20 October 2010 that no plans had arisen as of yet.
The pier was opened on 5 August 1872, by the then Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Earl of Granville. It was designed by Eugenius Birch, who also designed the West Pier, Brighton and Eastbourne Pier, both west of Hastings, and it is often seen as an innovative design considering the technical constraints of the late-Victorian period. It was originally 910ft (280m) long.
The original 2,000 seater pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1917. This was eventually replaced in 1922 and played host in the 1960s and the 1970s to notable artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Genesis, Tom Jones, Ten Years After, and Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett played his last ever show with the band here, on January 20th 1968.
During the 1930s, the pavilion extension buildings received an art deco facelift and a theatre rebuild. This was to be its prime era.
More renovation followed its temporary closure during WWII and it housed the famous Hastings embroidery during the 1066 celebrations in 1966.
Elements of the pier became listed in 1976 and subsequently changed hands on a regular basis with erratic structural renovation input from its subsequent owners.
In 1990 it suffered considerable storm damage, requiring a £1 million refurbishment. In 1996 it was put up for sale, but the future of the pier was put in grave doubt as interested buyers were reluctant to invest due to the serious amount of capital needed to improve the unstable structural supports. Financial losses led to the appointment of liquidators Leonard Curtis who closed the pier in 1999.
The pier was eventually sold in 2000 and reopened under new ownership in 2002. It was passed to an offshore enterprise in 2004.
In July 2006, Hastings Borough Council, upon discovering that part of the pier’s structure was unsafe, promptly closed the pier to the general public. Protracted legal wranglings between the pier’s owners, Raven’s Claw Investments, and Hastings Borough Council followed. Finally, Stylus Sports, a pier tenant who operated the gaming attractions, in conjunction with Hastings Borough Council, funded much of the needed £300,000 of repairs, which enabled the court order closing the pier to be lifted. This financial infusion enabled the majority of the pier to reopen on 4 July 2007.
However, on 12 March 2008 the Hastings Observer reported to concerned locals how storm damage had caused considerable damage and that two support columns were in imminent danger of collapse. To prevent public access and any resulting injuries, stronger barriers restricting public access to the damaged areas were put in place and repairs to the bracing fixtures prevented any disaster from occurring. Nevertheless, when the remaining major tenant closed for business, access to the pier was restricted. The failure of the owners to respond to appeals from the Council to repair the areas and the continual deterioration of the structure led to its long-term future becoming uncertain.
The Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust was established to raise funds through various means to renovate the pier, ranging from community fund raising (cup collecting, raffles and quiz nights etc.) to larger scale grant applications. Their long term goal is to acquire the pier and form a not-for-profit company to renovate, reopen and revitalise the pier as a community owned asset. The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT) strongly oppose to any decision to demolish and clear the site of the structure, which would cost an estimated £4 million of local money.
In August 2009, the Hastings Observer launched a campaign petition to Save the Pier, which is available for anyone interested in signing via an online website. More than 3,000 people have so far signed up. On Saturday 17 October 2009 more than 1,000 disgruntled residents marched along Hastings seafront to the Town Hall in protest of the Hastings Borough Councils’ alleged lack of impetus with regard to dealing with the pier as an eyesore and its alleged unlawful sale to a foreign business, although there was no domestic interest. The march concluded with members of the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT) handing a Compulsory Purchase Order pack, to the Council. It was hoped by many individuals and local small businesses that a decisive outcome would err in favour of promoting the seafront as a picturesque tourist attraction once again.
In November 2009 Kerry and Michelle Michael, along with a team of engineers, examined the possibility of purchasing Hastings Pier and restoring it to its former glory. These siblings also own The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare, which caught fire in 2008 and destroyed the pavilion, but they rebuilt it at a cost of more than £50million. However after a structural assessment of the Hastings Pier, it was estimated that repairs would cost in excess of £24million, with a similar amount needed to restore attractions to the pier head. The engineers dismally commented that the pier is “one good storm away from collapse”.
Despite funding set-backs in 2009, such as the withdrawal of Capacity Builders grants, the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust continued its efforts at revitalizing the pier.
Prior to its destruction in an October 5, 2010 fire, Hastings Pier was deemed the most at risk pier in the UK by the National Piers Society.
On 1 February 2010, Hastings Borough Council finally resolved to develop an approval in principle to compulsorily purchase the Pier on the agreement of a business plan and suitable funding source. The decision followed a study which showed the pier could be made safe for public use for £3million. On 16 March, Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust successfully obtained a £75k Feasibility grant to fund the completion of necessary engineering surveys and architectural plans for their overall business plan of securing capital funding.
The pier suffered extensive fire damage during the early hours of Tuesday, October 5, 2010. Although the fire brigade arrived shortly after being alerted (at approximately 0100 BST), the fire had quickly spread causing severe damage to the wooden buildings. Estimates indicate that 95% of the superstructure of the pier was subsequently destroyed in the fire. Two men, aged 18 and 19, both from St Leonards, were arrested on suspicion of arson, but, despite numerous bail hearings, no charges have yet been made.
A passing police patrol and local people raised the alarm at 0100 BST after seeing a small fire, but the pier was rapidly engulfed in flames. Residents reported hearing a series of explosions. Fire brigade spokesman Simon Rose said 95 per cent of the upper structure of the 280-metre-long pier had been destroyed. He said the priority for firefighters had been to preserve as much of the structure as they could “to see if something can be done with it in the future”.
Hastings Borough Council were granted £100k toward emergency works by English Heritage in April 2011. This funding will be used for structural supports to be applied to the central section which has been weakened since losing its deck in the fire.
On 10th May 2011, it was announced by Heritage Lottery Fund that a Stage 1 development grant, releasing the first £357,400 of a total £8.75m grant was awarded by Heritage Lottery on 10th May 2011.
This development grant will be used to complete the business plan, develop the heritage learning and activities programme and raise the £1m funding match. In the meantime, Hastings Borough Council will be progressing the CPO. The remaining award (Stage 2) is subject to the funding match being raised, the authorisation of the business plan by the HLF and the successful completion of the CPO.
Angela Davis, HPWRT trustee who led the application said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting our project. This news strengthens our resolve to continue working with Hastings Borough Council to secure the pier’s ownership so we can deliver the vision of an iconic pier for Hastings.”
Jess Steele, Treasurer, added: “The Battle for Hastings Pier isn’t over yet and the Trust needs your support as much as ever, including raising the essential match funding. So please sign up as a member, sponsor a plank or become a volunteer. As the banner on the People’s Pier says: ‘You Can Save Me!’”
Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund was extremely impressed by the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust’s ability to mobilise enthusiastic support from the town’s local community for this innovative project. It was evident to us that this was a historic structure that people really cared about. The Trust is right at the start of their journey to fully restore the Pier and we look forward to working closely with them in the coming months as their plans begin to take further shape.”
“Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust need your help, please come and visit and shop in our Pier Information Centre and Shop at Arthur Green on Thursdays to Mondays 10am to 5pm and join our membership programme or adopt a plank.”
“Over the next six to twelve months we will be developing further our volunteer program, if you have some free time why not join in by completing this short form and we will contact you in the future, once we have developed the roles required to deliver the Peoples Pier.”
Campaigners have also been active on the Facebook page, Save Hastings Pier, which has more than 2,300 members.