Boscombe Pier, Bournemouth

Boscombe Pier, Dorset

Piers are remarkable things. Remnants of a former era when British seaside resorts were thriving places, they stick their necks out against the tide in more ways than one. And they are all remarkable in different ways. It’s not the longest, shortest or oldest, but Boscombe Pier, near Bournemouth in Dorset has come to be known as Britain’s coolest.

In contrast to the delicate wrought-iron and ornate detail of Britain’s Victorian piers, Boscombe Pier is a modern streamlined affair. It has an audacious, almost Googie-style entrance with a geometric cantilevered roof, for all intents and purposes like the wings of a jet. The message is clear – Boscombe Pier has landed.

Like many of its peers (sorry) Boscombe Pier has not had its troubles to seek. Originally built in 1888, it had no head until 1926. It was partly demolished for security reasons during the Second World War and lay in a sorry state until the 1950s. Opinion was divided on what to do next. A war of words broke out in the Beaches and Pavilion Committee with one councillor proclaiming “Piers are really redundant” and another that “A seaside without a pier is like a pig without ears”.

The consensus was that Boscombe needed a lift and the pier was rebuilt. The borough architect, John Burton, designed the terribly modish entrance building in line with the Modernist style of the late-1950s. The pier neck was rebuilt in reinforced and pre-stressed concrete (so this one shouldn’t burn down) and The Mermaid Theatre at the head was opened in 1962 with the ultimate in modern entertainment – a roller rink.

Over time its popularity faded and The Mermaid Theatre closed in 1989. It was later demolished, and as the entrance building was also closed for health and safety reasons the future of the pier looked bleak once again. A council survey in 2003 showed overwhelming support for the pier’s regeneration, and Grade II listing ensured that its character was kept intact. Plans were drawn up for some big names to put Boscombe back on the map.

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