During a trip to Brighton this weekend, to meet up with friends and see a very loud rock band, I happened to notice the notorious West Pier. It was hard to miss, being situated opposite our seafront hotel. It was built in 1866 by the naval architect Eugenius Birch, who was also responsible for the neighbouring Palace Pier. The picture above shows the West Pier in its heyday.
Sadly, it no longer looks like this. Years of neglect led to the Pier's closure in 1975, as local authorities were concerned about public safety on the increasingly ramshackle structure, and the West Pier Trust was set up to promote the structure's eventual renovation.
Renovation plans were opposed by many local businesses who, presumably disregarding the historical importance of a Grade 1 listed building in their environment, resented the competition that a refurbished Pier would provide. Since then, the structure has been hit by a catalogue of disasters, some natural, some deeply suspicious.
December 2002: The walkway between the Concert Hall and the Pavilion collapsed in a storm.
January 2003: The Concert Hall collapsed, having been destabilised by the same storm.
March 2003: Despite being seabound, the Pavilion at the end of the Pier was destroyed in an arson attack.
May 2003: The collapsed Concert Hall also burns down.
June 2004: The remaining walkway collapses in high winds.
The future of the West Pier looks grim, considering its current condition.
In the 1980's, the IRA attacked the Grand Hotel in Brighton in an attempt to wipe out Mrs Thatcher and her Cabinet. Despite serious damage, the Hotel was restored and remains in use today. The equally venerable West Pier, however, is a tumbled, skeletal wreck, a blot on the seascape. Perhaps it could have been saved were it not for the objections of the so-called locals who wished to keep the contents of the tourist wallet to themselves, rather than see the town's Victorian heritage celebrated.
Who needs Terror, when we already have Mammon?