Southampton, United Kingdom
Southampton Royal Pier Hampshire
Photograph - Photograph- Digital Art
Southampton Royal Pier, Hampshire is located at the heart of an extremely busy south coast port, the Royal Pier at Southampton reflect many years of expansion to the structure.
Originally designed by Doswell, and built in timber by William Betts, Southampton Royal Pier was opened by Princess Victoria (just prior to her becoming Queen) in 1833.
New refreshment rooms were completed in 1896 and until the outbreak of the First World War, Southampton Royal Pier enjoyed its heyday. It could berth ten steamers at any given time, and the pavilion provided a whole programme of entertainments, including dancing, concerts, exhibitions, and even roller-skating from 1906.
The pier pavilion was extended in 1922 and the present gatehouse, described at the time as "wedding cake architecture", was opened in 1930. Designed by Edward Cooper Poole this new building was constructed nearer the pier neck to allow for a larger forecourt area at the entrance. Although the building as a whole is very ornate, one of the most noticeable features are the six cast-iron heraldic lions that survived from the earlier gatehouse. These magnificent crouching beasts, holding shields bearing the Hampshire Coat of Arms, were incorporated into the new design.
During the Second World War the pavilion remained closed as it was a target for German bombers, but it was re-opened in 1947 having been leased by Mecca Entertainment. In 1963 the pavilion was extended at a cost of over �100,000 and converted to a Ballroom. By 1979 the Mecca Ballroom had ceased trading, and the 900ft (273m) pier closed on 31st December of the same year, being described by the British Transport Docks Board as no longer 'viably maintainable'.
The gatehouse was leased by Leading Leisure PLC in 1986 and converted it into a Pub/Restaurant. This conversion included the construction of a large conservatory at the rear of the building for use as the dining area. Leading Leisure's plans for the dockyard development were ultimately cut short when, in 1987, a serious fire completely destroyed the pavilion and bandstand at the pier head. A subsequent fire in 1992 destroyed much of the pier neck, and caused serious damage to the conservatory at the rear of the gatehouse. This blaze effectively sealed the fate of Southampton Royal Pier.
The pier itself is now virtually derelict but one positive note in the its sad demise is that the beautiful gate-house building on the shore adjacent to the pier has been restored and is now a fine Thai restaurant.
April 24th, 2013
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