A very brief history of pier fires in England


Boy, it sure is a shame there is nowhere to pump water from nearby to stop those fires… This isn’t even a boat where you at least have the excuse of not having reliable power to run the pumps.

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a smoldering ruin after a fire broke out in its video arcade

Jack Thompson was right! Video games are a scourge sent from hell!


You’d think that they would have some form of deluge system fitted.

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You can’t blame these piers, have you tried spending a winter in an English seaside town?


Helicopter footage of Worthing in 1933? No, I don’t think so. Pathe don’t say that in the report. Technically possible, they had been invented and a very few demo flights made, but the footage shown is probably from a small plane.

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Reminds me of the fire that burned down Saltair II pavillion in Utah on the Great Salt Lake shore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltair_(Utah)

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That drawing looks like it’s almost fully engulfed.

I’ve never seen anything like them in real life - only in magazines and movies. Why did they build these things? It seems so much more complicated and difficult than just building on land. Was it just the fashion or is there a practical reason?

Who would have thought that wooden structures with open areas of air under them would be prone to catching fire!?

Perhaps it’s because “land” on the sea is free land, in a already-popular location with the benefit of a nice seaside view?

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Beach resorts in the UK typically have large tidal ranges, so working piers were already a thing, providing access to the deep water needed for ferries, cargo etc.

With leisure travel and mass transit becoming prevalent in Victorian England, the seaside holiday became a more important source of revenue, with the new resort towns catering to tourists. And if you’re going to the seaside, you don’t want to see half-a-mile of boring wet sand where the sea should be and pleasure piers soon became popular.

So they started off for practical reasons, but became fashionable with towns trying to attract more visitors. There’s an whole bunch of cool history about them, tied in to leisure, rail travel, social class and urbanisation and the decline of the seaside pleasure pier which mirrored the rise in affordable international travel.

I :heart: piers. Social history, architecture, design, leisure, decay and even the rotting piles of long-gone piers still provide brilliant habitat for underwater critters.


aren’t most of those fires insurance jobs?

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The rumour I’ve heard a few times since moving to Brighton is that the fires that gutted the West Pier in 2003 and 2004 were actually started by the owners of another popular Brighton attraction who were vehemently opposed to the competition a restored West Pier would present.


Yeah, we always talk of these fires as “accidents”, like they were natural disasters, but we conveniently forget that British seaside towns have their fair share of very unscrupulous characters. The “entertainment” side of the tourism industry is a natural magnet for drugs and prostitution even in good times, and these are not good times for most of these places.

I lived in Lancashire, where seaside towns like Blackpool are engulfed in decades-long fights against decline – it can get really, really ugly on the ground.


Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. There’s plenty of old-school dodgepots and their descendants still running fairs & arcades, like.

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The 2008 fire in Weston was widely assumed by the population of Weston, to be an insurance job. No charges relating to fraud have ever been brought mind.

Heh. Damned straight.

Ballrooms and theatres make for easy conversion into nightclubs, an industry that has something of a reputation for dodgy players. Throw listed building status into the mix, along with expensive and prolonged repair costs and fluctuating real estate prices and every so often… whhooooff


I used to live in Southend-on-Sea. The end of the pier burning down was front page news in 1976. Very sad.

Have you never been to the coast? Even in the US, we have piers like this (San Diego where I live now has several although they aren’t quite as elaborate as the UK ones and generally just have an overpriced bar at the end; probably the closest thing to the UK ones would be the Santa Monica pier near LA). Piers are great; you can walk with sea breezes cooling you off, and and some of them you can fish off of.