Southport Pier in 2016
|Carries||Pedestrians, tram train|
|Maintained by||Sefton Council|
|Total length||1,108 metres (3,635 ft)|
Southport Pier is a Grade II listed building in Southport, Merseyside, England. First opened in 1860, it spans a length of 1,108 metres (3,635 ft) and is the second longest in Great Britain after Southend Pier. It was listed at Grade II on 18 August 1975. The Southport Pier Tramway ran from Southport Promenade to the pier head (the far end of the pier) at various times in the pier's history, most recently from August 2005 until June 2015.
The pier first opened in 1860 reaching out 3,600 feet (1,100 m), having been initially proposed during the 1840s. Eight years after opening, it was extended to 4,380 feet (1,340 m), though damage in 1933 and 1957 respectively has reduced its length to the present day 3,633 feet (1,107 m), which makes it the second longest in Great Britain, after Southend Pier.
The pier today is a completely open structure, with modern railings on an older base, and a deck made of hardwood slats, affording a partial view of the sea below. The modern structure at the pier head, the Pavilion, was designed by Liverpool architects Shed KM. The building houses a cafeteria with airport style floor to ceiling windows overlooking the beach and a collection of vintage mechanical amusement machines, re-creating a traditional pier-end penny arcade.
The exhibition of Edwardian and Victorian machines operates on pre-decimalisation pennies, which are available to purchase on-site (£1 buys 10 old pennies) and has proved very popular with locals and tourists alike.
The first tramway on Southport Pier was a line for carrying baggage that opened in 1863. The line was upgraded to cable operation in 1865 and re-laid in 1893, with electrification coming in 1905. Southport Corporation took over operation in 1936, and rebuilt the tramway's rolling stock. The pier was closed during the Second World War and when it reopened the tram did not reopen with it. When it finally reopened in 1950, the line had moved to the side of the pier from its previous central position, the gauge had been changed from 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge to 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) narrow gauge, and the line was now diesel operated with two new trains, known as the Silver Belle, built by local engineer Harry Barlow, owner of the Lakeside Miniature Railway.
In 1973 the train was replaced with English Rose, a new model built by Severn Lamb, and seen several times in the 1985 movie Mr. Love, which was filmed largely in Southport. The Silver Belle stock was unused and increasingly derelict at Steamport for some years, then at the West Lancashire Light Railway.
The pier was closed for safety reasons in 1998, however the Southport Pier Trust had been formed in 1991 to campaign for the pier's restoration and, by 1999, Sefton Council and the Pier Trust had raised funds to commence the restoration of the pier. The first phase of this restoration was completed in 2002 and included providing a new 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge tram track in the centre of a widened deck.
On 1 August 2005, a new twin-section articulated, battery powered tram car started service on this track. The tram car was manufactured by UK Loco Ltd. and offered a passenger capacity of 74 on the length of 24 yards (22 m) and the width of 7.9 feet (2.4 m). The tram ran every day of the year except Christmas Day, and provided a half-hourly service in both directions. The operating hours varied depending on the time of year and the day of the week.
In June 2015, the Southport Pier tram service was scrapped due to rising maintenance costs and council cost-cutting measures. It has been replaced by an extension of a preexisting smaller land train.
Recent modernisation and repair of the pier formed part of a wider redevelopment strategy, including the new Marine Drive sea wall, landscaping around the pier and the new tram route and the new £23m Ocean Plaza shopping centre, which presents a blank back wall on the seaward side. Completion was in 2002.
In February 1997, a grant of £34,000 (equivalent to £55,804 in 2015) was given from lottery funding in order for a structual survey to be undertaken. As of January 2002, the pier had received around £1.73M from the Heritage Lottery Fund, comprised from two separate awards.
- 2003 National Piers Society Pier of the Year
- Listed buildings in Southport
- Southport Corporation Tramways
- List of town tramway systems in England
- List of town tramway systems in the United Kingdom
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- CABE case study
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- Easdown, Martin (2009). Lancashire's Seaside Piers. Barnsley: Wharncliffe Books. ISBN 978-1-84563-093-5.
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