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History of Southend-on-Sea Essex Pier|
The first pier was planned in 1828 and and a 600 foot wooden section opened in 1830. The length had increased to one and a quarter miles by 1846, making it the longest pier in Europe. A baggage line was adapted for passenger use.
In August 1885, a replacement iron pier was planned and work began in 1888 to the design of James Brunlees. The pier opened on 24th August 1890. £10,000 of the £80,000 cost was spent on the new electric railway.
An extension opened in 1898 making it the longest pier in the world at 7080 feet. On July 25th 1908, the upper-deck of the pier extension opened, followed by the doubling of the rail track and the Prince George steamer extension in 1929.
During World War II, the pier was used by the Navy. Huge popularity followed the War with the electric train carrying 4,713,082 passengers in its first season (1949/50) and an additional one million people passing through the turnstiles. However, falling trade led to a financial survey in 1970 and the pier's entertainments were franchised.
In July 1976, a fire badly damaged the pier-head with repair costs estimated at £1.4 million. In October 1978, the pier railway (now single-track) was closed for safety reasons. The council planned to close the entire pier in September 1980 but a rescue package was agreed with a local firm and rebuilding had begun by November 1984. The work included a new 3 foot gauge railway. The pier was temporarily sectioned in June 1986 when the 180 foot 'King's Abbey' collided with it. Also that year, the refurbished pier was opened by Princess Anne.
In 1989, a museum was opened near the shoreward end railway station. Fire destroyed the the adjacent Bowling Alley and walkway on 7th June 1995. The railway was also damaged and forced to close. It later re-opened with a council promise of general rebuilding.
Plans for a new pavilion and the development of the entrance area suffered a setback with the rejection of a 1997 Heritage Lottery Fund application. The fire damaged area at the shore-end was rebuilt in 1998.
A new RNLI station and gift shop were built at the pier-head in 2000 and the pier illuminations were switched on in November of that year. The Southend Cliff Lift re-opened in 2001 and in 2003 a new £1.9 million entrance with full disabled access was completed.
Fire struck again in October 2005 destroying the pier-head station and 130 foor section of the pier.
The pier was voted NPS Pier of the Year in 2007.
In May 2009, Southend Council announced an international landscape architecture competition to choose a design for the Pier Head which was destroyed in the fire of 2005.
September 2009 saw the opening of a new £2.4million station at Southend pierhead and a Council announcement that a further £830,000 would be spent on refurbishments including reinstating windbreaks dating back over 50 years, repainting windows in the Pier Museum and a large amount of other repainting which would be completed by early 2010. Also in September, it was announced that Swedish company White Arkitekter had won a competition to design a new pierhead which would have included a cultural centre and a restaurant. However, in November, the Council was told it had missed out on the £5million from the Government’s Sea Change grant which was needed to build the White Arkitekter project.
In December 2009, a redevlopment plan which included a rollercoaster, plus new entertainment and leisure facilities at both ends of the pier, was turned down by the Council.
Then in March 2010, the Council announced it had decided to press ahead with the White Arkitekter plan for the pier head with completion, hopefully by 2012.
Chao Ren VFP