Worthing prepares for 150th birthday anniversary celebrations for its pier

Worthing pier in around 1910, with townsfolk making the most of the good weather in their weekend finery
Worthing pier in around 1910, with townsfolk making the most of the good weather in their weekend finery

IT has been burned, ravaged by storms and partially blown up to prevent invasion over the past century and a half, yet such events have failed to alter people’s tremendous affection for Worthing Pier.

While the original structure laid down 150 years ago next week may sadly no longer be with us, its present-day form has proved a landmark symbol.

From being used in period television dramas, providing an album cover backdrop for Britpop band Gene, through to grabbing national headlines for kite-surfing pier-jumpers in 2010, it has had an extremely colourful history.

Thankfully, there are plenty who are keen to ensure its heritage is maintained, such as entrepreneur and artist Dan Thompson, pictured right.

He is in no doubt of its significance to the area and has been at the centre of extremely successful pier day celebrations – due to return on Thursday, April 12.

The pier party takes place from noon with a family picnic, followed by a tour by historian Chris Hare, photograph exhibition at Flashbang Photography, a bubble blowing flashmob and pass the parcel down the pier.

Dan said: “It’s just an amazing art deco building and offers stunning views. I think what makes it special is that it’s a quiet spot, that’s its attraction.

“We started pier day back in 2006, but probably the best one was two years ago which had a vintage theme and people turned up in costume. I hope they do that again as there will be a prize of £50 for the best-dressed person.”

County local studies librarian Martin Hayes said there had been hundreds of requests for use of its extensive pier archives.

He explained its creation coincided with an era of great Victorian confidence, just as developing coastal towns – such as Worthing – were becoming viable holiday destinations for many.

David Sumner, chairman of the Worthing Society, felt the pier had played an immensely important part in our area’s heritage.

He said: “It is as important to Worthing as the Dome, perhaps even more so. We are very lucky to have our pier, as so many others around the country have burned down.

“I remember seeing all the barbed wire on the seafront during the war and returned to the area just as they were dismantling it.

“I recall it was a great thrill to be able to finally go back on the beach.

“After the war in the 1950s, they used to hold the regatta dances on the pier, it was very much more the social centre of the town than it is today – it was a place to go and meet the girls!”