After taking second or third place for the past four years the Grade II listed Art Deco Worthing pier has been voted Pier Of The Year 2019 by the members of the National Piers Society. Clacton came second and Clevedon third. A total of 29 piers received at least one vote in this, the 23rd annual Pier of The Year competition run by the Society. Worthing is one of very few piers to have won the Award twice, the last time being in 2006.
Worthing Pier opened on 12th April 1862. It was designed purely as a landing stage but in 1889 a Pavilion was erected on the pier head. In March 1913, however, a storm severed it from the pier. The gap was soon restored and the pier reopened in May 1914. In 1920 it was sold to the Worthing Corporation.
A shoreward Pavilion opened in 1926 and became home to the Worthing Municipal Orchestra. The building at the pier head was renamed the Southern Pavilion but in September 1933 it went up in flames. It was replaced in record time at a cost of £18,000 and reopened in August 1935. Two years later a matching Modernist style amusement arcade was added and a central windbreak was installed along the pier’s length.
At the outbreak of World War II the steamers stopped calling and in 1940 the pier was deliberately cut in half. The entrance Pavilion was taken over by troops who enjoyed snooker, table tennis and darts there as well as a canteen and a library. It reopened to the public in June 1946 and shows such as The Fol de Rols were engaged for the summer season. The Denton Lounge was added in 1959.
After the Worthing Municipal Orchestra disbanded the Southern Pavilion was put to various uses including a model railway museum, a cinema and a zoo. In the 1980s it became a night club but this closed in 2005 and the building lay empty until Phil Duckett, a local businessman, completely restored it. It is now an elegant eating place as well as a performance area and wedding and conference venue.
The pier continues to be beautifully maintained by Worthing Borough Council and still receives occasional visits from the Waverley paddlesteamer. It is popular with promenaders and fishermen alike and its Pavilion Theatre stages a wide variety of shows. The world famous Birdman Rally was held on the pier from 2008 to 2015.
Commenting on the Award the NPS Chairman Gavin Henderson said: “As a one time player in the town’s Municipal Orchestra I am really pleased to give three cheers to Worthing pier for all its historical significance and current glory.”
The Mayor of Worthing, Councillor Paul Baker, said “I’m delighted the National Piers Society has recognised once more what a fantastic pier we have; it really is an iconic landmark for the town”.
The National Piers Society: www.piers.org.uk