Southampton’s first pier was built in 1832 and opened by Princess Victoria in 1833 (image 1). It has since been known as the Royal Pier or the Royal Victoria Pier. It was built primarily as a ferry terminal, but was also a popular promenade. It was described by Philip Brannon in 1849: “The Victoria Pier is constructed of timber, has a broad carriage-road with footway on either side, and a neat refreshment room in the middle of the head; and forms a delightful and healthful, as well as fashionable promenade”. The railway connecting the pier with the town's station was built in the 1870s. The original horse-drawn trains were soon replaced with steam engines. A covered platform (image 5) was constructed at the pier head.

The original pier, built of wood and constantly in need of repair, was replaced by a cast iron pier in the 1890s The new facilities included a pavilion with seating for a thousand persons, an amusement hall, a bandstand and refreshment rooms. The new toll house (images 3 and 4) built at the entrance of the pier in the 1890s did not last long; it was demolished in the 1930s to make way for the railway to the western docks which ran along Town Quay. The current toll house (image 6) was built on a site to the west of the original. The clock tower which sat atop the old tollhouse was saved and now sits on the roof of the pavilion at the Sports Centre in Bassett. A fire in 1987 destroyed the pavilion along with much of the fabric of the pier. The current pier building (image 6) is Grade II listed

1. Opening of the Royal Pier, 1833

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A contemporary engraving

2. The Royal Pier, 1850

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Philip Brannon’s view of the pier, c.1850

3. The Royal Pier

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A post-1911 view showing the entrance to the new pier built in the 1890s

4 The Royal Pier

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The interior (pier-side) of the entrance to the new pier.

5. The Pier Railway Station

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Photograph, c.1900

6. The Royal Pier

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The current pier building photographed in the 1960s.


Further reading:
‘Southampton Pier’, by Jeff Pain, in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 19, Spring 2010, p21-32. (HS/h)

‘Royal Victoria Pier’, by J. Lee, in Essays on the History of Southampton, p125-142. (HS/h)
Public Life in Southampton, Volume 1, by James Lemon, p222, 273-275. (HS/l)
Public Life in Southampton, Volume 2, by James Lemon, p23-24. (HS/l)
Picture of Southampton (1849), by Philip Brannon, p56 (HS/h)
History of Southampton Vol 1, by A. Temple Patterson, p161-163. (HS/h)
Southampton Archaeological Society Bulletin, No. 22, p6-9. (HS/f)


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