Plaque unveiled to mark old pier

Steve Peak with Cllr Judy Rogers with the plaque marking old St Leonards pier SUS-171016-094023001
Steve Peak with Cllr Judy Rogers with the plaque marking old St Leonards pier SUS-171016-094023001

The site of the now almost-forgotten St Leonards Pier has been highlighted by a display board telling its story in words and pictures.

Hastings mayor Judy Rogers and local historian Steve Peak last week (Thursday, October 12) unveiled the board on the promenade, just to the west of the Royal Victoria Hotel.

The board was designed by Hastings Borough Council staff.

Steve had the idea of marking the pier’s site while researching his book A Pier Without Peer on the history of Hastings Pier, published by Peter Owen Publishers.

Steve said: “St Leonards Pier was a leading tourist attraction and social centre for nearly half a century, but today there is nothing of it to be seen.

“The 275 metre long pier was built in 1888-91 in opposition to the successful Hastings Pier, which had opened in 1872.

“But St Leonards Pier suffered from lack of investment, and in 1909 it was taken over by an American company which renamed it the Palace Pier.

“Then in August 1917, the pier was bought by John Gardner, the well-off owner of several Welsh coal mines, who ran the pier in a public-spirited, non-profit way.

“It became especially popular in the 1920s and ‘30s, especially after it was taken over in 1933 by two London speculators, who renamed it the New Palace Pier.

“But the pier’s life was suddenly cut short by the start of the Second World War in 1939, when it had to close, and then in 1944 there was a major fire which wrecked most of it.

“In 1951 Hastings Council bought the ruins and began removing everything still standing.

“By late 1953 all that was left of St Leonards Pier were some pieces of ironwork under the sand.”

Hastings mayor Cllr Judy Rogers added: “Sadly St Leonards Pier is just a distant memory for some more mature residents now, but in its heyday it was a major visitor attraction.

“Fortunately we still have a great pier to enjoy in Hastings, but it is right that we remember our past too, and I’d like to 
pay tribute to Steve Peak for the tremendous 
work he’s done in researching this information board, and to the council’s graphic design team for doing such a splendid job designing it.”