The first, wooden, pier was built in 1859 by Mowlem's. It was 750
feet long and was used for shipping Purbeck stone and by passenger
steamers. Until the 1950s, it was a diving platform for Swanage
Swimming Club. It is now derelict. A few piles are visible to the
east of the 'new' pier.
The first pile for the new, 642.5 feet pier was driven on 30th
November 1895 and the first steamer, PS Lord Elgin, called on May
1st 1896. It was opened to all traffic on 29th March 1897.
The greenheart timber piles were beginning to decay by the 1920s
and, in 1927, they were lined with concrete. In 1939, the pier was
breached as a war precaution and was not repaired until 1948. The
missing section was restored in concrete.
Steamer traffic restarted, but ended on September 24th 1966: the
last boat to call was the PS Embassy. After this, the pier fell
into disrepair. In 1986, Durrant Developments Ltd. bought it and
planned to restore the pier. However, when the company went
bankrupt, the pier fell into the hands of receivers.
Swanage Pier Trust acquired control of the pier in 1994 and, since
then well over a million pounds from a combination of Lottery
funding, English Heritage, other grants plus money raised
from the local community and visitors, has been spent on restoring
pier. In addition, the Trust has to raise £130,000 a year to run
and maintain the pier.
Nevertheless, Swanage Pier is a success story, offering something
for everyone, including scuba diving under the pier, pleasure boat
trips, fishing, an exhibition of of Pier History, a superb display
of model RNLI Lifeboats, a display of saucy postcards by Donald
Mcgill and a range of vintage 'Penny in the Slot' machines, still
in working order.
In August 2009, a new underwater camera was installed beneath
the pier providing a view of the dazzling array of local marine
Then in March 2012, in a fitting reward for the very active and enthusiastic volunteers who help run it,
Swanage Pier was voted the National Piers Society Pier of the Year 2012.
Commenting on the award, National Piers Society President, Gavin Henderson, said:
“Swanage’s lovely little pier has rightly captured our hearts and our votes to be awarded Pier Of The Year: congratulations.”
Derek Tarrant, Chairman of the Swanage Pier Trust, said: “It is a real honour to receive this prestigious award on behalf of
all the volunteers and supporters who work so hard to keep the pier open for everyone to enjoy”.