National Piers Society
History of Swanage Pier

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 wildlife.

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”.

But in March 2013, strong winds and rough seas severley damaged the mid-section of the pier, causing it to be closed to to the public and preventing pleasure boats and fishing vessels from using it. An appeal was launched to raise £50,000 to cover repairs. After a fairly slow start, by August 2013, £20,000 had been raised from donations with a further £39,000 being provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, enabling repairs to be commenced that month.

In January 2014, it was annouced that a ceremony marking the official reopening of Swanage Pier would take place in February.


  Pier Statistics
Length Opened Status Owner
i) 750ft
ii) 642.5ft(196m)

Grade II

Swanage Pier Trust

Pier News
Aug 2015 - Swanage Pier to raffle 10,000th brass plaque
July 2015 - Swanage Pier successful in Heritage Lottery Bid
Oct 2014 - Swanage Pier gets a makeover
Feb 2014 - Swanage pier reopens after storm damage repair
Jan 2014 - Official reopening of Swanage Pier in February
See Pier Newslinks Archive for earlier stories
Pier Gallery
Flickr gallery of images of Swanage Pier
Simplon Postcards of Swanage Pier
Google search for all images of Swanage Pier
Pier Movies
Old Penny Arcade at Swanage Pier (2009)
Chris Foote Wood's Youtube video on Swanage Pier (2008)
Pier Weblinks
Swanage Pier Trust website
Friends of Swanage Pier website 
Divers Down website
Swanage Railway webpage on the pier
Pier Webcam
No webcam currently operational here
Pier Weather

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