The seaside piers around the coast of Britain stand as a powerful reminder of the achievements of Victorian engineers and entrepreneurs. However, of the 100 piers that once graced our coastline, only half survive, and several of these face an uncertain future.

The National Piers Society is a non-profit making registered charity which was founded in 1979 under Sir John Betjeman, at a time when some of the finest piers were threatened with demolition. Over the years the National Piers Society has grown steadily and has become well established as the leading authority on seaside piers. Through the Society’s efforts several piers, that would otherwise have vanished, remain for the enjoyment of everyone.

The Society’s aim is to promote and sustain interest in the preservation, building and continued enjoyment of seaside piers.

The National Piers Society advises heritage bodies, local authorities, pier owners, national government, and the media on pier-related matters. The Society maintains links with the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (representing pier owners) and the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, whose vessels operate excursions from pier landing stages.

National Piers Society members (see the Membership page for further details) receive the quarterly journal ‘PIERS’ which is published by the Society and features all the latest pier news and events, historical features and richly illustrated articles which are of interest to pier lovers everywhere. The Society’s members choose a Pier Of The Year every spring and a triennial award for engineering achievement in pier restoration (The Peter Mason Award) is made by an advisory panel of experts. The Society also organises  visits and talks and holds its Annual General Meeting in a different pier resort each year. In the longer term the Society wishes to establish a network of regional branches and a National Piers Museum.

The National Piers Society is run by a small number of volunteers. For more information about the Executive Committee members please see below. If you would like to contribute to the Society or join the Executive Committee then please do get in touch.

We’d like to receive any feedback you may have about the website or our society, please contact us.

Tim Phillips : Vice Chairman

Seaside piers have been a fascination since completing a study in 1972 of Brighton West. The exercise aim was to conjure up new uses that would attract (big) spenders – there was a casino! to provide a reliable revenue stream to sustain the Queen of Piers.  Sadly not even the local enthusiasts and the birth of the NPS managed to save this classic.  The raison d’être of pier operation remains the same today!

Photography is one of my hobbies, as is sketching and painting, though now bell-ringing is a good form of exercise!  Promoting my mother’s compositions to enthusiastic performers at the Honiton Festival, for which I’m Administrator, is also high on my list of priorities.   Certainly in retirement, life is getting faster…

Anya Chapman : Honorary Secretary

My love of piers began when I was a child, growing up in Southport. I started ‘pier hopping’ about 20 years ago after visiting the hauntingly beautiful Brighton West Pier. It took me almost 8 years to visit all the piers in the UK….and then I started again, and haven’t stopped since!

My work with the NPS has been interesting and varied. In addition to my role as Secretary, I have also organised an AGM (with Jan Oldfield); met with Government Ministers at the Houses of Parliament to campaign for pier funding; manage the NPS social media sites; presented talks for community groups; advised pier owners and community trusts on pier regeneration and development strategies; and ate a piece of Ryde Pier (in cake form)! There’s never a dull moment!

My fascination with the British seaside endures to this day and I continue to research, write, and teach about resorts and their piers in my ‘day job’ as Programme Leader for Tourism Management at Bournemouth University.  When I’m not at work or on a pier, I can be found volunteering at the Swanage Railway or swimming in a lido.

Suzie Hart : PIERS Editor

I’m a 50-something self-confessed pier nerd and craftaholic, specialising in photography and paper-crafting.  When not tearing my hair out producing the journal using Adobe InDesign, I’m a Civil Servant patiently counting the days until I can retire and transfer permanently to my desk under the nearest pier…

Favourite pier: It’s currently a toss-up between Cromer and Worthing.  Favourite drink: tea, white, no sugar.  Best bribed with chocolate – peppermint Aeros or Maltesers are always welcomed.

Joy Surtees : Honorary Membership Secretary

I live in Southampton, I’ve always lived in Hampshire, I was born in Portsmouth. The furthest inland I ever lived was in Romsey, so always close to the sea.

I’m now retired after many years of working in admin and finance, ranging from a dental practice, carpet manufacturing, through to working in a large teaching hospital. For the last eleven years I was Director of Corporate Affairs at University Hospital Southampton.

My first memory of a pier was South Parade Pier in Southsea, when my older brothers and sister would take me out “down the front” as they called it. In addition to wanting ice cream, I usually wanted to get my name printed out on a metal strip from the machine by the pier. When my family moved to Gosport I would explore, most probably illegally, what was left of the Stokes Bay military pier with friends. As a teenager and in my early twenties, I saw many rock bands at South Parade pier including one very memorable Christmas Eve when we saw “The Kinks” there.

My other interests include cinemas and theatres, I belong to the Cinema Theatre Association and the Frank Matcham Society as well as the Projected Picture Trust. I’ve also always been interested in industrial archaeology.

Frances White : NPS Sales

I was born in Bolton in 1946 and spent many family holidays on the Northwest coast with its abundance of piers – Blackpool, St. Anne’s, Morecambe, Fleetwood, Southport. My husband, John, and I worked in Swansea for a few years enjoying visits to Mumbles pier and walking on the Gower peninsula.  Later, after five years working abroad, we returned to the UK and owned a pharmacy business on the Wirral for 23 years, retiring to Farndon, just south of Chester.

An article in New Scientist in 1982 encouraged me to join the National Piers Society.  In 1993, I was elected to the committee and took over as Treasurer a year later.  After nine years I relinquished this post  to concentrate on Book Sales – the Piers Kiosk feature in the “Piers” journal and the NPS Shop section of the website keep me busy.

Apart from piers, my other interests include redundant churches, my 35 year old Land Rover, scuba diving (only in tropical waters!), tolling the bells in the village church and playing the recorder in a local band.

Caroline Buttolph : Committee Member

I have had family involvement with the NPS since I was a small child.  My father was chairman of NPS and  a well know engineer, in fact President of the Institute of Structural Engineers – that is why  the NPS has the Peter Mason award in his memory.  My mother was NPS membership secretary for years.

I was born in Brighton – hence my attachment to the West Pier.  Educated in London I have had a variety of careers – my last twenty years working for the NHS as an occupational therapist specialising in mental health and old age psychiatry.  I love cats, boating , writing and travelling.  I currently live in Oxford with my husband William and son James.

Jan Oldfield : Committee Member

I was brought up in Aintree Village, home of the famous Grand National racecourse, which is only 15 miles from my nearest pier at Southport. Growing up in the North West of England days out to the seaside often included a walk on a pier, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties when I started to visit seaside towns further afield that I began to truly appreciate piers.

After finding an old book on seaside piers, I decided to try to visit and photograph as many as I could.  In doing this I eventually became aware of the NPS.  I became a member in 2007 and joined the committee in 2013.  It is through attending the AGM’s that I have added more piers to my list of visited piers. My favourite has always been Brighton’s West Pier; I really fell in love with the beauty and elegance of it, especially after watching the sun set behind it and felt sad that it had been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.  I consider myself lucky to have been on one of the final tours before it became too unsafe.

For a number of years I enjoyed travelling the country to various motorcycle rallies on my own bike and I still belong to a women’s motorcycle club.

David Spooner : Committee Member

My career has been entirely in the construction industry, the first part being with contractors, and latterly as a project manager. In 2013 I was very fortunate to be appointed to the position to manage the restoration of Hastings Pier. Three years on, the construction is complete and the Pier is now open.

Since childhood, I have always had a liking for piers; growing up in North East London, we spent many happy days visiting Southend and Clacton Piers; this interest has followed throughout my life and I joined the NPS many years ago.

I haven’t yet visited all of the piers around our coast but I am gradually ticking them off. Living in Hastings, we have quite a few surviving examples of Victorian excellence.

Having now retired, I have the time and am very much looking forward to actively serving on the committee and contributing as much as I can to our great Society.

Tim Mickleburgh : Hon. Vice-President

I suppose I am the “elder statesmen” of the NPS these days, having produced my first “Guide to British Piers” back in 1978 which led me to be involved in the setting up of our society a year later.

I have held various roles over the years, including being Chairman from 1995 to 2003. Highlights of this time include 1996’s “Year of the Pier”, speaking in front of 8000 people at the re-opening of Southwold Pier and writing books for both Ian Allan and Frances Frith.

Since then I’ve been the society’s first Hon Vice President, and continue to represent us largely behind the scenes including providing a chapter for our “British Seaside Piers” volume and helping promote my local pier at Cleethorpes.

Incidentally I became interested in piers back in 1971, and took advantage of a student railcard while at College to visit most structures around our coast. My favourites are probably Southend (for sheer size!) and Llandudno (location), while I like pier history rather than shows. But each to his or her own!

Chris Wyatt : Website Manager

My interest in piers really began when my wife and I moved in 2004 from central Cardiff to a flat on Penarth Esplanade immediately opposite Penarth Pier. The beautiful art deco pavilion on the pier was then a complete wreck and had been closed to the public for many years. The pier itself, however, was in excellent condition and my curiosity regarding seaside piers was aroused. I eventually joined NPS in February 2008 and, when the Society. held its AGM in Penarth in 2009, I foolishly asked if the Executive Committee contained any Welsh members, which resulted in a vacancy being filled by a new Welsh member, ie. me.
During my tenure on the Executive Committee, I designed and managed the previous incarnation of our website and, following the departure of the creator and manager of our current site, I have taken over the website manager role.
I am currently also a volunteer at the National Trust’s Dyffryn Gardens where I drive the visitors 6-seater electric buggy and work in the Shop and on the Reception desk in the Visitor Centre (VR).

Kathryn Ferry : Media Relations Officer

I grew up near the North Devon coast but my closest resort of Westward Ho! had lost its pier well over a century before I moved there. It was a love of beach huts that got me hooked on the seaside and in 2002 I toured the English coast by public transport, from Seaton Carew near Hartlepool to Dunster Beach on the Bristol Channel. It took me two months and along with all the huts I saw, the trip also inspired my interest in piers.

After completing my PhD on the Victorian architect Owen Jones in 2004, I went to work for The Victorian Society in London, campaigning to promote and protect threatened buildings from that era. This marked my first involvement with the NPS. I subsequently decided to become a freelance writer and historian and have since published books on beach huts (including an account of my tour), seaside holidays, bungalows and Butlin’s. In 2018 I wrote a number of articles celebrating the bicentenary of Eugenius Birch, THE Victorian pier engineer who was born in 1818. Hopefully this research will result in the first ever book dedicated to Birch and his work.

With my experience of giving press, radio and television interviews I jumped at the chance of becoming media relations officer for the NPS and look forward to continuing the good work of profile raising done by my predecessor Anthony Wills.