The National Piers Society is delighted to announce that in YEAR OF THE PIER 2023 its coveted annual prize will go to SOUTHEND PIER, the longest pleasure pier in the world.
‘The continued investment, in new trains and extensive maintenance, have ensured record visitor numbers’*
Over recent years Southend Pier has gone from strength to strength, valued by its Council owners as a major tourism draw for the new city and reaping the benefits of upgraded facilities, in particular the new purpose-built trains that now run on the country’s oldest pier railway. NPS members were impressed by the way in which the redundant train carriages have been recycled to form seating on the pier, by the mix of food and drink available in the brightly painted beach huts at the pier-end and by the enthusiasm of volunteers.
‘A brilliant place to visit’*
Southend’s first wooden pier opened nearly two centuries ago, in 1830. It proved too short for boats trying to dock at low tide so had to be extended, then extended again, and again, to its current length of 1.3 miles. In the late-1880s the timber structure was replaced with iron. Visitor numbers continued to grow as more and more people arrived for their holidays on paddle steamers, enjoying their first experience of Southend from the end of the pier. When steamer services were withdrawn in the 1960s the pier fell into a period of decline, even facing the threat of closure. Recognising the transformation in its modern fortunes, Southend first won Pier of the Year back in 2006. This year’s award reflects the ongoing commitment to an improved visitor experience and the pier’s incredible success as a historic structure with renewed appeal.
‘So dramatic. A lovely walk, a magical train and terrific friendly staff.’ *
(*Comments from National Piers Society members)
Mark Harvey, Executive Director, Adults & Communities at Southend-on-Sea City Council, said:
‘I am delighted that Southend Pier has been awarded the Pier of the Year award by The National Piers society. It is our city’s most treasured and historical icon, and we are extremely proud of this achievement.
The pier is more popular than ever having welcomed 412,300 visitors last year – the highest number of visitors ever recorded in a single year, and 2023 is on course to continue this success with 37,000 visitors having already visited the pier in February, also a record for that month.
We are now seeing the results of considerable investment into Southend Pier including our two new eco-friendly electric pier trains which have been transporting visitors up and down the pier in style whilst they enjoy panoramic views of the Thames Estuary. We have also invested £1.2m towards a new pier head pavilion café which is set to open at Easter, and we introduced a new crazy golf course for all the family to enjoy.
The record number of visitors was also achieved by us extending our tourism season with the addition of our spectacular Halloween Parade which attracted hundreds of extra pier visitors throughout October, and our Santa on the Pier events which boosted visitor numbers in the lead up to Christmas. Last month also saw Southend Pier host one of our brilliant art light installations as part of our annual LuminoCity festival of light. With an Easter trail coming soon and visiting ships planned for the next few months, there’s more to do on Southend Pier than ever before!’
The Society’s Chairman, Tim Wardley added:
‘With visitor numbers tantalisingly close to breaking the half million a season mark, new attractions and state of the art pier trains, it is little surprise our members voted for Southend to receive the prestigious Pier of the Year award, made even more special as this year is nationally recognised as Year of the Pier.
Southend Pier is a true survivor having withstood storms, fires, collisions and threats of closure to transform into the vital contributor to the resort’s tourism and leisure economy it has become today.
Southend Council continue to demonstrate their commitment to the success of the pier through record investment, and I am delighted this year the coveted accolade goes to the iconic longest pleasure pier in the world! Congratulations Southend!’
For further information please contact:
Alex Norman, Communications and Media Officer, Southend City Council
Kathryn Ferry, Media Relations Officer, National Piers Society 07941 805673 firstname.lastname@example.org