The Architecture of British Seaside Piers

Fred Gray
Of all the architectural delights of British seaside resorts, the most astonishing and idiosyncratic is the seaside pier. Remarkable visual spectacles, piers are architecturally extraordinary in concept and at times outrageous in execution. They brought together the Victorian genius for technological and material innovation, architectural ambition and engineering ingenuity in the search for new designs for leisure (as well as profit) over the sea. This superbly illustrated book explores the history of the design processes leading to the architectural and engineering innovations that have allowed people to walk on water in such diverse and delightful ways. Coverage includes the development of piers into the crowning architectural glory of British seaside resorts; the key people, materials, inventions and technologies in the field, particularly the work of Eugenius Birch, the greatest pier designer; the remarkable diversity of piers ranging from the earliest simple landing stages, through staid promenade piers and the glories of fully-fledged pleasure piers, to the boisterous joys of funfair and amusement piers; the rich variety of architectural styles, including exotic 'Orientalism' and streamlined Modernism and, finally, today's contemporary prospects for renewal and reinvention.
The Architecture of British Seaside Piers by Fred Gray

About the author

Fred Gray is Emeritus Professor of Continuing Education at the University of Sussex and has long been fascinated by seaside resorts and seaside architecture; in Britain and abroad, past and present. He has written extensively on the topic, including Walking on Water (1998) and Designing the Seaside (2006), as well as authoring the official guide to the i360, Brighton's innovative seafront observation tower. His book, Palm, exploring the cultural history of the signature plant of tropical islands, was published in 2018.

Press Reviews

A fact-filled book, full of interesting old photos and drawings and displaying a clear understanding of the technology of piers.

- Kate Judge

it is crammed with detail and interest, and richly illustrated, including many photographs from the author’s personal collection. It promises to be the definitive work on a fascinating topic.

- Will Wiles RIBA

A visually-immersive exploration of the history and the design processes behind the the piers which became the crowning glory of many British seaside resorts.

- Beucher Newsletter

This is a beautifully produced book on pier architecture and engineering that is both a fascinating and illuminating read and one highly recommended

- Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman of the National Piers Society

Excellent … What marks his book out from predecessors is its explicit focus on piers as works of architecture, with the inclusion of construction materials and engineering, the style of pier buildings and their interior decoration.

- Kathryn Ferry - reviewer The Victorian