One of the most obvious cultural inventions of Victorian Britain was the seaside pier, and Brighton has two fine examples. The most famous, and architecturally the most impressive, is the West Pier. This was opened in 1866 as a simple means to take the sea air without the inconvenience of getting wet. Substantial alterations were made over the next 50 years, including covered walkways for when the sea air is a sight too bracing, and a fine concert hall. Since then the pier has been largely unchanged, making it an excellent example of Victorian engineering. Sadly what it has not been is preserved.
Piers, by their very nature, need constant care and attention to restore the inevitable damage done by wind and surf. If the pier is not making money, it deteriorates. The West Pier is in such a dangerous state that it has been closed to the public since 1975. However, its value as an architectural monument has been recognised in its classification as a Grade I listed building - it is the only pier to be so honoured. A trust has been set up to raise money for restoring the pier to its former glory, and money is being sought from the Heritage and Lottery Fund. For more information about the pier and the restoration project see the West Pier Trust web site.
In contrast the Palace Pier is very much still a going concern. You can promenade along it, and partake of the modern day version of the authentic pier experience. Of course what this means is tacky souvenir shops, arcades of slot machines, fairground rides and shops selling all sorts of processed sugar. It is a far cry from the elegance of Victorian times, but it is also blessedly free of the social pretension.
Also visible along the sea front is an array of arches under the main sea wall. These were originally used by fishermen and traders, but they are now home to a fascinating array of shops, tourist attractions and night clubs. Brighton beach is a busy place. This journal was researched in January so things were a little quiet, but even so I found two delightful little museums, each of which has its own entry.