Good luck to the new-look pier that was once cursed by fire

The great day has arrived and curious people throng the entrance to the new South Parade Pier on its opening day, August 12, 1908.
The great day has arrived and curious people throng the entrance to the new South Parade Pier on its opening day, August 12, 1908.

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On July 19, 1904, South Parade Pier was damaged by fire to such an extent it had to be demolished.

The Southsea pier at that time was not greatly missed as it was more of an elevated walk out over the water than an attraction for entertainment.

Looking towards South Parade from the end of South Parade Pier with a band in full flow on the bandstand.

Looking towards South Parade from the end of South Parade Pier with a band in full flow on the bandstand.

A start was made for a real emporium over the sea and the new South Parade Pier opened with a fanfare on August 12, 1908.

It was an immediate success.

There was a full-scale theatre built within the pavilion and a hugely popular bandstand was located at the end of the pier.

There was also a landing stage for passenger ferries to transfer tourists to the Isle of Wight and other locations.

South Parade Pier at night. The lights look like flares because of the time exposure needed.

South Parade Pier at night. The lights look like flares because of the time exposure needed.

In later years an open-air stage was built as a home for those famous end-of-the-pier shows.

Many famous stars of the time were attracted to the pier and in turn they attracted bumper crowds.

Sadly that pier’s years came to an end in 1974.

For on June 11 of that year, while legendary film director Ken Russell was filming The Who’s rock opera Tommy, a huge fire broke out and before it could be brought under control the wooden superstructure was ablaze.

How it used to be. The marvellous pavilion on South Parade Pier with full-sized theatre and stage.

How it used to be. The marvellous pavilion on South Parade Pier with full-sized theatre and stage.

Over the subsequent years the pier went from bad to worse and closed indefinitely in 2012.

However, the latest chapter in its chequered life opens tomorrow when South Parade Pier finally re-opens at 9am.

One of its features will be a 100-machine arcade plus a 275-seat restaurant.

Whether 100 games machines will attract the crowds of yesteryear is a debatable point of course. Times have changed.

Replacing the theatre would also have been an expensive risk in a city already boasting two magnificent live theatres plus the Guildhall – none of which manages to sell-out every show as they might have done before the modern era of mass entertainment on a tablet, mobile or televisions .

We can only wish the new owners of the pier good luck with their venture and welcome the return of a much-loved and much-missed seafront friend .

All the photographs here come from the collection of Robert James from Milton.