Two hundred years ago tomorrow Ryde pier opened and today still stands as a reminder of the ingenuity of British engineering.
Known intimately to thousands of daily commuters between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, it was the original seaside pier and paved the way for dozens of others the length of Britain.
Along with fish and chips and rock, piers became a staple of British seaside life and a magnet for holidaymakers before the boom in international travel.
But as the years passed and with the rise of cheaper foreign flights and the decline in some resorts, many piers have been lost forever.
As with many of these structures, some local people concede the best years for Ryde pier – owned by ferry company Wightlink – were in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
Today the pier is one of the main gateways to the island, with trains leaving the pier-head and ferries shuttling passengers to and from Portsmouth from it.
Derek Tomlinson, a co-ordinator at the Historic Ryde Society, fondly remembers the Grade-II listed pier when it was a mainstay of the area.
He says: ‘In the 1950s and 1960s, the use of the pier was phenomenal. It’s half-a-mile long and at times you would have people queuing for the boats. But with the introduction of cars and coaches, the number of foot passengers coming across to the island diminished.
‘In the ’50s and ’60s, there was a ballroom known as the Seagull, a cafe, rock shops and amusements to keep everyone entertained. On part of the Seagull, there was a pub called the First and Last. It was called that because it was the first pub you would go to when you arrived and the last as you left.
‘Nowadays, the end of the pier is just more or less a car park, and not a pleasure pier in the traditional sense of the word. I have fond memories of it, going on the steam trains and the trams and attending the dances on it.’
Carol Strong, a volunteer with the Ryde Social Heritage Group, says an all-day party will be held on the pier on Sunday to mark its 200th anniversary.
She says: ‘In most of the pictures of Ryde, the pier is somewhere to be seen in the background. It has made Ryde what it is today – the gateway to the Isle of Wight.
‘For most people in Ryde, it is the way in and out of the town. I think it will continue, as long as Wightlink continues to run it.’
The other two photographs, also from The Sean Woodnutt Collection show the First and Last pub and a train passing the Seagull ballroom and cafe.
To see video of the pier in the summer of 1939 in the annual Ryde to Southsea swimming race, click here