On June 1, 1861, the people of Portsmouth were marvelling at a new contraption which allowed them to walk on water.
Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the opening of Clarence Pier, Southsea, and the 50th anniversary of its re-opening after being destroyed by wartime bombing.
Being the first pier in Southsea, it was naturally called Southsea Pier, but with the opening of the first South Parade Pier in 1879, it was renamed after its location, Clarence Esplanade.
The new pier, which had yet to have a pavilion built on it, proved an immediate hit with Victorian promenaders.
On its first day, 800 people paid the entrance fee to experience the thrill, not only of being by the seaside, but of walking on water.
The following month the pier was opened for steamboat traffic and a much-welcomed drinking fountain was unveiled.
By strange coincidence, Portsea Pier, also known as the Royal Albert Pier, opened on the same day in 1847. Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station and The Hard passenger transport interchange now occupy the site.
These facts appear in the newly-published The Portsmouth Book of Days by John Sadden which takes the reader through the year, day-by-day, and tells of quirky, eccentric, amusing or important events, stories or facts from different periods of history.
The book also reveals for June 1 that the University of Portsmouth’s early incarnation as The Portsmouth and Gosport School of Science and Art was opened in Pembroke Road in 1870, offering classes, including ‘life drawing classes’.
Men and women attended separate morning classes and paid fees of a guinea (£1.05) for three months.
Also on this day in 1824, 800 Royal Marine Artillerymen arrived from Chatham at their new barracks in the Gunwharf. Later they moved to Fort Cumberland before Eastney Barracks was built in the 1860s.
n If you have any old photographs of Clarence Pier you would like to share with readers to mark the 150th anniversary, please send them to the address at the foot of the page.