31 historic photos showing the evolution of South Parade Pier - including the fire 44 years ago this week

South Parade Pier on fire 11th June 1974 Picture: 4343-4
South Parade Pier on fire 11th June 1974 Picture: 4343-4
The cast of Mamma Mia! Picture: Malcolm Wells

Mamma Mia! takes to Kings Theatre stage tonight

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On June 11, 1974, two dramatic hours of flame and crashing timbers tore the heart out of Southsea’s holiday showpiece, South Parade Pier.

Despite the efforts of more than 100 firemen manning nearly 20 fire engines, the main structure of the pier’s Gaiety Theatre was reduced to a blackened skeleton.

The pier went up in flames 44 years ago while director Ken Russell was shooting the rock opera Tommy.

To see the full picture gallery click on the link at the top of the article or on the icon on the main picture.

Co-stars Oliver Reed and Ann-Margret were dancing a quickstep as a small band mimed the music.

The fire started when powerful arc lights shining through a ballroom window set fire to curtains.

It was the biggest blaze in Portsmouth since the Second World War and the flames could be seen all along the West Sussex and Hampshire coastline.

Take a look at these incredible images of the pier through the years, from before and after the fire.

To buy copies of the images call photosales on 0330 123 0203 quoting the reference numbers.