At their most vigorous, they’re small, bustling communities, and those in the north, particularly, continue to thrive as holiday destinations: Cleethorpes Pier and Blackpool, too, of course, still attract crowds. Others, such as Hythe in Hampshire, are just bare limbs reaching into the sea, best suited for a long, chilly walk. (In the foreground of the image of Hythe Pier, on the exposed low-tide flat, lies what looks eerily like a pair of convict’s shackles: shades of Great Expectations.)
Eastbourne Pier appears quite grand; Lowestoft South somewhat forbidding; and attached to the railings at Hastings Pier is a forlorn banner reading ‘YOU CAN SAVE ME!’ Any such plea would come too late for the Fleetwood Victoria, Lancashire’s ‘lost pier’, now nothing more than a pile of rubble. The second-last to be built in Britain (1910 – right at the end of the golden age), it was one of the shortest in the country: the runt of the litter, perhaps it was never meant to thrive.
Even more gutted is what’s left of Southampton Royal, ‘nothing more than twisted metal and charred remains’ after two separate fires destroyed it. Each of these photos fascinates, but it’s the out-of-season pictures that tug at the heart strings: ‘all the fun of the pier’ promised to empty benches and tattered flags. A beautiful book.
PIERDOM by Simon Roberts, Dew Lewis, £35