A structure built out over the sea at the shoreline is by its very location vulnerable to storm damage. And all three of Brighton's piers have suffered storm damage at some point or points in their careers.
Brighton Pier (still known to many locals as Palace Pier) was damaged as a result of a storm even as it was being built, though not directly. In a storm in December 1896 the dilapidating Chain Pier was destroyed and debris from its collapse struck and damaged the new pier.
Fortunately the new project survived the damage and in 1899 the third of Brighton's piers was opened to the public by the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier Company. At its pier head it had a landing stage and a pavilion (the palace bit of the company name), and it has had a number of alterations throughout its history. The landing stage was used for coastal day trips until about 1960, but in 1973 when the now derelict landing stage was being removed, a barge, moored to the pier during the work, broke loose during a storm and did a lot of damage. Brighton Pier might well have gone the way of the West Pier, sliding downhill to insolvency. But along came the Noble Organisation, a gambling and betting business, which bought the pier in 1984.
The traditional financial model for a pier expected that customers would pay an entrance fee. To go on the Palace Pier you first paid and then went through a turn style. Nobles big innovation was to make entrance to the pier free of charge.The pier has proven very successful because it has become a fair ground and slot-machine land over the sea. So gaming machines, video and computer games, fairground rides, together with fish and chip restaurant and bars ready to hand, and a variety of stalls that fit the market mix: all this is what keeps the pier bubbling, plus the opportunity to freely walk the 1600 or so feet of the pier and take in the sea air and sea views. It is a great place to get a seaward view of the Brighton seafront.
Nobles was also lucky in its timing. It took over the pier at a time when a new local council leadership set about with determination to revive Brighton's failing economy, part of which included the revitalisation of the neglected seafront.
If you come to Brighton, you must walk the pier. You must have a look at Brighton's seafront from the far end of the pier. You get a different perspective. I was once at a meeting in Brighton addressed by the Hungarian ambassador, who said that the pier was a big success with his family, especially his children. Coming from a landlocked country they found the pier endlessly fascinating.
But you don't have to be a Hungarian child to enjoy the fascination of the pier. Come and have a look yourself.
The Noble Organisation has not had a very happy relationship with either conservationists or the local council. Conservationists succeeded in having the pier listed as a Grade II* listed building. This in theory places severe restrictions on what sort of renovation work can be done. But Nobles seem to have just carried on with their own game plan, while its critics have looked on , complaining but seemingly powerless to get any leverage over their activities. Its critics tend to grudgingly admit that the pier is once again thriving, but they also feel it has been 'dumbed down' as a cultural asset to the people of Brighton.