History of South Parade Pier

South Parade Pier has a very colourful and eventful history: it has been destroyed by fire 3 times, the most infamous being in 1974 during the making of the film 'Tommy'; it was requisitioned during World War II for the preparation and embarkation of troops for the D-Day landings; and as an entertainment venue many famous names have performed here, such as, Frankie Howerd, Peter Sellers, David Bowie and Genesis. After years of neglect, this much loved Victorian structure has been restored once more, and it's time to start making history again!

1875 - 1878

Southsea South Parade Pier was built where Henry VIII witnessed the sinking of his flagship the Mary Rose, 1545. It was designed by G.Rale as passenger terminal for ferries to the Isle of Wight.

The original South Parade Pier


South Parade Pier was opened by Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar. It was 1,950ft in length, long enough for steamer embarkation.

South Parade Pier opened in 1879


The pier was completely destroyed by fire. After this devasting fire the pier was sold to the Portsmouth Coorporation and rebuilt as a pleasure pier at a cost of £85,000.

Destroyed by fire in 1904.


The new pleasure pier is reopened. Designed by local architect G E Smith the pier was 600ft long and built with an innovative concrete deck, windscreens on all sides and a 1,200 seater theatre.

Reopening of South Parade Pier 1908

Early 1900's

Roller Skating on the end of the pier.

Roller Skaters on the pier, early 1900's


Crowds flock to the popular pier.

Crowds flock to the popular pier.

World War II

During the war the pier was requisitioned by the government for the preparation and embarkation of troops to France. The pier was partly dismantled and temporary piers were built from scaffolding alongside South Parade Pier to increase the number of troops that could be loaded.

Troops departing from South Parade Pier

D-Day 1944

General Eisenhower is on the pier watching the troops getting on the landing craft.

D-Day: Troops embark from South Parade Pier
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After the war life on the pier got make to normal with many events like this beauty contest.

Beauty Contest South Parade Pier


Many famous names delighted the crowds during this period of the pier including Frankie Howerd, Peter Sellers and Tommy Steele.

Frankie Howerd and Tommy Steele performed at South Parade Pier.


The sixties attracted more big names like Frankie Howerd, Beverley Sisters, Pretty Things and Status Quo.

Frankie Howerd appeared for a whole week at the pier back in the sixties.

1966 - 1967

In 1966, the pier suffered its second fire which destroyed the theatre. It was removed the following year.

The grand theatre sadly destroyed by fire and removed in 1967.


David Bowie played on South Parade Pier. This start of his celebrated Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars period. The gig not a sell out but 'It was a full-on performance in all the Ziggy regalia'. His contract below shows he was paid £225.

David Bowie South Parade Pier 1972


South Parade Pier is destoyed by fire again during the making of Ken Russell's film 'Tommy'. In a scene with Oliver Reed, smoke can clearly by seen.

The fire 1974 badly destroyed the pier.


The pier was re-opened after a £500,000 rebuild. The large pavilion was less grand than the previous with an 800 capacity show bar.

The third pier!

1980's and 1990's

The nusic scene thrived again on the pier in the 80's and 90s with discos and club nights in the pier's Gaiety and Albert ballrooms organised by Portsmouth Polytechnic students. Up and coming bands such as Lindisfarme, Stone Roses and Blur also performed.

Blur at the pier.


Mind The Baby, Mr Bean is aired featuring South Parade Pier.

Mr Bean, Mind The Baby

2010 - 2014

The future of the pier was in doubt after it emerged the owners were losing money. Changes in ownership, lack of investment, neglect and disrepair then lead to the forced closure of the pier in 2012 by the council amid safety fears. The pier then failed to sale in auction.

Pier fully closed and boarded up.


A huge storm damages the pier further. Large parts of the boat deck were destoyed and wood was left scattered along the seafront.

Storm Damage in 2014


The pier is sold: plans are unveiied and work begins to restore this iconic structure to her former glory.

The pier is sold.

April 2017

The pier has been restored and is once again open to the public to enjoy.

The reopening of the Pier

October 2017

The Gaiety Bar reopens with a full progamme of events and entertainment, just like the good old days!

A Halloween Party to open the Gaiety Bar.