Deal Pier is one of the few remaining piers in the country. Over the years there have been three on the site with the present pier built in 1954.
The first one at Deal was created in 1838. The original plans by engineer J. Rennie specified that it was to be 445 feet long. The Government provided £21,000 to the Deal Pier Company for the scheme but, after completing 250ft of the main structure, the company ran into financial difficulties. Construction came to a halt and the unfinished pier merely became a docking point for steamers. It seems likely that lack of maintenance over the next 20 years allowed the structure to decay and it was destroyed by a large storm in 1857.
In 1861 the Deal and Walmer Pier Company commissioned Eugenius Birch to design a new 1100ft-long pier. Work began in the Spring of 1863, incorporating stone from ruined Sandown Castle and wrought and cast iron for the pier itself. The design included a three-deck pier head, a steamer landing stage, seating along the full length and a tramway for goods and luggage. Two toll houses were built at the entrance. This second pier was officially opened on 8 November 1864 but the new pier company also ran into cash problems and had to hand it over to the contractors. Later, a pavilion was built on the pier head making it a popular venue for concerts. Local people also quickly appreciated its value as a base for angling.
On 19 January 1873 the barque Merle hit the pier during a storm causing extensive damage. Repairs were carried out but on 26 January 1884 the schooner Alliance also ran into the pier during a storm leading to further major repairs. Despite these two incidents the pier remained a popular amenity and it was purchased by the, then, Deal Borough Council for £10,000 in 1920.
During the second World War, the pier suffered fatal damage when, in 1940, it was battered by a stricken Dutch freighter, The Nora. The ship had been struck by a mine whilst anchored a mile off shore and towed to the beach just south of the pier. Despite local concerns about the risk of leaving the vessel on the shore, the warnings were unheeded. A rising tide lifted the Nora from the beach and smashed her against the pier, eventually demolishing some 200ft of the ironwork. Winston Churchill arrived to see the devastation and gave the army consent to demolish the broken pier leaving just the toll houses on the foreshore.
Strong local pressure after the war led to the old toll houses being removed in 1954 and work starting on Deal's third present-day pier. The new pier took three years to build and was formally opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 19 November 1957. It was the first seaside pleasure pier of any size to be built since 1910. Designed by Sir W Halcrow and Partners, the 1026ft-long structure comprises steel piles surrounded by concrete casings for the main supports. The pier head originally had three levels but, these days, the lower deck normally remains submerged.
Owned by Dover District Council, Deal Pier continues to be a significant local landmark and public amenity. It benefits from international recognition as an angling venue and in 2009 gained a new-look café-bar on the pier head. The environmentally friendly design was created by architects Niall McLaughlin and has gained several prestigious awards. Admission to the pier is free but there are fees for angling and private events bookings.
For more on Deal Pier, including opening times, go to Dover Council's website.