Hastings pier: once a place for solace and reflection

One Hastings resident describes the feelings of anger and grief after the town's historic pier was destroyed by fire this morning

Hastings pier has been the heart of this wonderful historically rich fishing town for 138 years, but I never knew it existed until I was released from prison just over six years ago.

Hastings was the nearest large town to the prison from which I was finally released after serving 20 years of my life sentence and it was there I decided to make my home.

Those early days were filled with conflicting emotions, of happiness and guilt and occasionally I found myself suffering bouts of depression.

To try to keep a clear perspective on my situation I began taking long walks along the beach, from the old fishing net huts situated by the town's famous Stade, all the way along to the pier.

There I would walk its entire length and sit at its furthest point, gazing out over the windy Channel towards France.

It was such a peaceful place. I'd stare out at the huge tankers en route to faraway places and between them and me fishing boats from the Hastings fleet would bob.

I would imagine the lives of all those seafarers and wonder at their labour. The odd line fisherman would turn up and I remember being awed by their patience.

Conversations taught me that as well as hoping for a catch, these individuals, like me, were just looking for some peace. Sometimes too, lovers would stroll by, hand in hand – they might stop and stare like me across the foaming wild horses.

The end of that pier was a wonderful place to find solace.

When it closed down in 2006 many in the town were outraged. The letters page of the Hastings Observer was filled with angry words.

Looking at the smouldering wreckage this morning was heartbreaking.

There is anger in the town, but more than that there is an almost palpable sense of grief.

Trail of disasters Seaside landmarks and their fates

1994: Birnbeck, Weston-super-Mare

The only pier that links to an island. It was already in a poor state when it suffered storm damage leading to closure.

March 2003: West pier, Brighton

The Brighton landmark fell into disrepair and was closed in 1975. A storm caused partial collapse in 2002 and fire destroyed it the following year. Restoration plans have been abandoned.

October 2005: Southend pier

The longest pleasure pier in the world opened in 1830. Its turbulent history included a tanker hitting it in 1986, creating a 70ft gap, and three previous fires. The pier has now reopened.

July 2008: Grand, Weston-super-Mare

The Grand closed for three years following a blaze in 1930, and was destroyed in the 21st century by another fire. But it is due to reopen soon after being rebuilt.

July 2008: Victoria pier, Colwyn Bay After a long period of decline the 1900 pier finally closed to the public.

September 2008: Fleetwood pier

Built in 1910, the pier was damaged by fire in 1952. It was rebuilt and given another facelift in 1972 but the most recent fire left it wrecked.

Luc Torres


Erwin James

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Hastings pier fire: devastating blaze may not mean the end
Buildings destroyed but campaigners hope iron structure remains sound enough to allow new pier to rise from ashes

Matthew Weaver

05, Oct, 2010 @4:41 PM

Article image
Hastings pier destroyed by fire
Two men arrested on suspicion of arson after 95% of Victorian pier burnt down in major blaze

Matthew Weaver and agencies

05, Oct, 2010 @9:52 AM

Article image
Hastings Pier reopens following £14.2m restoration project
Local supporters and Heritage Lottery funding have helped restore ‘the people’s pier’ following fire damage and eight years of closure

Will Coldwell

27, Apr, 2016 @4:45 PM

Article image
Fire destroys Hastings pier

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson after the Victorian pier in East Sussex was severely damaged by fire

05, Oct, 2010 @8:27 AM

Article image
Once more on to the beach: how Britain’s seaside towns bounced back
For years our coastal resorts have been in decline. But now bookings are on the rise, and over half of us will go to a British beach this year. So what has changed?

Peter Ross

14, May, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Hastings Pier; i360, Brighton review – two magnificent achievements
Blue-sky thinking results in contrasting but equally ingenious projects to replace two piers on the Sussex coast

Rowan Moore

24, Jul, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Hastings pier gets £11.4m lottery grant

Hastings trust awarded Heritage Lottery funding to save burnt-out Victorian and pop history landmark

Maev Kennedy

19, Nov, 2012 @3:32 PM

Article image
Weston inferno: End of the pier show leaves seaside town with memories and ashes

Deep-fat fryers found at suspected source of fire that has 'absolutely devastated' new owners

Helen Pidd

28, Jul, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
Fleetwood pier destroyed by fire
Another of England's historic piers, the 1910 structure in Fleetwood, Lancashire, is wrecked in an unexplained blaze

09, Sep, 2008 @12:19 PM

Article image
Plan to sell Hastings pier to entrepreneur angers locals
Group has raised majority of £500,000 target to keep pier in community ownership

Kim Willsher

14, Jun, 2018 @4:43 PM