Lake Mapourikain New Zealandillustrates the simplest form of pier]
A pier is a raised
walkwayover water, supported by widely spread piles or pillars. The lighter structure of a pier allows tides and currents to flow almost unhindered, whereas the more solid foundations of a quayor the closely-spaced piles of a wharfcan act as breakwaters, and are consequently more liable to silting. Piers can range in size and complexity from a simple lightweight wooden structure to major structures extended over a mile out to sea. In American English, pier may be synonymous with dock.
Piers have been built for several different purposes, and because these different purposes have distinct regional variances, the term "pier" tends to have different nuances of meaning in different parts of the world. Thus in
North Americaand Australia, where many ports were, until recently, built on the multiple pier model, the term tends to imply a current or former cargo-handling facility. In Europehowever, where ports have tended to use basins and river-side quays rather than piers, the term is principally associated with the image of a Victorian cast ironpleasure pier.
Types of pier
Piers can be categorized into different groupings, depending on the principal purpose. It should be realized that there is, nonetheless, a significant amount of overlap. For example, pleasure piers often also allowed for the docking of pleasure steamers and other similar craft, whilst working piers have often been converted to leisure use after being rendered obsolete by changes in cargo-handling technology.
Working piers were built for the handling of passengers and cargo onto and off ships. Working piers themselves fall into two different groups. Longer individual piers are often found at ports with large tidal ranges, with the pier stretching far enough off shore to reach deep water at low tide. Such piers provided an economical alternative to
impounded docks where cargo volumes were low, or where specialist bulk cargos were handled such as at coal piers. An early example of an individual working pier is Ryde Pier, opened in 1814 to serve ferries between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight.
The other form of working pier, often called the finger pier, was built at ports with smaller tidal ranges. Here the principal advantage was to give a greater available quay length for ships to berth against compared to a linear littoral quayside, and such piers are usually much shorter. Typically each pier would carry a single
transit shedthe length of the pier, with ships berthing bow or stern in to the shore. Some major ports consisted of large numbers of such piers lining the foreshore, classic examples being the Hudson Riverfrontage of New York, or the Embarcaderoin San Francisco.
The advent of
container shipping, with its need for large container handling spaces adjacent to the shipping berths, has made working piers obsolete for the handling of general cargo, although some still survive for the handling of passenger ships or bulk cargos. Many working piers have been demolished, or remain derelict, but others have been recycled as pleasure piers. The best known example of this is Pier 39in San Francisco.
Pleasure piers were first built in
England, during the 19th century. At that time the introduction of the railways for the first time permitted mass tourism to dedicated seaside resorts. However, the large tidal ranges at many such resorts meant that for much of the day, the sea was not visible from dry land. The pleasure pier was the resorts' answer, permitting holiday makers to promenade over and alongside the sea at all times. The longest Pleasure pier in the world is at Southend-on-sea, Essex, and extends convert|2158|m|mi|abbr=off|2 into the Thames estuary. The longest pier on the West Coast of the United States is the Oceanside Pier.
Pleasure piers often include other amusements and
theatres as part of the attraction. Such a pier may be open air, closed, or partly open, partly closed. Sometimes a pier has two decks.
Early pleasure piers were of
wooden construction, with ironstructures being introduced with the construction in 1855 of Margate Jetty, in Margate, England. One of the oldest iron piers still remaining is in Southport, also in England and dates from 1860.
Many piers are built for the purpose of providing land locked anglers access to fishing grounds that are otherwise inaccessible.
Piers of the world
List of piersarticle for details of piers in countries across the world.
England and Wales
The first recorded pier in
Englandwas Ryde Pier, opened in 1814 on the Isle of Wight, as a working pier to allow ferries to and from the mainland to berth. It is still used for this purpose today. The oldest cast ironpier in the world is Gravesend Town Pier, in Kent] , which opened in 1834.cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4694642.stm | title = The oldest surviving cast iron pier in the world | publisher = BBC | accessmonthday = March 26 | accessyear = 2006 ]
In their heyday, there were many pleasure piers across England and
Wales. These were found in most fashionable seaside resorts during the Victorian era. There are still a significant number of piers of architectural merit still standing, although some have been lost. The most well known piers are perhaps the two at Brightonin East Sussexand the three at Blackpoolin Lancashire. Two piers, Brighton's now derelict West Pier and Clevedon Pier, are Grade 1 listed. The Birnbeck Pierin Weston-super-Mareis the only pier in the world that is linked to an island.The National Piers Societygives a figure of 55 surviving seaside piers in England and Wales.cite web | url = http://www.piers.co.uk/piers.htm | title = Piers | publisher = National Piers Society(2006) | accessmonthday = March 27 | accessyear = 2006 ]
Scheveningen, the coastal resort town of The Hague, boasts the largest pier in the Netherlands, it was completed in 1961. A crane, built on top of the pier's panorama tower, provides the opportunity to make a 60 m. high bungee jump over the North Sea waves. The present pier is a successor of an earlier pier, which was completed in 1901 but in 1943 destroyed by the German occupation forces.
List of piers
* Turner, K., (1999), "Pier Railways and Tramways of the British Isles", The Oakwood Press, No. LP60, ISBN 0-85361-541-1
* [http://www.piers.co.uk National Piers Society]
* [http://www.the-pier.co.uk the-pier.co.uk the #1 resource for the UK's piers]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.