Since the construction of the first pier at Swanage Bay, Dorset, in 1859 there have been numerous transformations giving rise to the pier as it stands today. The first pier was originally built to provide a shipping point for Purbeck stone and included a tramway that ran along the pier and seafront. However, with the increasing popularity of steamships for leisure trips between Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth, construction of a new pier was begun in 1895. This second pier served as a docking point for steamships for over 70 years until the departure of the last steamer, the P.S. Embassy, in August 1966.
During its 118 year life time the second, and now only pier, has undergone numerous repair works. These include the first concrete cladding to eroded piles in 1927, reconstruction of the landward end of the pier in 1948 – after it was destroyed as an anti-invasion precaution in 1940 – to its restoration by Swanage Pier Trust after almost 30 years of deterioration in 1994-98. Since this time it has served as a popular tourist attraction in the town, regularly used for fishing, sailing, boat trips and recreational diving from Divers Down, the oldest dive school in the UK.
The latest remedials to the pier were conducted during the summer of last year. These were due to a support pile being damaged during strong winds and rough seas in March leaving a section of the pier close to collapse. In order for the damaged timber to be replaced CSD were contracted to assist in the removal of the old pile to allow insertion of a new 14ft (4.5m) stump into the seabed. This involved excavation around the base of the damaged pile and securing of a chain attached to a work barge during low tide in order for the pile to be removed with the rising tide.
With removal of the old pile complete construction work to repair the pier commenced, along with additional work to the walkways, before the official reopening of the pier in February this year.
ITV Meridian News covered the story during the diving operations, the segment they produced can be found here.