Gyles Brandreth, patron of National Piers Society, on Ryde Pier for the launch of a new book about UK piers. Picture by Peter Boam.
ENTERTAINER, former politician and pier enthusiast, Gyles Brandreth, visited the Isle of Wight to launch a new book about UK piers — two centuries after Ryde Pier, the oldest and still the fourth longest, was built.
The Island features heavily in the guidebook, British Seaside Piers,written and photographed by Anthony Wills and Tim Phillips. The duo, directors of the National Piers Society (NPS), invited society patron Mr Brandreth to launch the book.
Dressed as a Victorian gent, courtesy of Masqueryde, he was joined by fellow patron, Timothy West, and his wife, the actress Prunella Scales. "The Isle of Wight is very important in the history of piers but sadly, only four of the original eight remain.
"Ryde Pier is the oldest in the UK, it was opened 200 years ago on July 26, 1814," said Mr Wills, who lives in London.
"Many piers closed after the 1960s bucket and spade heyday, and resorts became run down, but with the 'staycationing’ trend, there is a renewed interest in preserving them. Heritage Lottery grants have been made available for rebuilding several piers."
Today, 61 of almost 100 piers remain and the NPS has more than 700 members.
Following the book launch, held earlier this month as part of the society’s AGM, guests were invited to a reception at Ryde Castle Hotel, where they feasted on a pier-shaped cake, made by Petticoats and Frills, of Newport, and sang Happy Birthday to Ryde Pier.
Wightlink is hosting a free Party on the Pier today (Sunday), with food and entertainment, to mark the pier's birthday.Music includes Simon Wheeler, JC & Angelina, Bloodstone Morris and from 8pm the Unity Stompers, including a Last Night of the Proms-inspired session led by Simon Wheeler, with flags & song sheets).
There will also be displays by Ryde Historic Society, Ryde Social Heritage Group, dressing up with Masqueryde and Ryde Extreme Performers.
Donations will be collected in aid of Ryde Inshore Rescue.
☞ British Seaside Piers is published by English Heritage at £25.