A history of Swanage Pier


The original Swanage Pier was constructed in 1859/60 by James Walton of London for the Swanage Pier and Tramway Company and opened by John Mowlem. The Pier was built primarily for shipping stone. Horses were used to pull carts along the narrow gauge tramway which ran along the Pier and seafront. This was intended as a track to link Swanage and Langton Matravers quarries with the Pier, but local opposition caused the track to finish at the `Bankers` (now known as the Parade) where some of the original track can still be seen.


When George Burt started a steamer service between Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth in 1874, the Pier was being used for day-trippers as well as stone cargo, it soon became clear that the Pier was unable to cope with the ever increasing traffic and it was decided a new and longer Pier was needed.


The first pile of the new Pier was driven on November 30th 1895 and the pier opened to traffic on March 29th 1897.


The first steamer, the P.S. Lord Elgin landed people on May 1st 1896. The last was the P.S. Embassy on August 24th 1966.


In 1940 the landward end of the Pier was blown up as an anti invasion precaution.


Following the war, the blown up section was replaces and steamer traffic was temporarily revived.


Steamer services discontinued. The last paddle steamer alongside Swanage Pier was The Embassy and the pier deteriorated for almost 30 years and eventually closed.


Grade 2 listed status awarded.


The Swanage Pier Trust acquired control of the Pier Company, with the aim of keeping the Pier open to residents and visitors and providing for its eventual total restoration. Already over £1,100.000  has been spent on restoring the timber structure, the renovations were financed by funding from the Lottery & English Heritage, plus other grants of  £100,400. A huge effort from the local community and visitors raised the balance of £299,600 in four short years.


Swanage Pier re-opening ceremony.

Present day

In order to keep the Pier from again falling into disrepair and dereliction, £200,000 needs to be raised every year - running costs are kept to a minimum by all the volunteer labour. Volunteers help in a variety of ways and we welcome anyone who has a few hours to spare.

This is an edited version of The Story of Swanage Pier 1895 to 2002 by Olive Middleton, which can be ordered from the Pier. Please contact us for more details.

Further information:

Pier facts and figures
Swanage Pier timeline
Swanage Pier quiz