The Full Wiki

Pier: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Pier

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A simple pier on Lake Mapourika in New Zealand
Southend Pier in England is the longest pleasure pier in the world, at 1.34 miles (2158 m)

A pier is a raised walkway over 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 quay or the closely-spaced piles of a wharf can act as a breakwater, 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 America and 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 Europe however, 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 iron pleasure pier. However, the earliest piers such as Ryde and Brighton Chain pre-date the Victorian age.


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 advanced developments in cargo-handling technology.

Working piers

Working piers were built for the handling of passengers and cargo onto and off ships or (as at Wigan Pier) canal boats. 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 cargo was handled, such as at coal piers. 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 shed the 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 River frontage of New York, or the Embarcadero in 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 39 in San Francisco.

At Southport and the Tweed River on the Gold Coast in Australia, there are piers that support equipment for a sand bypassing system that maintains the health of sandy beaches and navigation channels.

Pleasure piers

Victorian pier at Llandudno, North Wales

Pleasure piers were first built in England, during the 19th century. The earliest structures were those at Ryde, built 1813/4, Leith(Trinity Chain) 1821 and Brighton (Chain) 1823. Only the oldest of these piers still remains. 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 2,158 metres (1.34 mi) 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 iron structures being introduced with the construction in 1855 of Margate Jetty, in Margate, England. Margate was wrecked in storms in 1978 and was never repaired. The oldest iron pier still remaining is in Southport, England, and dates from 1860.

Fishing piers

Many piers are built for the purpose of providing land locked anglers access to fishing grounds that are otherwise inaccessible.

Piers of the world

See the List of piers article for details of piers in countries across the world.

England and Wales

Victorian pier at Clevedon, Somerset, England

The first recorded pier in England was Ryde Pier, opened in 1814 on the Isle of Wight, as a landing stage to allow ferries to and from the mainland to berth. It is still used for this purpose today. However it has had a leisure function in the past, with the pier head once containing a pavilion. There are still refreshment facilities today. The oldest cast iron pier in the world is Gravesend Town Pier, in Kent, which opened in 1834. However, it is not recognised by the National Piers Society as being a seaside pier.[1]

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 Brighton in East Sussex and the three at Blackpool in Lancashire. Two piers, Brighton's now derelict West Pier and Clevedon Pier, were Grade 1 listed:Brighton West lost its status after a series of fires and storms. The Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare is the only pier in the world that is linked to an island. The National Piers Society gives a figure of 55 surviving seaside piers in England and Wales.[2]


The Scheveningen pier, near The Hague

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 metres (200 ft). 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.


The pier of Blankenberge

In Blankenberge a first pleasure pier was built in 1894. After its destruction in the World War I, a new pier was built in 1933. It remained till the present day, but was partially transformed and modernized in 1999-2004.

See also


  • Turner, K., (1999), Pier Railways and Tramways of the British Isles, The Oakwood Press, No. LP60, ISBN 0-85361-541-1

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PIER (older forms per or Pere, from Med. Lat. pera; the word is of obscure origin, and the connexion with Fr. Pierre, Lat. Petra, stone, is doubtful; equivalents are Fr. piedroit, pilier, trumeau; Ital. pi/a; Ger. Pfeiler), the term given in architecture to a vertical support in masonry or brickwork, usually rectangular on plan, which carries an arch or superstructure. The term is also sometimes given to the great circular columns which in some English cathedrals and churches carry the nave arches. In early Christian churches, when antique columns, such as abounded in Rome, were not procurable, square piers took the place of columns and sometimes alternated with them. The introduction of vaulting, however, in the 11th century, necessitated a support of much greater dimensions than those which had been deemed sufficient when the roof was of timber only, and led to the development of the compound or clustered pier. To give extra support to the subordinate arches of the nave arcade, semicircular shafts or pilasters were added, carried up to the transverse and diagonal ribs of the main vault. In Romanesque work the pier was generally square on plan with semicircular shafts attached, the angles of the pier being worked with smaller shafts. As the rings or orders of the nave arches increased in number, additional shafts were added to carry them, and the pilaster facing the nave had central and side shafts rising to carry the transverse and diagonal ribs of the vault; this development of the compound pier obtains throughout Europe in all vaulted structures. In the Early English period the piers become loftier and lighter, and in most important buildings a series of clustered columns, frequently of marble, are placed side by side, sometimes set at intervals round a circular centre, and sometimes almost touching each other. These shafts are often wholly detached from the central pier, though grouped round it, in which case they are almost always of Purbeck or Bethersden marbles. In Decorated work the shafts on plan are very often placed round a square set angle-wise, or a lozenge, the long way down the nave; the centre or core itself is often worked into hollows or other mouldings, to show between the shafts, and to form part of the composition. In this and the latter part of the previous style there is generally a fillet on the outer part of the shaft, forming what has been called a "keel moulding" (q.v.). They are also often tied together by bands, formed of rings of stone and sometimes of metal. About this period, too, these intermediate mouldings run up into and form part of the arch moulds, there being no impost. This arrangement became much more frequent in the Perpendicular period; in fact it was almost universal, the commonest section being a lozenge set with the long side from the nave to the aisle, and not towards the other arches, as in the Decorated period, with four shafts at the angles, between which were shallow mouldings, one of which was in general a wide hollow, sometimes with wave moulds. The small columns at the jambs of doors and windows, and in arcades, and also those attached to piers or standing detached, are generally called "shafts" (q.v.).

The term pier is sometimes applied to the solid parts of a wall between windows or voids, and also to the isolated masses of brickwork or masonry to which gates are hung. (R. P. S.) Piers of Bridges. - The piers of bridges and viaducts on land are constructed of masonry or brickwork and occasionally, in the case of high piers, of open braced ironwork, as exemplified by the old Crumlin viaduct in Wales and the Pecos viaduct in Texas. These piers, besides being proportioned in cross-section to the weight they have to support, are widened out at their base, so as to distribute the load over a sufficient area for it to be borne by the stratum on which it rests without risk of settlement. Special provisions have to be made for the foundations of piers where the ground is soft for some depth, or loose water-bearing strata are encountered, and especially where the piers of large bridges crossing rivers have to be constructed under water. In soft ground, bearing piles driven down to a firm stratum, and surmounted by a planked floor or a layer of concrete, provide a convenient foundation for a pier; and in places where timber is abundant, wooden cribs filled with rubble stone or concrete have been used in the United States for raising the foundations for piers out of water. For river piers, where a firm, watertight stratum is found at a moderate depth below the river-bed, the site is often enclosed within a coffer-dam or a plate iron caisson carried down into the stratum and raised out of water; and then, after the water has been pumped out and the surface layers removed, the pier is readily built within the enclosure in the open air. When, however, a river-bed consists of silt, sand or other soft materials extending down to a considerable depth, brickwork wells are gradually sunk to a firm stratum by removing the material within them with grabs, and on them the piers are built out of water; or bottomless caissons are carried down by excavating their interiors under compressed air, and the piers are built on top of them within a plate-iron enclosure, a system adopted for the piers of the Brooklyn, St Louis, Forth and other large bridges, and essential for forming foundations on sloping rock, such as was encountered in places under the Firth of Forth.

The methods indicated above as employed for the foundations of the piers of bridges under favourable conditions belong equally to the foundations of other structures (see Foundations); but there are some methods which, by combining bridge piers and their foundations in a single structure, appertain entirely to piers. Thus iron screw piles, sunk by turning into Scale 5 0 10 20 Feet Fig. i. - Pier with Disk Piles.

the soft bed of a river till they reach a firm stratum or one sufficiently consolidated by the superincumbent layers to enable it to support the wide blades of the screws with the weight imposed on them, were formerly often arranged in converging clusters joined together at the top, so as to serve as the piers of bridges having several comparatively small spans, and intended for carrying lightly constructed railways across rivers in India and elsewhere. Hollow, cast-iron, cylindrical piles also, with a broad circular disk at the bottom to increase their bearing surface, have been used for piers founded in sandy or silty strata bolted together with a specially strong bottom ring, sometimes made of wrought iron and having a cutting edge, have been often employed for the construction of the river piers of bridges, being gradually carried down to a watertight stratum by excavating inside, and subsequently filled up solid with concrete and brickwork; the piers of the Charing Cross and Cannon Street bridges across the Thames are notable instances of the adoption of this method, which is well illustrated by the piers of the bridges across the River Chittravati in ' India (fig. 2). Sometimes, instead of two or more independent cylinders being sunk, the whole site of a pier is enclosed within a wrought-iron caisson, usually divided into sections r --- by vertical partitions, which is sunk and filled up solid in the same way as cylinders, a system adopted, for instance, for the piers of the bridge across the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales.

Missing image
Missing image

P r omenade Piers

The term pier is often applied to works sheltering harbours, such as the Tynemouth piers, which are strictly breakwaters. Landing stages also, whether solid or open, have for a long time been called piers, as the Admiralty Pier and the Prince of Wales's Pier at Dover; but the open promenade piers which form a common feature at seaside resorts are the type of pier best known to the general public. These piers are supported upon open pilework of timber or iron, and consequently expose little surface to waves in storms and do not interfere with the drift of shingle or sand along the coast (fig. 3). 1 Timber piles are best suited for withstanding the shocks of vessels at landing stages, at which places they are generally used; but since they are subject to the attacks of the teredo, and expose a considerable surface to the waves, iron piles are generally adopted for the main portion of these piers. The pioneer of these piers was the old chain pier at Brighton, which was erected in 1822-1823. It was founded upon oak piles, was 1136 ft. long, and had a timber landing-stage at the end. I t consisted of four spans suspended from chains on the model of the Menai Suspension Bridge, then in course of construction, and was destroyed by a gale in December 1896. A wider and more modern type of pier was erected at the west end of Brighton in 1865-1866, ,;??11?1??-?Iil?lll??al ?II l ';?

j I=: ?tll?I?:?'?I?i!?ii?.?

900 c r FIG. 3. - Promenade Pier.

of considerable thickness; they are sunk to the requisite depth by lowering a pipe down the inside of the pile to the bottom and emitting a powerful jet of water which, stirring up the soft material and scouring it away from under the disk, causes the pile to descend. This system was first adopted for the piers of a railway viaduct crossing the wide, sandy Kent and Leven estuaries opening into Morecambe Bay (fig. I). Cast-iron cylinders, consisting of a series of rings formed of segments all and subsequently extended; whilst a new pier was completed in 1900 near the site of the old chain pier, 1 boo ft. long. The Southport pier, erected in1859-1860and afterwards prolonged, furnishes an example of an iron pier supported on disk piles sunk in sand as described above (fig. I); whilst the much more commonly used iron screw piles, adopted as early as 1847 for an open landing-pier on the Irish coast at Courtown, which was exposed to a great littoral drift of sand, are shown as the mode of support for the pier 1 The Engineer (1888), i. 380, 381 and 384.

Missing image
Missing image

Sand Rock.

FIG. 2. - Cylindrical Piers for River Bridges.

at St Leonards (fig. 3). The length given to these promenade piers depends mainly on the slope of the foreshore, which determines the distance from the shore at which a sufficient depth is reached for steamers of moderate draught to come alongside the end of the pier. Thus, whereas a length of 900 ft. has sufficed for the St Leonards pier on a somewhat steep, shingly beach, the pier at Ryde, constituting the principal landing-place for the Isle of Wight passengers, has had to be carried out about half a mile across a flat alluvial foreshore to reach water deep enough for the access of the steamboats crossing the Solent. The vast sands, moreover. at the outlet of the Ribble estuary, stretching two or three miles in front of Southport at low water of spring tides, have necessitated the construction of a pier 4395 ft. long merely to get out to an old flood-tide channel, which is now completely severed by the sands at low water from all connexion with the river.

(L. F. V. - H.)

<< Pienza

Franklin Pierce >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also pier, and píer




from Pieter 'Peter'

Proper noun


  1. a vulgar boy's name form, roughly equivalent to Petie



Pier m. (genitive Piers or Pieres, plural Piers)

  1. pier

Simple English


A Pier is a raised walkway across water which are used to help control tides and currents. They can range from a simple light wooden structures which have no affect on the current and tides, and are just an extension across the water, to major structures which have buildings on the surface which can extend over a mile out to sea. In the United States, these may be referred to as docks.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address