The fascination with Eastbourne Pier


Artist Hans Schabus was taken by Eastbourne’s legendary Victorian pier when he first came to visit in 2013, exploring the town and its landscapes in preparation for his exhibition at Towner. He’s not alone in wanting to capture this historic pier in his artwork, which we are trying to raise funds to commission.

Artists, photographers and tourists have long been drawn to Eastbourne Pier. Once a symbol of pleasure-seeking and leisure of a bygone generation, Eastbourne’s Pier joins one of 50 still remaining around the country and is considered to be one of the finest of its type.

In 1997, National Piers Society voted it Pier of the Year. So when the pier caught fire last year, the public outpour of support was no surprise. Towner holds a number of historic sketches and paintings of Eastbourne Pier in its permanent Collection, documenting the Pier’s ever-shifting build, from its origins to present-day.

The 300-metre pier first opened on 13 June 1870, launched by Lord Edward Cavendish, offering a promenade, with six small kiosks along its length and a pair of tollbooths at the entrance. A domed 400-seater pavilion was completed in 1888, only to be replaced a year later by a 1,000-seat theatre, bar, camera obscura and office suite. Two saloons were also built at the same time, midway along the pier.

Of course, artists marked the landscape before the Pier was built. One of the earliest works in our Collection is a watercolour entitled View of Eastbourne Before the Erection of the Pier by Arthur Griffiths from 1840-1850 (pictured below). George Huardel Bly, who was born in 1872, documented the early days of the Pier in his untitled etching circa 1900 (pictured), which features a view of the pier and promenade from the Wish Tower.

Another painting that captures the spirit and time of Eastbourne Pier is painter Amy Reeve-Fowkes’ Eastbourne Front in Storm (1930). Reeve-Fowkes was a local artist and relation of Towner’s first curator, Arthur Reeve-Fowkes (1923-47).

More contemporary works include Charles Bartlett’s (1921-2014) The Pier (pictured); works of printmaker, teacher and illustrator Robert Taverner, who lived in Eastbourne; and works of Robert Morris (1865-1948).

Brighton-based photographer Simon Roberts recently captured Eastbourne Pier and all of the remaining piers along the English coast in a three-year project called Pierdom. Towner obtained his image, Eastbourne Pier, 2011, for our Collection.

We also hold works of other piers along the South Coast including Littlehampton, Brighton, Worthing, Hastings, Herne Bay and Langney.

These art works are critical in helping us understand and deepen our appreciation for the world around us, and we look forward to creating another Eastbourne masterpiece for future generations to enjoy.

Please support our project to create a new art work of Eastbourne Pier today and get great rewards, including tote bags, limited-edition artworks and tickets to brilliant events. Donate now.

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