TODAY Southampton’s once fine Royal Pier is a sad and sorry sight and nothing remains to hint at its former glory.

To go back to the beginning the waterfront structure was opened on July 8, 1833 by the Duchess of Kent and Princess, later Queen, Victoria.

Designed by Edward L Stephens, the original pier cost £25,000, equivalent to more than £1.2m in today’s value, but its construction was fatally flawed.

York Press: An engraving of the Royal Pier

It turned out softwood was used for the piles supporting the pier. Just five years later it had become unsafe and a full scale renovation had to be undertaken.

A pontoon was added in 1864 and seven years later railway lines were extended to a widened pier-head, which also boasted a purpose-built station.

The Royal Pier became incredibly popular with both local people and visitors who all wanted to take a stroll along the wooden planks and take in the sea air.

York Press: The Royal Pier as seen in the Victorian era.

Musicians performing open air concerts attracted huge audiences while hundreds of people idled away the day in rows of deckchairs and in the shelters dotted around the decking.

Major reconstruction of the pier took place in 1892. A pavilion able to seat 1,000 people was built in 1894 with facilities to stage concerts, dramatic productions and dances. From 1906 roller-skating became an added attraction on the pier.

This was the Royal Pier’s heyday, it was the venue to see and be seen at, and the place where Southampton society gathered.

The new, revamped pier, the largest of its kind in southern England, also became a place for local people to promenade. It featured a bandstand, amusement hall and refreshment rooms.

York Press: The Southampton Royal Pier Pavillion in 1912

According to research undertaken by the National Piers Society, by 1913, the pier structure and timberbuilt railway station had deteriorated and repairs were recommended by the Harbour Board. Trains did not operate on the pier during the First World War and, in 1921, it was agreed not to reinstate the service.

However, ferries to the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands continued to run from the pier. A new gatehouse was built in 1937 but there was bomb damage to the ornate cast ironwork during the Second World War.

York Press: Crowds on the Royal Pier on Whit Sunday, 1948

Once peace returned the Royal Pier enjoyed a great revival in popularity and the pavilion reopened in 1947 and was extended 16 years later, while a new vehicle bridge to the pontoon was built in 1950.

The 900ft pier was closed on January 2, 1980 by its owners, British Transport Docks Board, after engineers assessed it was economically unviable to keep open.

York Press: Giant draughts on the Royal Pier, 1954

The Royal Pier’s fate was finally sealed by two huge fires, one in 1987 and the other five years later, which ripped through the old pavilion and the acres of timber decking leaving it nothing more than a collection of twisted metal and charred remains.

Since then the former pier has been the centre point for a series of ambitious development plans none of which have ever materialised.

Only earlier this month yet another scheme was unveiled aimed at transforming the area around the old pier site.