Fist published in 2002, sixteen pages have expanded this reprint of Lynn Pearson's nostalgic look at Britain's pleasure piers - though what the extra pages are I am not sure, as I haven't seen the earlier edition - and includes other seaside buildings the author has deemed interesting enough. Beginning in about 1814 as a drop off point for visitors tempted to the seaside by fast steam vessels, by 1939, 101 pleasure piers had been built. Sixty years later, only 55 remained. Fortunately, it's now been realised how these structures need to be preserved and many are now listed buildings.
While the body of the text isn't as much as you might expect (it is only 64 pages in length), the captioned photos more than make up for this. The problem is, a too high proportion of people that use these disappearing `landing stages' never take the time to stroll along and look at the ornate ironwork, elegant seating and pier head pavilions. If you do, you'll realise how the Victorians and Edwardians could teach us a thing or two about design. (Just compare the entrances of the piers at Bangor Garth and Southend.) Though not covering every pier built, Pearson manages to convey a sense of sadness when you realise how many succumbed to storm damage, fire (too many to make you wonder whether it's always accidental) and shortsighted town planners.
The second part of this book covers architecture such as winter gardens and lidos in resorts that may not actually have a pier. It may be England heavy, as such things didn't really reach Scotland, though Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, apparently has pier head toilets worth visiting. On the other hand, Dreamland in Margate is included as an interesting place to visit; believe me, it isn't. However, it isn't just the Victorians that were responsible for all this fine architecture. This book has plenty of photos of Art Deco buildings and it's nice to see that architects are now trying to include some taste in their designs, witness the amazing café on the beach at Littlehampton (built in 2007), in an attempt to bring people back to the seaside by showing them it isn't all amusement arcades. One thing worth mentioning is my copy of this has a different photo on the cover to that shown here.