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1832 First Pier
At the behest of a group of investors led by Surrey building contractor George Burge who had worked for Thomas Telford in St Katharine's Dock, a 3,613 feet (1,101 m) long and 24 feet (7.3 m) wide pier was designed and built by Telford's assistant Thomas Rhodes. Telford was building Whitstable harbour at the time. The first wooden pile was driven on 4 July 1831, and the structure was completed on 12 May 1832 at a cost of £50,000 when the steamer Venus brought the first passengers, in the same decade as Telford Terrace, the Pier Hotel and the promenade.
It was constructed of timber, with the piles being driven straight into the sea bed; it was "considered at the time the best specimen of pile-driving", and described as a "pier and breakwater". There was curved stone balustrading at the entrance, taken from old London Bridge which was demolished in 1831. A sail trolley vehicle running on tracks, powered by sail and foot and nicknamed Neptune's Car, ran the length of the pier from 13 June 1833, carrying passengers and baggage. When wind was inadequate as commonly happened, pier employees physically pushed the trolley
1873 Second Pier
The second pier was built in less than four months for £2,000 and opened on 27 August 1873 by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Sydney Waterlow. Waterlow made an entrance, arriving by train with uniformed sheriffs and a retinue of "gorgeously clad" minions in purple, chocolate and green livery. His procession was led by the East Kent Militia to a town hall lunch, regatta, fireworks and dances with ten thousand celebrating locals. The pier was engineered by Wilkinson and Smith, built with cast iron piles filled with concrete, had a bandstand at the end and was only 328 feet (100 m) long: too short to land paddle steamers in spite of their shallow draught, but long enough for promenading and entertainment. It retained the London Bridge balustrade.
1899 Third Pier
In 1895 the pier company re-applied and was granted powers again, so by July 1896 the short pier was rebuilt to the design of Ewen Matheson of Walbrook in London. On 26 August of that year the first pile of the deep-sea extension was screwed. The third pier was built of iron and designed by Head, Wrighton & Company of Thornaby-on-Tees at a cost of £60,000 including fittings. During construction it survived the great storm of 28−29 November 1897 which destroyed the promenade and damaged houses. It was completed in 1899, and at 3,787 feet (1,154 m) was the second longest in England. In the first year the tram fares made £488. The pier was used by paddle steamers until the last visit by PS Medway Queen in 1963.
The council considered the old Pavilion Theatre at the pier entrance too small so in 1910 organised a competition to design a new Grand Pier Pavilion. Percy Waldram, Mr Moscrop-Young and Mr Glanfield of London won it, and in May to June of that year the marquee section was widened and the pavilion was built for £2,000. It seated a thousand and its auditorium was 130 by 95 by 35 feet high, with stage and dressing rooms.