Celebrating pier master's enduring legacy

Fire destroyed the North Pier Pavilion in 1938, attracting thousands of people who watched the blaze from the Promenade and beach
Fire destroyed the North Pier Pavilion in 1938, attracting thousands of people who watched the blaze from the Promenade and beach

This year marks 200 years since the birth of civil engineer Eugenius Birch, whose work can still be seen on the Fylde coast.

He was responsible for designing Blackpool’s famous North Pier and the long-gone Lytham Pier – both built by R Laidlaw and Son, of Glasgow.

Lytham Pier in 1903 after the great storm, when steel barges broke their moorings and sliced the pier in half. It was repaired, but was later demolished in 1960

Lytham Pier in 1903 after the great storm, when steel barges broke their moorings and sliced the pier in half. It was repaired, but was later demolished in 1960

He was born in June 1818, the son of an architect and surveyor.

Birch was educated at Brighton, and at the age of 16 – while employed at Messrs Bligh’s engineering works, Limehouse, he planned a marine steam engine, which impressed his employers and their peers.

In 1839, he was elected a Graduate of the Mechanics Institution, then became a member, and entered into partnership with his elder brother, John Brannis Birch.

Between 1847 and 1851, he designed and carried out the Kelham and Stockwith bridges schemes in Nottinghamshire.

View of Lytham Pier in 1910

View of Lytham Pier in 1910

But Birch became most famous for the system of promenade piers which he and his brother initiated.

The first was at Margate jetty, completed in 1853.

He also designed piers for Bournemouth, West Brighton, Deal, Eastbourne, Plymouth and of course Lytham and the North Pier in Blackpool.

North Pier was the second of 14 piers across the country designed by Birch.

Crowds on North Pier during its heyday

Crowds on North Pier during its heyday

Our archive photos take a look back at both piers in their heyday.

North Pier was constructed between 1862 and 1863. It is now a Grade II listed building and the oldest remaining example of a Birch pier.

Its spectacular Indian Pavilion was destroyed by a fire in 1938.

Lytham Pier was constructed in 1864-65.

In October 1903, it was sliced in two by drifting barges, but was repaired. The pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1927.

It closed in 1938 and was finally demolished in 1960.