Mark Horton visits Claremont Pier in Lowestoft and investigates the current perilous state of our seaside piers.
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Lowestoft is the most easterly point of our islands.
Every morning the sun hits this bit of the country first.
And when you actually get out here, you want to go out and greet the sun!
Being at the seaside, the easiest way of getting that little bit closer is by going to the end of a pier.
For the last 150 years, they have been a vital part of our seaside architecture.
But we're losing them fast.
Since the 1970s, 11 piers have been lost completely.
While others, like Lowestoft's Claremont pier, still struggle on.
To find out exactly what state it's in, the owner, David Scott, offered to give me a guided tour.
Hello, David! Can we go inside your pier?
How many generations has it been in your family?
Three generations, Mark, actually.
-A real responsibility!
-Surely these machines make sackloads of money?
-Not bags of money, Mark.
It used to be bags of money!
While David's arcade is still open for business, the pier itself has been closed to the public since 1982.
-It's so wonderful to be out here!
-It's an unusual experience, isn't it?
Having the sea below you like this.
What was this pier like in its Edwardian heyday?
I mean, obviously a sense of occasion coming on to a pier.
Everyone dressed smartly. There were theatres.
-Punters promenading up and down?
-Yes, absolutely packed!
-Coming down to take the steamer off the end there.
Obviously it used to be a lot longer than it is now.
With a T-piece on the end as well to moor up against.
I can show you some old archive photographs.
Oh look, there it is!
The steamer would stop off on the way to London and ferry people back.
It wasn't just a pleasure pier? It had a commercial function?
-What happened to the T-piece?
-Time and tide have taken it away.
Seeing Claremont like this, it's easy to forget that it, like many of our piers, had a real working past.
Like the Victorian equivalent of an airport.
They were arrival points for passengers visiting the seaside.
But unlike an airport, piers combined function with fun!
The saucy shows and funfairs meant that they soon became leisure destinations in themselves.
No self-respecting seaside resort could be without one.
In the 50 years between 1860 and 1910,
78 piers were built around the country.
But today, many of the 54 that still stand are in as bad or worse condition than Claremont.
The end of David's pier is now just too dangerous to walk on.
So architect and National Pier Society member Tim Phillips has offered to give me
a different perspective on the state of Britain's piers.
Well, a pier like this, for example,
where all the amusements are at the landward end,
there's not much incentive for the owner perhaps to spend money.
If it's a dangerous structure,
you can't get even the fishermen on there paying you money.
-Are they not protected, or listed or anything?
-Not in this case.
-No statutory protection?
From this angle, it's obvious to see the problems
that pier owners like David Scott face.
Without the revenue from paddle steamers and their passengers,
many piers ended up as endangered buildings housing arcade games and little else.
But there are glimmers of hope.
Just down the coast in Southwold,
over a million pounds has been spent renovating their pier -
and the visitors are coming back.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd