THE 200th anniversary of the opening of Britain’s first seaside pier is being marked today.

Ryde pier on the Isle of Wight, opened on July 26, 1814, and today still stands as a reminder of the feat of Victorian engineering.

Like many piers, some locals concede that the best years for Ryde pier – owned by ferry company Wightlink – were in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Today the pier is one of the main gateways to the Isle of Wight, with trains leaving the pier-head and ferries shuttling passengers to and from Portsmouth from it.

Derek Tomlinson, volunteer co-ordinator at the Historic Ryde Society, fondly remembers the grade II listed pier when it was a mainstay of the area.

He said: “In the 1950s and 1960s, the use of the pier was phenomenal. It’s half a mile long and at times you would have people queuing for the boats.

“But with the introduction of cars and coaches, the number of foot passengers coming across to the Island diminished.

“In the 50s and 60s, there was a ballroom known as the Seagull, a cafe, rock shops and amusements to keep everyone entertained.

“Nowadays, the end of the pier is just more or less a car park, and not a pleasure pier in the traditional sense of the word.”