A pier was proposed in 1884 as a visitor attraction. In September 1888 the contract for its building was awarded for £3,813, and for making the pier approach £938. The pier was 200 yards (180 m) long, and built in spans of 13 yards (12 m) each with a continuous wrought iron girder frame, which carried timber decking 11 yards (10 m) wide. The pier head was 40 yards (37 m) long and 13 yards (12 m) wide, with a landing stage on each side, at which excursion steamers could call. At the entrance were two toll houses with turnstiles. The architect for the pier construction was James Stuart Campbell McEwan-Brown (1870–1949). His family were originally from Kintyre, Argyll and were closely connected to the Duke of Argyll. It is no surprise therefore, that it was opened with considerable ceremony on 29 July 1889 by the Duke of Argyll.
The pier head was not added until 1926, and like most piers it was partially demolished during World War II to combat the threat of invasion. The pier remained derelict for a number of years and was only fully reopened in 1962. The borough architect, John Burton, designed the modernist 1950s style entrance building. This building was Grade II listed in 2004,
The heritage minister said:
“The Neck Building at Boscombe Pier is a rarity amongst municipal entertainment structures of the period. It was designed with real conviction and flair. The vivacity of this structure clearly illustrates the revitalisation of the British Seaside Resort in the 1950s.” — Andrew McIntosh
The building at the pier end was initially reopened as the Mermaid Theatre and then a roller skating rink before becoming an amusement arcade. It closed in 1989 and the pier became progressively more derelict over the next 19 years.
On 30 October 2005 the pier was closed as it was deemed unsafe. The Grade II listed pier entrance building was externally restored in 2007 together with a restoration of the pier neck. New decking, lighting and central windbreak screen was added together with a new viewing and fishing platform end section, replacing the derelict Mermaid Amusement Hall. The pier re-opened in May 2008. To the east of the pier is Europe’s first artificial surf reef.
Since the re-opening of the pier in 2008 a Friends Association has been established, organising art exhibitions and live music performances. In 2009 website Nothing To See Here named it Britain’s coolest with the National Piers Society voting it Pier of the Year 2010.
In 2014, a musical walkway was added to the pier, featuring 88 custom-made chimes that play ‘I Do Like To be Beside the Seaside’ when struck in the correct order. The outdoor musical installation includes tubular bells, a bell lyre and tembos.
The pier also has its own dedicated angling club, The Boscombe Pier Sea Anglers, founded in 2002 for out of hours fishing.