The first pier in Bournemouth consisted of a short wooden jetty that was completed in 1856. This was replaced by a much longer wooden pier, designed by George Rennie, which opened on 17 September 1861. Due to an attack by Teredo worm, the wooden piles were removed in favour of cast iron replacements in 1866, but even with this additional benefit just over a year later the pier was made unusable when the T-shaped landing stage was swept away in a gale. After repairs, the pier continued in use for a further ten years until November 1876 when another severe storm caused further collapse rendering the pier too short for steamboat traffic. The Rennie pier was subsequently demolished, and replaced in 1877 by a temporary structure. During the next three years a new pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, was completed.
At a cost of £2,600 the new Bournemouth Pier was opened by the Lord Mayor of London on 11 August 1880. Consisting of an open promenade, it stretched to a length of 838 ft (255.4 m) and spanned some 35 ft (10.6 m) across the neck of the pier, extending to 110 ft (33.3 m) at the head. With the addition of a bandstand in 1885, military band concerts took place three times a day in summer and twice daily throughout the winter. Covered shelters were also provided at this time. Two extensions, in 1894 and 1909 respectively, took the pier’s overall length to more than 1000 ft (304.8 m).
In common with virtually all other piers in the south and east of the country, Bournemouth Pier was substantially demolished by soldiers from the 18th Field Park Company of the Royal Engineers on 5 July 1940 as a precaution against German invasion. The pier was repaired and re-opened in August 1946. Refurbishment of the pier head was carried out in 1950, and ten years later a rebuild of the substructure was completed in concrete to take the weight of a new pier theatre. A structural survey of 1976 found major areas of corrosion, and in 1979 a £1.7m restoration programme was initiated. Having demolished the old shoreward end buildings, replacing them with a new two-storey octagonal leisure complex, and reconstructed the pier neck in concrete giving it the bridge-like appearance that it retains today, the work was completed in two years.