PENARTH Pier has been crowned Pier of the Year 2014 by the members of the National Piers Society.
It received more than twice the number of votes of its nearest rival, Cromer.
Bangor, in third place, made it a hugely successful year for Welsh piers.
Penarth pier has been praised for its “beautifully refurbished” Pavilion and described as the “jewel in the crown” of the town.
The Pier was first opened in 1895 and soon began to attract steamers offering trips to Ilfracombe, Lundy Island, Lynmouth, Minehead and Westward Ho!
Apart from its jetty the pier had a café and tea gardens, a florist’s and a weighing machine.
In 1902 alone it attracted some 25,000 visitors who paid 2d (1p) to stroll along its deck, but it wasn’t until 1907 that a pavilion, the Bijou, was built at the seaward end.
It was destroyed by fire in 1931.
Another pavilion opened at the shoreward end in 1929, costing £10,000: its first show was The Lido Follies.
In 1932 it enjoyed a short spell as a cinema before becoming a dance hall, the Marina Ballroom.
During the 1960s it played host to the likes of Gene Vincent, Matt Monro and Tom Jones but eventually it was used, first as a snooker club and later a gym.
By 2005 the Grade II listed building had become seriously run down and the Penarth Arts and Crafts Trust campaigned for its restoration.
As well as raising money locally the Trust succeeded in obtaining grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, CADW (Welsh Heritage), the Coastal Communities Fund and the Headley Trust.
At a cost of more than £4 million the building has now been transformed into a spacious gallery, cinema, café, observatory and community workspace. It reopened in December 2013 and has been an extraordinary success, with nearly 8,000 people visiting the pavilion in its first month open. Its full-time cinema is the only one on a pier and the first in Penarth for 43 years.
Dr David Trotman, director of the Penarth Pier Pavilion, welcomed the award for the pier.
“We are delighted that the pier has been given this award and that the pavilion and all its activities have catalysed this decision.”
Aside from the Pavilion the pier is popular with anglers and will be receiving visits from the Waverley paddle steamer in the autumn.
Its deck is studded with brass plaques purchased by grateful visitors.
The National Piers Society’s President Gavin Henderson said: “Well done Penarth!
“A beautifully refurbished Pavilion and an active landing stage – what more could one ask?”
Cllr Neil Moore, leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, which owns the pier, said: “The pier has always been a special place but the hard work, dedication and commitment of Penarth Arts and Crafts Limited has ensured that it is now truly the jewel in our crown.”
Paul Twamley, the retiring Chairman of Penarth Arts & Crafts Ltd, said: "Hard work by the trustees of Penarth Arts and Crafts Limited, and their many supporters, over many years has finally brought back to life the previously derelict Penarth Pier Pavilion.
“This has led to a rejuvenation of the beautiful Penarth Pier which is now a destination, not only for the people of Penarth but for those living many miles away. The economic benefits to Penarth are obvious.
“This award is recognition of the foresight of those who built the Pier, of those who worked on the Pier restoration in the late 1990s, and those who achieved the re-opening of the Pavilion last year.
“It will also act as a spur to the people of Penarth to become involved as volunteers, presently over 100 people, to ensure that such dereliction cannot happen again. Thank you National Piers Society."