Santa arrives by lifeboat to light up Swanage Pier

Swanage Pier has been illuminated by more than a thousand lights as it reopened following the last stage in its £2.8 million renovation programme and who better to mark the occasion than Santa arriving not by sleigh – but by sea.

Santa was dropped off at the pier on Friday 9th December 2022 by his friends at Swanage RNLI to officially switch on the Lighting Up Lives event – multi-coloured bulbs which can each be dedicated to a special individual or group of people for a suggested sponsorship of £12.

Santa arrives on a lifeboat to light up Swanage Pier
Alison Pettitt

More than a thousand multi-coloured bulbs were lit up along the whole pier

Start of a new era at the heritage pier

So far, nearly 200 of the 1,100 lights available have been sponsored in an extension of the popular display and many more are expected to be dedicated throughout the Christmas season.

It marks the start of a new era at Swanage Pier where fundraising towards the annual £200,000 cost of running the Victorian heritage building will become ever more important.

Santa arrives on a lifeboat to light up Swanage Pier
Alison Pettitt

Santa arrived by lifeboat to make the ceremony extra memorable

Lighting Up Lives is bigger and better than ever

Amanda Bowden, volunteer and events coordinator for the Swanage Pier Trust said:

“Last year, the stunning display on Swanage Pier made it possible for hundreds of people to fondly remember loved ones and celebrate those around them. This year, Lighting up Lives is back with a special lighting up ceremony and a display that is bigger, brighter and better than ever.

“We have added an extra 300 lights to the 800 which were put up last Christmas – it is a community event which gives the town a very cheerful lights display, raises money to help preserve this glorious Victorian pier and helps people to remember or thank the special ones in their lives.”

Work on Swanage Pier

New piles were eventually brought to Swanage Pier by barge after November weather delays

Work on Swanage Pier

Boards are replaced after the piles are laid, and will be completed before Christmas

The majority of the pier is open to visitors again

Amanda added:

“The pier has been closed throughout November as restoration work on the piles was carried out, and its reopening has been delayed because the dreadful November weather meant that the barge which brought them over from Poole couldn’t sail.

“But we have just finished work on the last of the piles and now the team has about two weeks of work to replace the boards and railings which were taken up for the major restoration work to take place.

“It means that there will still be some work going on into December, but the majority of the pier is open to visitors again, just in time for the town to visit and enjoy our wonderful light display.”

Santa arrives on a lifeboat to light up Swanage Pier
Alison Pettitt

Three, two, one … the countdown is over and the lights are switched on

Memory tree donated by bereaved family

Local bands Galaxy Thief and sea shanty singers Kelp entertained the crowds at the switching on event along with an illuminated juggler and a dancing snowman.

As in past years, there is a Christmas tree donated by Julie Avery and her daughters Natalie and Joanne in memory of their mother and grandmother, Jean Holman, who died suddenly at Christmas, a time of year she loved so much. 

The family found Christmas especially hard without her, but when they noticed that Swanage Pier did not have a Christmas tree of its own, they decided to donate one and make it a memory tree, for people to come along and hang a bauble on.

At the Lighting Up Lives event, a huge crowd gathered around their tree to watch Santa turn on the display and announce that the Christmas diary of events on the pier was officially under way.

The tree donated by Julie Avery and her daughters Natalie and Joanne is lit up

“Now funding is over we have to be self sufficient”

Swanage Pier trustee Clare Byford said:

“This is a watershed moment for Swanage Pier – the work being completed here is the last of a £2.8 million programme, of which £1.6 million was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to preserve and restore this essential part of our town’s unique Victorian heritage.

“It’s not only about the importance of the pier itself, it’s also about the special way that the pier affects the community in Swanage and all the enjoyment and memories that it means to so many people.

“Sometimes we get frustrated that we have to pay to stroll out along our lovely pier, but now that the National Lottery funding programme is over we have to be self sufficient and funding is the only way forward.

“We wanted to put the pier at the heart of our Christmas celebrations and we are delighted that so many people have joined us this evening to do just that.”

Swanage band Galaxy Thief helped to provide the live entertainment

Pier costs £200,000 a year to maintain

Swanage Pier, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year, is a valuable marine habitat and an important centre for sub-aqua diving, angling and water sport.

Swanage Pier Trust took control of the pier at the end of 1994 with the aim of restoring and maintaining it for the benefit of residents and visitors, but it costs approximately £200,000 each year to maintain.

Christmas entertainment on the pier continues on various dates in December and includes music from local bands, Santa’s grotto and a visit from Santa’s donkeys on Saturday 17th December 2022.

Watch Santa’s arrival and switch-on

Further information

  • To dedicate a light or to find out more about activities and events on Swanage Pier in the run up to Christmas go to its website

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