From an article, published in Erith Forum Newsletter Winter 2002, written by Kenneth Chamberlain.
Each week many thousands of people visit Erith to shop at Morrisons Supermarket. Victorian Erith saw a similar influx to the same site, only then it was to visit the Pleasure Gardens, Hotel and Pier that occupied the same site.
After various previous attempts had failed the Guardians of the Wheatley Estate constructed a wooden pier jutting some 444 feet into the river. The opening ceremony took place amidst much merrymaking on 22nd August 1842. Entertainment included rowing matches, duck hunting and a Jingling Match (which meant men hitting one another with ash sticks, last one standing was the winner.) A public dinner held in a marquee followed the event.
In 1844 the Pier Hotel was built.
On the 6th July 1845 the Gardens were opened. They consisted of a broad grand walk, archery field, Bowling Green, conservatory, maze, refreshment rooms and a fountain.
Two ships the ‘Diamond’ and ‘The Star’. travelling between London and Gravesend called at the Pier daily. This was excellent opportunity to travel in luxury for the gentlemen of Erith who worked in London. One report of the day stated. " Members of the stock exchange would board one of the steamers and engage in a hearty breakfast with wine, and were the worse for it early in the day, and quite wrong when they returned at night."
It would appear to have been difficult to make the project a success. Not least because of the Southern Outfall Works at Crossness which was opened in 1865. Which disgorged 70 million gallons of raw sewage into the river as the full tide was turning, on the assumption it would all float gently into the North Sea. It did not. There was also the coming of the railway to Erith in July 1849 which considerably reduced the travelling time albeit without the wine.
The site consisting of 8 acres 2 rods and 4 poles was sold with the rest of the Wheatley Estate in 1874. Although there were further unsuccessful attempts to make it a success.
The whole site was then taken over by Beadle Bros. coal merchants. In 1896 all the London wholesale distributors amalgamated and the site became Wm. Cory and sons ltd.
By 1957 the old wooden piers had outlived their usefulness. New deep water facilities were required. A new concrete pier was constructed outside of the former piers allowing access to larger ships. As part of the plan the Pier Hotel, which had been used as offices, was demolished to make way for warehouses.
In the early 1990s the complex was abandoned until Morrisons took over in 1999, and thankfully retained the concrete pier as a public amenity, for which we are all grateful.
The excellent display of paintings and prints are displayed in Morrisons including those of the old wooden pier and hotel