Part Five – On the pier

Lesson at a glance

Suggested inquiry questions: What can you find on a Victorian pier?

Potential activities: Create your own Victorian pier complete with ice cream smells and a brass band.

Let’s take a walk along the pier. What activities can we do here?

The following ‘tasks’ are suggested activities which you can choose from or adapt to make them suitable for your students.


Play video five (a)

Time for a stroll on the pier.
‘Now it’s time to go on the pier. There’s lots to look at on the pier.’

Build your own pier

A stroll along the pier to gaze down into the water was an essential part of any seaside visit. You could create that experience in your classroom by using a line of low stage blocks to form the pier, surrounded by blue material for the sea. You could even try a spot of fishing from the pier by putting some toy fish into the ‘water’. Can your students hook them out using a net or a simple fishing rod (made from a piece of string and a bent paper clip)? If using stage blocks isn’t appropriate, you could try sticking different textured materials to the floor to represent the wood of the pier and the water next to it. Don’t fall in the water!

Play video five (b)

‘I’m hungry! Let’s have an ice cream.’

Favourite flavours

Let your students choose their favourite. Crush some ice cubes into three or four separate containers. Add a few drops of natural food flavours with strong smells to each container – mint, vanilla, strawberry etc. Then let your students explore the ice and the smells.

Make your own ice cream from a cone of paper and a cotton wool ball with a few drops of the flavouring added to it. Mind those hungry seagulls don’t steal your ice creams though!

Play video five (c)

Time for some music.
‘I can hear music. Let’s go and listen to the band.’

Build your own pier

The town band is entertaining visitors on the pier. Gather as many musical instruments as you can and sing and play along to ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’:

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside!
I do like to be beside the sea!
Oh I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play, “Tiddely-om-pom-pom!”

So just let me be beside the seaside!
I’ll be beside myself with glee
and there are lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside, beside the seaside,
beside the sea!

Sound effects

Play the brass band sound file


Further information:

The Pier

The first seaside piers were built in the early 19th century. They began simply as places to moor boats but soon developed into impressive feats of engineering – places where holidaymakers would go for entertainment and relaxation. The oldest pier in Britain is at Ryde on the Isle of Wight, opened in 1814. One hundred years later, there were over a hundred pleasure piers around the UK, offering fine pavilions, penny arcades, refreshment and other entertainment.

Ice Cream

By the mid-19th century, ice cream had become popular and inexpensive in Britain. Street sellers of ice cream were known as hokey-pokey men. Nobody is quite sure where the name comes from, but it was used in a chant by the vendors to sell their wares: ‘Hokey pokey penny a lump, that’s the stuff to make you jump.’ As many of the ice cream sellers were of Italian descent, the phrase may come from the Italian ‘Ecco un poco’ (‘Here’s a little piece’).

The ice cream would be sold for a penny and served in small glass cups which were returned to the vendor after use, given a quick wipe and were then ready for the next customer. More environmentally friendly than cardboard tubs, but as hygienic?


‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ was written in 1907 and first recorded in 1909, making it an Edwardian rather than a Victorian song! But it reflects how popular trips to the coast were becoming by the turn of the century. Some of the less familiar verses to the song talk of saving up all year to go away, arriving in Blackpool and having a few too many glasses of wine at the station!

There were all forms of musical entertainment at the Victorian seaside – town bands, music hall shows, classical concerts and musical theatre.

Back to top

Lesson at a glance

Suggested inquiry questions: What can you find on a Victorian pier?

Potential activities: Create your own Victorian pier complete with ice cream smells and a brass band.

Related resources