The Royal Pier was opened in 1833 (the first jetty or pier in Southampton). It was used by steamers to the Channel Islands, Le Havre and the Isle of Wight. The continental steamers moved to the Outer Dock once the railway arrived. The London & South Western Railway arrived in 1840, linking London to Southampton Terminus Station (although not officially named as such until 1923), less than a mile from the Royal Pier.
A wagon tramway was opened to the Pier in 1847, initially horse-drawn. The tramway connected to the the railway via a wagon-turntable, so passenger carriages could not access it. This was changed from 1871, when a new direct connection was laid. Carriages were still pulled by horse until 1876, when increasing traffic required their replacement by small steam locomotives. A small station with single platform was built at the pier head for passenger trains. Between 5 and seven trains a day linked the Terminus with the Royal Pier.
By 1979, the pier was becoming unsafe and was not economic to maintain and it closed in 1982. Plans to rejuvenate the pier were formulated and the Victorian entrance was restored, and re-opened as a pub/restaurant in 1986. Further regeneration was cut short in 1987 when a serious fire completely destroyed the pavilion and bandstand at the pier head. A subsequent fire in 1992 destroyed much of the pier neck and caused serious damage to the conservatory at the rear of the gatehouse.
Today the pier remains as a charred ruin although there have been numerous plans to restore it and in November 2007 a mixed-use development of housing, shops, bars and restaurants was proposed. So far the 1930 entrance building has been restored reopening as Kuti's Thai Restaurant but no other restoration work has started.