The 900-foot Royal Pier was designed by Edward L Stephens, a royal navy officer and opened on 8 July 1833 as Victoria pier to provide Red Funnel's steamer services with somewhere to dock.
Soon after its completion, the pier started to suffer from damage caused by gribble worms resulting in the foundations needing to be rebuilt in 1838. In an attempt to prevent further gribble damage the pier's pilings were covered in large headed nails which it was hoped would rust and provide the pier with a protective coating.
In 1847 a horse-drawn tramway was constructed to link the pier to Southampton Terminus railway station and in 1871 the tramway was extended to the end of the pier with a single platform station being built there. In 1876 the trams switched from being horse-drawn to using light steam locomotives.
In 1888 the pier was given a new gatehouse and over a 2 year period starting in 1891 the pier was rebuilt in iron and the station was expanded to house two platforms and a pavilion. The rebuilt pier was opened in 1902 by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.
In 1894 the gatehouse was expanded and four years later a new pontoon was added enabling two Red Funnel paddle steamers to be berthed simultaneously. The addition of the new pontoon coincided with the pier being renamed to Royal Pier.
The start of World War I resulted in the suspension of tramway services to the station on the pier on 1 October 1914. During the war the pier was damaged preventing the tram line from reopening at the end of the war and it was officially closed in 1921. The pavilion was enlarged in 1922 and the gatehouse was again rebuilt in 1930. The enlarged pavilion could seat up to 1,000 people and was a popular dance venue. During World War II the pier was closed to the public, re-opening in 1947. The pier was adapted to support roll-on roll-off ferries in the 1950s when Red Funnel introduced MV Carisbrooke Castle.
The pavilion underwent work to turn it into a ballroom in 1963 and in 1979 The pier closed. The gatehouse reopened as a restaurant in 1986 but a fire on 4 May 1987 destroyed many of the structures on the pier. In 1992 another fire damaged the restaurant but it reopened in 2008 as a Thai restaurant.