THE Duke of Edinburgh, whose death was announced today, officially opened the i360 five years ago - and memorably described the attraction as "terrible".

True to form, Prince Philip entertained assembled guests, staff and the public as he officially opened the 162-metre building on October 25, 2016.

When i360 chairman David Marks told a crowded room it was an honour to see His Royal Highness open the tallest moving observation tower, the 95-year-old quipped: "It's been open. Maybe today it is more open than usual."

Laughter erupted among guests including i360 bosses and staff at the joke, which appeared to suggest he knew of the technical problems which befell the attraction in its opening months.

Later he also joked with seven-year-old Florence Fearn-Hughes, of Haywards Heath, standing outside in the crowd about his experience.

He said: "Are you going on it? It's terrible."

Prince Philip laughed after making the comment which was clearly intended in jest.

On a bright, clear and calm day he enjoyed panoramic views of Brighton and Hove and across Sussex from the South Downs to the coast before unveiling a plaque and signing the visitors' book.

He was fascinated by the feat of engineering which was given a Guinness World Record for the world’s most slender tower, with a diameter of just 3.9 metres at its widest point.

He was shown the control room and the operating winch, and quizzed Mr Marks, vice chairman Julia Barfield and chief engineer Dr John Roberts on the mechanics of the construction.

Mr Marks added: "His Royal Highness is a fantastic champion of good design in arts and industry and has furthered this cause with energy and passion for more than 50 years.

"Knowing the Duke of Edinburgh’s love of engineering and innovation, we were absolutely delighted and honoured he agreed to open British Airways i360."

Dr Roberts said: "He particularly wanted to know how we stop it vibrating in the wind so I told him about the dampers and cladding. He wanted to know how the pod was driven and what made it move."

The Argus: Prince Philip in Brighton Prince Philip in Brighton

During the tour a handful of dignitaries, civic leaders and those involved with the creation and construction of the attraction were presented to him.

Geoff Raw, Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive, said the visit was "an historic moment for the city," adding: "This recognises the national importance of this fascinating and popular engineering achievement."

As the Duke of Edinburgh padded past little Florence on the red carpet, she reached out to offer him a gift.

A bunch of white roses she had picked out herself to welcome him to Brighton and Hove. Enclosed was a card from the seven-year-old from Haywards Heath which read:

Dear Prince Philip,

I hope you enjoy your time on the i360. I did, it was lovely.



She had been particularly keen to meet him as her auntie Alexandra used to work in his office.

Florence was elated when an aid informed her the Duke had indicated he would like to give the flowers to the Queen.

She said: "I was very excited to see him and I wanted to give him the flowers. He said 'thank you, are these for me?' I am really happy he liked them. I saw the Queen before when she came to Lewes too but this is the first time I have seen him."

The 95-year-old even remembered her face when he walked back past the crowd an hour and a half later and spoke to her again before he left.

Prince Philip was in good spirits for the visit, waving and smiling at the crowd who had gathered in King's Road to applaud his arrival.

During the flight up to 450ft he walked around the cylindrical pod admiring views of the English Channel, the South Downs and the city below and spoke to dignitaries and guests.

Rachel Clark, chief executive of the West Pier Trust, told him of plans to build a new pier below and mayor Pete West officially welcomed him to Brighton and Hove.

But he was so fascinated with the feat of engineering that he spent most of his time quizzing those involved in its construction.

Landing back on solid ground he marched straight into the control room where chief engineer Dr John Roberts showed him how it worked and then demonstrated the winch which lifts the viewing pod in to place.

In testament to the Duke's playful character David Marks, chairman of the i360, presented him with a welcome gift from the team at what is described as a 'vertical pier.'

It was a Private Eye cartoon of two fishermen casting rods from the top of the tower.

One says to the other: "I must say I prefer the traditional pier."

His trademark witty nature shone through here as he played up to the crowd, cracking jokes.

As he was invited to unveil the plaque, covered by a red curtain, he said: "What's this going to turn out to be?"

And when asked to sign the visitors' book he said: "Somebody's notebook is it?" before setting the pen laid out for him to one side and preferring to delve into his inside suit pocket for a trusty fountain pen.

He asked for the date before he signed the book and snapped it shut with a grin - all to the delight of the crowd.

Never one to conform, rather than walking along a carefully positioned red carpet, he shot across the concourse at an angle catching his staff and photographers off guard.

Alan Robins, chairman of Brighton and Hove City Council's economic development and culture committee, said: "He has a great sense of humour on him and is very alert.

"He really did take the time to talk to people and generally took an interest. This is a really positive thing for our city."