Very few marine microbial communities are well characterized even with the weight of research effort presently devoted to it. Only a small proportion of this effort has been aimed at investigating temporal community structure. Here we present the first report of the application of high-throughput pyrosequencing to investigate intra-annual bacterial community structure. Microbial diversity was determined for 12 time points at the surface of the L4 sampling site in the Western English Channel. This was performed over 11 months during 2007. A total of 182 560 sequences from the V6 hyper-variable region of the small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene (16S rRNA) were obtained; there were between 11 327 and 17 339 reads per sample. Approximately 7000 genera were identified, with one in every 25 reads being attributed to a new genus; yet this level of sampling far from exhausted the total diversity present at any one time point. The total data set contained 17 673 unique sequences. Only 93 (0.5%) were found at all time points, yet these few lineages comprised 50% of the total reads sequenced. The most abundant phylum was Proteobacteria (50% of all sequenced reads), while the SAR11 clade comprised 21% of the ubiquitous reads and ∼12% of the total sequenced reads. In contrast, 78% of all operational taxonomic units were only found at one time point and 67% were only found once, evidence of a large and transient rare assemblage. This time series shows evidence of seasonally structured community diversity. There is also evidence for seasonal succession, primarily reflecting changes among dominant taxa. These changes in structure were significantly correlated to a combination of temperature, phosphate and silicate concentrations.