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10 HISTORIC SOUTH COAST HOTELS

Adrian Mourby

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The British seaside holiday was invented on the south coast of England when George III's family, and then the aristocracy, left London to go seabathing for their health. Once a new fashion had been created, the middle and working classes followed in full force as railways linked towns like Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne to the capital. I tend to think of seaside towns in Britain being Victorian but the south coast can boast a delightful amount of Regency architecture. Further inland, Canterbury and Eastwell have hotels going back to the middle ages, while the Isle of Wight and the man-made island of Spitbank Fort have their own idiosyncratic histories.
The Grand Hotel

Eastbourne became fashionable in the 1780s when George III sent four of his children on holiday here, but it was in the nineteenth century that tourism took off. The crowning glory of the town has always been the gracious sweep of its massive Grand Hotel, built in 1875 by William Earp at the huge cost of £50,000. In 1905 Claude Debussy corrected the proofs of 'La Mer' in a room here overlooking the English Channel.

The Waterside Hotel

The distinctive double-fronted blue facade of the Waterside Hotel is located on Eastbourne's Royal Parade at the northern end of the town's lengthy promenade. Until 1879 a row of fisherman's cottages stood here, but they were often inundated by spring tides. The construction of the celebrated Parade raised Eastbourne's sea defences and the full force of the spring tides moved along the coast to what became known as Redoubt Splash Point.

The Royal Hotel

The Ventnor Hotel was built in 1832 when its most famous future resident was not yet queen. It was Victoria's surgeon Sir James Clarke who recommended the air on the Isle of Wight for the royal personage. Suddenly this hotel in a sleepy fishing village found itself not only fashionable but able to rename itself The Royal. Today the hotel is one of only 30 in the UK to have been listed in every Michelin Guide since 1911.

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