THIS WEEK Langney Shopping Centre £6.5 million extension takes shape

COMMUNITY The Haven Players, Stone Cross: Summer Panto! – The Pied Piper of Hamelin

JOBSBOARD Part time staff, Royal Oak and Castle Inn, Pevensey

credit: Hastings and St Leonards Observer – Saturday 24 September 1898

In Words and Deeds: The re-birth of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay
Chapter One: Elementary Mr Holmes, the jewel in our crown had arrived
© The Pevensey Bay Journal 2019, all rights reserved.
this account of the history of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay will appear in print as a set of four page insert newspapers, beginning with edition 26 of the Pevensey Bay Journal,
The story of the Bay Hotel, told through contemporaneous local newspaper accounts.

The story of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay begins on Wednesday 21 September 1898. With the birth of the Bay Hotel, also came the notion of the little coastal location as a holiday resort.

People had been coming to the Bay on day trips since at least 1820 as a fifth generation taxi driver had pointed out to us.

The horse and cart would have been the mode of transport, and of course people would have walked.

Pevensey as well, with the castle, was a major attraction for picnics and family visits. We know for example that the famous nineteenth century poet, Christina Rossetti was there. She enjoyed visits with her great aunt Edna and brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti. We know this information from her letters, with one (1860) written to her brother from a guest house on the Pevensey Road in Eastbourne that talks with nostalgia about the visits.

Pevensey and Pevensey Bay were known visitor attractions, but when timber merchant T.J Walder, a well known Hastings resident, got up to speak at the Magistrates in Hailsham that Wednesday, he was introducing not just the possibility of a house to be erected on the plot of land we now know as the Bay Hotel, but also the notion of the Bay becoming a holiday resort.

He would have utilised the term  ‘resort’ to refer to the location of the village, as is clear, given his comparison with the facilities available to travellers at the Castle Inn in Pevensey Bay.

He was seeking “a provisional license for a house, ta be erected Wallsend or Bay. which, was urged during the hearing, to be expected to largely develop as holiday resort”.

This was a big case with major implications for the Bay, with a rival application also under consideration.

We can see from the number of legal representatives for each side of the case, how much was at stake for Pevensey Bay.

Thomas John Walder, in explaining to the court that he was the owner of a ‘considerable portion of land’ at Pevensey Bay, including ‘the site of the proposed hotel’ was in expansive mood. He was the owner of ten houses in the vicinity, so a man of substantial worth.

He describes to the court the inadequacy of the accommodation in the village for visitors. He said “the accommodation for visitors who came there in the summer was inadequate, many being turned away. The Castle Inn ‘the existing licenced house’, might have suited the place thirty years ago, but was not all suitable for the present class of visitors’.

The description of what was said in the magistrates hearing is fascinating.

There is a rival claim by local man Mr Holmes. He was the owner of many properties in Pevensey Bay, including some of the ‘coastguard houses”. He is criticised for his lack of local connection with people. “you do not seem to take much interest in the neighhourhood”, suggests prosecuting counsel.

We could be at a public hearing over a major development plan for Pevensey Bay with the case argued by rival parties in 2019.

This case was heard in 1898, some one hundred and twenty years ago.

What we can see is that so much argument about expansion, provision for visitors and notions of neighbouhood are embedded deep in both the pysche and history of Pevensey Bay, as of course was the case with many small coastal resorts across the country.

Here though, there is more at play in the courtroom. The future fortune of Pevensey Bay as a holiday resort, late into the twentieth century, was being staked out on the ground as a marker.

Pevensey Bay was already ‘booming’ to a certain extent with certain classes of people booking their holidays in the Bay.

Luxurious villas were being made available for rent in the Bay. A Mrs Youell, that summer, was advertising two properties in the Bay, one was an extensive villa for the princely sum of 2 and a half guineas.

These advertisements were in the Morning Post, thirty years later to be bought by the Daily Telegraph. We can see from the kinds of advertisement and the construction of the language that the appeal was to what was once called ‘the well to do’.

But under contention that day at the Hailsham Magistrates court was the big question of that would happen to this plot of land that was to become the Bay Hotel.

More villas to support the current visitor profile of the Bay with the ‘well to do’, or alternatively, something new, a hotel to support what was perceived on the horizon as Pevensey Bay, the holiday resort.

Three things had happened since the court in Hailsham looked back to 1860 and the provision of ‘rooms’ at the Castle Inn in Pevensey Bay

The Industrial Revolution began in 1790. By 1860, there was much taking place in the boom of factories, manufacturing industries and the emergence of craft industries and small scale businesses of all kinds.

The zenith was to come with The Great Exhibition of 1851 .

The official descriptive and illustrated catalogue of the event listed exhibitors “not only from throughout Britain but also from its ‘Colonies and Dependencies’ and 44 ‘Foreign States’ in Europe and the Americas. Numbering 13,000 in total, the exhibits included a Jacquard loom, an envelope machine, kitchen appliances, steel-making displays and a reaping machine that was sent from the United States”.

In 1877 Queen Victoria, was made Empress of India.

The second thing that had happened was that the railways had arrived. In the case of Pevensey and Westham, this was on 27 June 1846.

Railways opened up the seaside experience to all classes of people for the purpose of day trips and short stay vacations. The railways made both Eastbourne and Brighton. They became accessible as seaside destinations.

The total number of people visiting the West Pier in Brighton, on the day of opening in 1856, for example, may have exceeded 50,000 (on a single day).

The third thing that happened between the Castle Inn provision of rooms in 1860 and the erection of the Bay Hotel in 1899 was that the world had changed.

Swept away was the notion of just two classes,.

There was the labouring poor, meeting under the tree at Tolpuddle in 1834, to found the trades union movement in this country and then the landed gentry, with their age old privilege, land and money and inheritance that extended back to the days before the English Civil war.

The nineteenth century changed everything. For the first time, we saw social mobility on a scale never seen before in our history.

In came the mercantile class, what came to be called the middle classes, with every strand of factory owner, business owner, entrepreneur, artisan, manufacturer, shopkeeper, service provider, craftsman and woman imaginable from the 13,000 different kinds of business identified at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

When timber merchant from Hastings, T.J. Walder, talked about the emergence of Pevensey Bay as a holiday resort at Hailsham Magistrates Court on Wednesday 21 September 1898, his arguments would have been based on what he had witnessed in the preceding thirty years of such radical change.

The preceding thirty years had seen the Industrial Revolution and the extraordinary explosion and growth throughout the nineteenth century, the arrival of the railways and the emergence of 13,000 new forms of manufacturing process and service based companies.

The occupations of millions of people in the country changed. With those new occupations came what we now call disposable income and holidays.

Inevitably the call for a hotel in Pevensey Bay to satisfy what was to be become a small holiday resort. would have come from these changes.

The people that began to wend their way to the hotel, would have been representative of this explosive change at the end of the nineteenth century.

As the protagonists left the court room that day, little would they have known that the case marked the birth of Pevensey Bay as a small seaside resort.

The fact that the magistrate judged in favour of local man, Mr Holmes, in spite of his lack of knowledge of the neighbourhood, is a demonstration that vested interest, money, land and power talked in 1898, just as these vested interests work to the benefit of developers today.

The power and quirky glory of Pevensey Bay was about to be born, on an considerable plot of land that became the Bay Hotel.

Counsel that day pointed out that people came to the location for a reason, “the beauty of the Bay, it was the most lovely spot on the South Coast”, something of the statement in court rings true today.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 may have seen the display of The Koh-i-Noor, meaning the “Mountain of Light,” the largest known diamond at the time.

But in Pevensey Bay we were about to see our own Great Exhibition. in 1899 .

The neo-gothic turret on the Bay Hotel was about to become our own walnut whip, kiss me quick hat and weathervane to the fortunes of the neigbourhood, as new kinds of people were about to arrive by the charbanc full.

Staked out on a considerable plot of land in Pevensey Bay, the jewel in our crown had arrived.

In Words and Deeds: The re-birth of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay
© The Pevensey Bay Journal 2019, all rights reserved. No part of this article may be republished in any form without the express permission of the author, Simon Montgomery.

We would like to thank the new owner of the Bay Hotel, the project management team on site and Karen Hudson, manager of the Bay Hotel, for the help and support being provided, as we piece together this story.