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IMAGE CREDIT: Original publicity, Beachlands estate, Martin and Saunders builders circa 1934

In June, work begins on the book that will tell the story of the history of the Beachlands Estate, titled in the publicity put out in the locality in August 1935, the Avenue to the Sea. The planning group, all residents in the estate, start to pool material about their homes, from deeds to documents to memorabilia and original accounts of aspects of the estate visited by students of architectural history from across the country.—Bay Life, 28 May 2017

Josephine and Ken Lacey, the Beachlands based couple who have been instrumental in getting the project for the book off the ground, told Bay Life (May 16) that they were ‘delighted to be involved’ in planning the research with the work.

The couple who moved to Pevensey Bay in late 2014, into their ‘precious oyster shell bungalow’, invited the local newspaper, Bay Life the Journal, to come and see from the inside the special quality, look and feel of what they now see as their dream home.

Without question, the home had a unique quality, the spectacular panoramic view of the scene in front of us was a memorable occasion.

The starting point the couple plan, with two other couples in the Beachlands estate, is to pool various documents they possess in relation to the deeds of the house, as they begin the process of telling the story of their own understanding of the history and fabric of the bungalow.

The oyster shell houses, together with the homes on the Beachlands Estate, were a form of kit build, imported from Sweden by local builders Martin and Saunders. The original plan to build envisaged a choice from as many as 12 possible kits, Built in four waves, the estate is now studied, photographed and mentioned by architectural historians from across the country.

The principle of the book is to tell the story of the estate from inside 12 houses, with the story told by the current owners from material drawn together with their individual research.

The book plan begins with a five week course that will teach the residents the rudiments of primary research, writing first hand narrative accounts and where to begin with research about wider questions in relation to the role of the local economic and social climate that led to the birth of what became an original modernist estate in the country.

In addition the course will look at questions related to editing, production, costings and fund raising.

The book project is supported by Brighton Town Press, a company based in Brighton that has produced over 20 books about the social history and architecture of the city.

Brighton Town Press is supplying a dedicated experienced adult education tutor for the project.

The book, once written and edited, will be produced with the work overseen by Brighton Town Press and printed in Brighton by a specialist printer.

The coffee table style book, it is aimed, will become available for the Christmas market 2018.

The initial part of the project, the five week course in the rudiments of book production for local social history books, takes place at the Ocean View Bakery from Thursday 22 June 2017, from 2:30pm—4:00pm. Places for Beachland residents on the course are free, places for other local people are £55:00 per student for the five weeks, with the proceeds being donated to the production costs of the book.

Full details of the Beachlands Book, the Unfinished symphony to the Sea, are available from the Pevensey Timeline Association, info@pevenseytimeline.co.uk

article published by kind permisson, Pevensey Timeline Association

Beachlands, modernist masterpiece, the unfinished symphony to the sea
[draft extract from preface]

“It would be remarkable, would it not, if the Beachlands estate in Pevensey Bay was created by one of the eminent British provincial architects of the 20th Century, and no-one had taken the time to find out properly and document the story’.
—authors, Beachlands, modernist masterpiece, the unfinished symphony to the sea

The remarkable story of the Beachlands estate in Pevensey begins in 1928 with a study tour by the architect of the estate, Thomas Cecil Howitt to Denmark and Sweden, where he saw Stockholm Town Hall, writing an article about the town hall for the local Nottingham Guardian.

By this time he was a rising star in the profession of architecture, as he had been made a member of the RIBA Council (Royal Institute British Architecture).

Howitt became one of the eminent British provincial architects of the 20th Century.

Howitt is chiefly remembered for designing prominent public buildings, such as the Council House in Nottingham, and several Odeon cinemas, one of the best examples being in Weston-super-Mare.

The Odeon Cinema, Weston-super-Mare is an art deco cinema building, still largely intact and a Grade II listed building.

Thomas Cecil Howitt became the Housing Architect for Nottingham City Council, designing municipal housing estates which are considered to be among the finest in terms of planning in the country.

Beachlands, modernist masterpiece, the unfinished symphony to the sea, will restore the history of the unfulfilled dream, planning, building and life of the Beachlands Estate in Pevensey Bay to its rightful place as one of the most interesting and undocumented modernist experiments with estates in the 1930s.

One of the hopes of the authors of the book is to gain for the Beachlands Estate a status that will honour the true glory of the experiment, which in the history of modernist architecture in the country remains, remarkably, largely an untold story.

The book begins in 1928 with the study visit of architect Thomas Cecil Howitt to Stockholm Town Hall from his original documentation of the visit held in the archives of Notingham City Hall.

Finn Jensen, writing in Cheshire in 2012, in the introduction to his book Modernist semis and terraces in England gives a brief account of the estate suggesting “there are certain to be many more interesting Modernist houses and estates out there waiting discovery and hopefully, architectural historians will eventually record these for the benefit of the wider public”.

The book, “Beachlands, modernist masterpiece, the unfinished symphony to the sea” is being planned and written by residents that live in Beachlands estate today, positioning the book as a unique local history record that is aiming to become an original nationally acknowledged contribution in the genre of the history of modernist architecture in the country.

The book is supported by Brighton Town Press, a small publishing house in Brighton that since 1978 has produced over twenty titles comprised of ‘oral history accounts of aspects of the architectural and social history of the city’. The planning and writing of the book is also being supported by a dedicated and experienced tutor supplied by Brighton Press who will teach local people, how to be begin the process of planning the research, writing, production and editing of the book. A specialist printer in Brighton is to print the book to what it is hoped will be a national standard.

Originally, as Finn Jensen explains, “Beachlands was planned and advertised as a new seaside town in competition with the established bungalow towns of Peacehaven and Shoreham

“Laid out with boulevards, avenues, squares and closes the estate was promoted as a week-end and summer retreat, or indeed permanent residence for buyers with modest incomes. In the early days, a one-bedroom semi-detached bungalow could be purchased freehold for as little as £395.

Setting the book in the social and economic times of the 1930s., the story of Modernism in this country and the individual stories of the residents of Beachlands, their homes and their own interest in the social and economic history of the estate, the book promises to be of interest beyond Pevensey Bay.

Beginning in 1928 with the visit of architect Thomas Cecil Howitt to Stockholm Town Hall and his plans for the design of the Odeon Cinema in West Suoer Mare, that opened in 1935, the long held legend that there was once a plan to build a cinema within the Beachlands estate comes into sharp relief. The authors may already have solved the riddle of the legend in the preface to the book.

There was indeed a cinema planned at the same time, but it may well have been the art deco masterpiece in Western Super Mare by the same architect.

For the record, the art deco masterpiece in Western Super Mare received listed status in 1986.

What the book will do in real time in the telling the story of Beachlands, which increasingly is beginning to look like a lost art deco masterpiece of some description, from the initial research conducted by residents in the Beachlands Estate, remains to be seen.