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Researchers studying the history of the Bay Hotel from 1898 in Pevensey Bay, have hit upon their first find, which they have suggested is ‘pure gold’

The research involves a painstaking trawl through sets of local contemporaneous newspaper accounts year by year, utilising a series of ‘keyword cross references’, matched to a kind of timeline grid to record their findings.

Researchers have now reached 1905 and their first what they describe as ‘Eureka moment’.

The illustration discovered is from the Penny Illustrated Paper, dated September 2 1905.

The Penny Illustrated Paper was a cheap illustrated weekly newspaper that ran from 1861 to 1913.

Illustrated weekly newspapers had been pioneered by the Illustrated London News (published from 1842, costing fivepence) With the abolition of paper duty in 1861 it was possible to envisage an even cheaper mass-circulation illustrated weekly.

The first issue, 12 October 1861, announced itself confidently under the masthead “PENNY ILLUSTRATED PAPER: With All the News of the Week”: “A new era opens upon the people. In producing a paper for the million, let us plainly say, we want be esteemed the friend of the people … A new era is opened to us by the Repeal of the Paper Duties”.

The illustration of Pevensey Bay activities for 1905 includes Bathing before Breakfast (direct from the cottages on the beach), Hockey on the Sands until lunch, off for a morning’s shrimping and an afternoon’s cricket (the men have broomsticks and play left handed) and fishing from the shore with long nets.

The inscription at the foot of the illustration says “AN ANTIDOTE FOR SEASIDE BOREDOM (see daily paper), our artist says “amuse yourselves, as we at Pevensey Bay. Note—bring your oldest clothes.

The Bay Hotel would have been in operation for barely five years at this point.

Something can be seen in the quirky tongue-in-cheek irreverence, with and invention of the illustration, that captures the essence of Pevensey Bay as a seaside location in what was being described as early as 1898 as a ‘developing seaside resort”.

The researcher said, “the appeal, pitched to millions of working people in the pages of the Illustrated Paper is a clear demonstration of two things, first the fact that working people for the first time, were beginning to enjoy holidays and second, that the railways opened up these small coastal locations in ways that made the ‘resort experience’ accessible for everyone.

“The references to bathing, hockey, shrimping, cricket and fishing from the shore with long nets are obviously partly an invention and tongue in cheek, in the spirit of Donald McGill (1875 – 1962), the postcard illustrator, who took up these kinds of theme and added double entendres, featuring an array of attractive young women, fat old ladies, drunken middle aged men, honeymoon couples and vicars.

“McGill was a naval draughtsman until his career in postcards began accidentally in 1904 when an in-law encouraged him after seeing an illustrated get-well card he had made for a sick nephew. Within a year it was his full-time occupation.

“Something of a coincidence, but the year in which McGill took up his career full time as an illustrator, was also the year that this sketch appeared in the Illustrated Newspaper.

He added “what we can see is that there is both accuracy and veracity, as well as wit and invention, and only vaguely hidden jokes at the expensive of the ‘well to do’ with hockey and cricket.

In some ways this illustration is pure Pevensey Bay, at a very early stage in the life of ‘the small coastal resort’ with the jokes and holiday life described easily readable across the 120 year local timeline.

“The sketches of the buildings such as the coastal cottage and the Martello Tower are drawn with a degree of accuracy, we can only assume that the artist came here to undertake the sketch commission. Of course what we will never know is whether or not he stayed in the new Bay Hotel.’

The researcher ended by saying, “this really is pure gold as a find in telling the story of the early days of Pevensey Bay as a resort.

‘We believe that this sketch may not have been seen since 1905 in the Illustrated Paper, and there is no surprise to hear that the Bay Hotel restoration process is to include a special place for this framed illustration, in the foyer”.

“There will be no surprise either if we begin to see this sketch as a poster for sale locally in the village, and also as a postcard or even as a tablemat or tea towel”.

the Life and Times of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay
The results of extensive research, trawling contemporaneous local newspaper accounts from the day the plot of land was earmarked as a hotel for the ‘developing resort ‘ 1898, through to the 20s. 30s and the heyday of the hotel in the 1950s, right up to the restoration work in 2019 are to be published as a newspaper insert that offers, the Life and Times of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay. Publication date is Saturday 30 March 2019

In Words and Deeds: The re-birth of the Bay Hotel in Pevensey Bay
© The Pevensey Bay Journal 2019, all rights reserved.

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.
—Bay Life, 7 February 2019