Worthing’s Art Deco Beach Hotel – the latest victim of English philistinism.

I went to lunch in the small Sussex seaside town of Worthing at the weekend – vegetable soup, haddock and trifle with a rather good Chilean white wine, if you must know. It is always a pleasure to see the town’s underestimated array of lovely art deco buildings – especially the pier with its curves and contours still beautifully preserved from the time when a very damaged 19th. Century pier was replaced in the 1920s and 30s.

                                                                                                       photo: Norman Atkinson

Sadly, since those exciting Modernist days, English seaside resorts have lost a lot of their initial architectural glamour so it was good to see the pier complex in such good nick.

It still manages to conjure images of those lovely, Utopian,  holiday posters from yesteryear when even travelling on English trains was seen as a thrilling adventure.

The fine Connaught Theatre is still there too, just, I hear, as a working theatre in these days of English cultural cuts.

Onslow Court too, once a very chic set of seaside apartments has begun to let itself slip but at least it is still there in its commanding position on the seafront.

Elsewhere round the town there are still pleasant surprizes if you look for them…..

..and don’t mind some of them losing some of their original sophistication.

That lunch, by the way it was excellent in its traditional no-nonsense English hotel way, was in another of Worthing’s Art Deco buildings, the Beach Hotel.

I have spent more time inside its hallowed walls than I would like to calculate. From over-awed child, bored teenager to amused adult, I have sat through formal family gatherings here with the coming and going of generations not dissimilar to The Forsyte Saga. The lunch, last weekend, was the last in that long line because, at the end of August, the place is being demolished. Apparently it would need too much money invested in it to bring it back to its glory days now that it has been allowed to grow gently seedy.

It was, in all honesty, an eccentric construction, the Art deco facade was attached to a row of Victorian houses and converted into a hotel in 1935. The Thirties were a good decade for Worthing and I have to admit that I don’t miss that dull Victorian terrace.

All my life, the slightly shabby but gauntly imposing building has dominated the seafront and I am sad to see it go.

It will be replaced by a sleekly corporate building which has already inspired controversy because the squat tower in the middle, a hint of deco homage, and the only vaguely original bit of the design has angered Conservative councilors who say it is too tall. Bland is the word I think they mean. No one knows what it will look like in eighty years time, maybe even more worse for wear than its noble predecessor. The new building will be a mix of hotel, restaurant and apartments – I wish it well, grudgingly.

It will never really replace that wonderful mix of the dismal, the down-at-heel and the elegant that, for me at least, is the glory of the English seaside – especially when the sun don’t shine.

All things must change and one day even the Sistine Chapel ceiling will turn to dust so I will just have to pack away my memories of the Beach Hotel, Worthing and wonder how the local council allowed its destruction.

If they had at least kept the exterior shell then I could have bidden farewell, I guess, to the rambling interior even with its mix of childhood memories.

If you like anything here, they are selling everything off at auction so get ready with your bids. I want those signs.

So that lunch was a pleasure and a sadness in mixed measure as I took a whimsical view out over to the promenade and the sea in the August drizzle.

Please, Worthing citizens, let this be the last piece of vandalism that you allow to pass through the hands of councilors and building developers. I can’t be the only person who remembers many splendid buildings being demolished to make way for bland apartment blocks.

Much of Victorian Worthing has now disappeared, don’t let it happen to your Art Deco inheritance too.



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MY FICTION AND POETRY:

STEPHEN DEARSLEY’S SUMMER OF LOVE
My novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, was published  on 31 October 2013. It is the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
It is now available as a paperback or on Kindle (go to your region’s Amazon site for Kindle orders)
You can order the book from the publishers, Ward Wood Publishing:
…or from Book Depository:
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BLUE NOTES, STILL FRAMES 
My second novel, Blue Notes, Still Frames, will be published in 2015 by Ward Wood Publishing. It begins with Joe Edevane, a Brighton street busker with surprizing powers who borrows a towel from well-heeled strangers, Alan and Rachel, for his Goth girlfriend, Victoria, and begins a chain of events that changes all of their lives.
COLIN BELL’S PUBLICATIONS:

FICTION:


Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love
Ward Wood Publishing
October 30, 2013


POETRY ANTHOLOGIES:

Genius Floored: Uncurtained Window
Soaring Penguin Press
June 15, 2013
Poetry anthology
Genius Floored: Whispers in Smoke
Soaring Penguin Press
June 6, 2014
Poetry anthology
Reaching Out
Cinnamon Press
December 2012
Poetry and short story anthology
Tic Toc
A Kind Of A Hurricane Press
June 2014
Poetry anthology
In The Night Count The Stars
Bittersweet Editions
March 1, 2014
An “uncommon anthology” of images, fragments, stories and poetry.



POETRY JOURNALS:

The Blotter
The Blotter Magazine Inc.
November 2009
Three pages of poetry in the American South’s unique, free, international literature and arts magazine.

The Fib Review
Musepie Press
My Fibonacci poetry has appeared in this journal from 2009 until the present
Shot Glass Journal
Muse Pie Press
My poetry has appeared in various issues of this short form poetry journal

Every Day Poets Magazine
Every Day Poets
I have various poems of the day published in this 365 days a year poetry magazine.

4 Comments

  1. I went to the hotel as a boy too on family holidays and loved it. Very sad to see it go. Modernism isnt always right…
    The Barclays was the second choice when the beach was busy, gonna check that next!

  2. I stayed at the Beach Hotel once in 1982 and it was a terrific experience. I drove past it today – and it was gone! I felt sick.

    The art deco exterior and interior had charm that money just can't buy. It gave character to the town, it stood out as a landmark. The replacement is glass and concrete and without character of any kind. Just like a hundred other modern hotels throughout Europe.

    Worthing Council has shot itself in the foot with this redevelopment. Heads should roll.

  3. I agree with you Anonymous – shame though that there's nothing we can do. I hope some Worthing residents will remember this when it comes time to vote in the next council.

  4. Onslow Court is about to begin a massive regeneration program. The first part is underway now. A brand-new state of the art communal boiler is being installed underground. The option for individual boilers was thrown out in favour of keeping the building as original as possible. April 2013 sees the beginning of the first phase of renovations to the front façade. The building will look splendid by the autumn of 2013, the intention is to start the back of the building is renovating in 2014. It is a big job with a big budget.

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