Memories of the Palace Hotel and its part in the promotion of ‘Healthy Hastings’

Once again we’re dipping in to the work of ‘Modernity Mark’ with a selection of photographs from the former Palace Hotel on Hastings seafront taken in 2014. Mark is also able to provide some detailed history of the hotel and explains the architectural and design features that make the building stand out as a architectural gem and are why is was designated a Grade 2 Listed Building.

Mark revisited the building in 2018 by which time he says renovations had damaged some of the original features and the addition of stud walls had broken up the once grand rooms. New pipework and electrics had been punched through ceilings and walls destroying coving and mouldings etc, the grandeur, however, remained as can be seen when we bring the story up to dates with the link close to the bottom of the story.

To see more of Mark’s work follow the link at the bottom of the page.

Set over shops the Palace Hotel was built by architect Arthur Wells for the Spiers and Ponds Group. The western five-bay range was built in 1885, the eastern eight storey two and three-bay tower was added in 1885/6.

The height of the building, deep mansard roofs and use of terracotta and decorative metalwork are suggestive of the French chateau and of late 19th century.

Materials used include brick, with possibly a steel frame to the taller wing. The seafront is stucco rendered, the return walls are rendered and on the west painted; both sections have tall slate mansard roofs.

The hotel entrance leads to a narrow hallway from which stairs and a lift rise to the upper floor. Further stairs serve the upper floors of the taller wing. On the first floor overlooking the sea is a series of public rooms overlooking a glazed balcony.

The first floor of the taller range houses a large ballroom or dining room and behind it a smaller but similar reception room. Upper floor corridors have been partitioned but originally suites of rooms or single rooms led off wide longitudinal corridors.

Single shops at Nos. 34 and 35 White Rock run back beneath the hotel. An arcade of shops or units, now much altered and excluded from the listing, lead off a central access passage beneath the third and fourth bays, while there is a pair of shops, again altered, beneath the taller wing.

Rear wings project between open bays which include a glazed roof over the passage which gives access to the rear of the hotel. Rear rooms look out onto the bare cliff face.

The seaward facade facing is stucco rendered and articulated by alternating bowed and canted bays with sash windows, most with single-pane lower sashes and small paned upper lights. First floor windows have ornate terracotta and stucco rendered arched heads or friezes, upper floor windows are in plain openings.

This postcard shows how the hotel’s bar looked in the 1950s.

The first floor of the lower build has a range of enriched cambered arched fully-glazed openings which was originally built as an open gallery. The front elevation of the building is linked by balconies which run across the three principal storeys, a theme repeated in the upper floor of the tower. The balconies which are supported on scrolled brackets at first floor and plain brackets above, are enriched by gilded escutcheons – decorative panels, often in the form of a crest.

Tall, slate, mansard roofs accommodate one and in some cases two storeys of windows; the upper floors of the tower which are set into the roof have small windows in round-arched architraves.The entrance, marked by a shallow timber pediment, is set behind cast iron piers with ornate spandrels, and has a Jacobean Revival doorcase and screen, and is lined with glazed tiles.

The pediments of the attic storey windows of the western block are adorned with pairs of mermaids.

The entrance, flanked by mahogany booths with bevelled glass panels that lead to a single-bay width hall with a panelled dado and moulded timber fireplace surround and a moulded, ribbed ceiling. Stairs with a cast metal balustrade and moulded timber rail and enclosing a similar metal-framed lift shaft, rise the full height of the building.

The first floor reception rooms open through French doors or full height sashes onto the glazed arcade, which has a tiled floor. Outer windows are metal-framed, probably inter-war. The room over the entrance is set behind a glazed and panelled internal screen. The eastern rooms have ribbed ceilings and ornate fireplaces, one depicting mermaids, while the western two rooms are on a smaller scale with fireplaces similar to those elsewhere in the hotel.

Some of the doors to these public rooms have etched glass panels. The taller wing is laid out with a large first floor dining room or ballroom which leads to a similar, but smaller, room at the rear of the building. Both have ribbed panelled ceilings with large floral vents, which in the front room are supported by a pair of added fluted columns.The front room has an inlaid marquetry timber fireplace and the grate depicts mermaids and birds, similar to that in the first floor room over the entrance. Some of the larger upper floor rooms with a sea view have ribbed ceilings, while most have deep moulded cornices.

Most rooms have pattern book fireplaces with moulded surrounds, some of which are cast iron; some have cast iron grates, and glazed tile linings, varying from plain coloured slips to floral designs; one in particular represents the Arts, with a palette, theatrical mask and pages from a book. Principal doors are of mahogany, most doors are painted. Some, to the public rooms have etched glass panels.

Between the hotel entrance and the shops is a deep passage with a ribbed ceiling with enriched panels leading to a glazed roofed service area. The shop fronts are set between pilasters and under deep moulded fascias. Most have been altered, reducing their claim to special interest, with the exception of Arthur Green, former gentleman’s outfitters, which has canted plate glass shop windows flanking a central entrance, all under deep overlights with small paned leaded lights and with ornate spandrels. The threshold is tiled in mosaic and inscribed ‘Arthur Green’. The interior is lined with mahogany shelves, cupboards and counters, the front sets have engaged shafts, pierced cornices, and swan necked pediments labelled ‘Shirt Tailors’ and ‘Silk and Felt Hats’, while the rear set which have richer mouldings, have twisted shafts and a pediment inscribed ‘Hosiery’.

The cashier’s booth which is similar to the latter, has shafts with splayed caps at the angles, raised panels and a blind scrolled oval panel over the cornice; freestanding shelves also remain in the shop.

The Spiers and Ponds Group had other properties including the Holborn Viaduct Hotel in London and had refreshment rooms at over 100 railway stations on nine different railway lines and the railway bars.

It is reputed that Spiers and Pond sold 8,000 gallons of sherry each week and it was estimated that the company could feed 200,000 to 300,000 people every day. By 1960 Spiers and Pond had been acquired by Express Dairy.

Documentary evidence relating to its history is limited, but Palace Hotel Company Hastings Ltd was registered with the Board of Trade in 1886.

A crate of empties that never made it back the the brewery. Does anyone remember Lamot beer?

It was an ambitious project, advertising sea-view rooms, accessible by lift, dining rooms and a restaurant open to non-residents. It was later known as Palace Chambers and ultimately renamed Palace Court.

The hotel typified the growth in popularity of this area of town in the later 19th century, when, aided by the railway, ‘Healthy Hastings’ was expanding as a resort.

Museum pieces? Who remembers buying a Phonecard? Or using a payphone? And that quaint old thing the telephone directory!

Some felt there was little provision for the working class in this conscious promotion of the town and others felt it produced narrow streets full of tall houses which ‘produced coldness and gloom’. However, the expansion in the 1870s and 1880s was in general a matter of considerable civic pride, exemplified by the newly built Town Hall, the Brassey Institute and its public library and expanding churches and shops in the vicinity.

Bringing the story up to date, click here to see what the Palace Hotel has become…

To see more of Modernity Mark’s work follow this link…

Share your memories and old photographs of your favourite old buildings in the comment section below.

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