During the 1920’s Bexhill-on-Sea was experiencing something of a boom, with people moving in for the benefits of living by the sea. However, by the early 1930’s, the town council saw a need to embark on a development that would attract more visitors to the town and expand as a resort. By 1932, they had elected a young mayor, the 9th Earl De la Warr, whose family had built the greater part of Victorian Bexhill. He persuaded the council to launch an international competition for the design of a pavilion to provide culture and entertainment for the masses.
The pavilion was finally opened on the 12th December 1935 by the Duke and Duchess of York, but when war was declared in 1939, the building, along with other public entertainment venues in the UK, was temporarily closed. Following the war, the pavilion struggled to be fit for purpose before falling into a state of neglect.
By the mid 1980’s moves were made to have the pavilion listed as a Grade 1 building. A trust was formed and a plan drawn up to focus on its restoration and redevelopment. It was eventually re-opened in October 2005 as a centre for contemporary arts.
I like Bexhill. It is smaller than its neighbour Eastbourne, far less rowdy than Brighton and it hasn’t suffered from a lack of funding like Hastings. As a child I considered it to be reserved for old people. My parents lived in an upstairs maisonette and the elderly couple living below holidayed there every year without fail for decades. We sometimes used to drive along the coastal roads, but always gave Bexhill a miss. Then I spotted the pavilion on the local news and the next time we had a free afternoon, we paid it a visit.
It turned out to be one of the nicest days on what had been a dreadful summer. The sun shone brightly, creating shadows of the local gulls on the side of the building. I watched for a while, wondering if I could capture this with the camera and within a couple of minutes, I got lucky. The image below shows how earlier repairs weren’t always done with the greatest of sympathy.
We wandered along the front where the warmth had brought out families with young children who were playing in the fountains. I’m always wary when taking candid shots of youngsters. Photographers get such a bad press and yet it seems shameful that we can no longer capture the innocence of youth. I lingered long enough to take the single photograph that is featured above and it remains another of my own personal favourites.
Back inside the pavilion and the light hanging below the wonderful spiral staircase.
Sadly the very top of the building was out-of-bounds due to the new art installation. Based on the final scene from the film The Italian Job – the coach had only just been placed on the roof.
Finally, waiting for my husband downstairs, I spotted a group of VIPs being assembled for a private viewing. If I couldn’t go to the top level, then at least I could take a photograph of them going upstairs…