The Golden Fringe of the South Downs
Long before Milton Keynes, there was Eastbourne. “Planned new towns” may possess more than a lingering whiff of the late 20th century but over 100 years before that, four hamlets – Bourne, South Bourne, Meads and Sea Houses – were engulfed by the major landowner 7th Duke of Devonshire’s masterplan. Drawn up by His Grace’s architect Henry Currey in 1859, this blueprint for a seaside resort would develop over half a century. Earlier Italianate stuccoed terraces contrast with later red brick Edwardian buildings. A new railway branch line from London to the south coast acted as a catalyst for the development. Promenades and esplanades and parades and a pier portray coastal town planning at its finest. While the Duke of Devonshire was the main promoter of the resort in the 19th century, a second landowner Carew Davies Gilbert built an eponymous housing estate inland to the north of the railway station. The 1880s Queen’s Hotel on Marine Parade, still splendid despite losing its original verandahs wrapping around each floor, is Henry Currey’s largest building in the town. The hotel furniture was supplied by Maples of Tottenham Court Road, London: walnut on the first and second floors; pine on the third; and oak on the top two floors. A hot food dining room and a cold food dining room were in the basement. The double entry Grade II* Listing of the earlier Burlington Hotel and Claremont Hotel on Grand Parade affirms, “This is the best series of buildings in Eastbourne.” Dating from the mid 19th century, the seafront stuccoed terrace now hotels, with its giant Ionic columns framing the first and second floors of the central nine bays, is a very late flowering of the Regency style.