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Visiting the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, England: Victorian Opulence and a Strong Musical Tradition

Updated on February 19, 2018
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Grand Hotel, Eastbourne
Grand Hotel, Eastbourne | Source
Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, East Sussex
Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source
Claude Debussy on French banknote Banque de France (banknote), Monnaie de Paris (banknote), European Central Bank (photograph)
Claude Debussy on French banknote Banque de France (banknote), Monnaie de Paris (banknote), European Central Bank (photograph) | Source
Princess Henry of Battenberg, nee Princess Beatrice of Great Britain, 1912, by Philip de Laszlo
Princess Henry of Battenberg, nee Princess Beatrice of Great Britain, 1912, by Philip de Laszlo | Source

Music and wedding cake!

[This hub is mainly limited to some historical aspects of this heritage building. For any aspect of the services of this fine hotel, contact should be made directly with its management.]

What do Claude Debussy, Frank Bridge, Jacques Van Lier (1) , Albert Sandler, Shelley Van Loen and Reginald Leopold have in common? Answer: they are composers or musicians who have all been associated in one way or another with the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne. Indeed, it is known that Debussy's composition 'La Mer' was written at the Grand Hotel in 1905 (I have supplied an image of a French banknote showing both the composer and the sea in the background). So was composer Frank Bridge's 'The Sea' written at the Hotel; this occurred in 1911. Regarding Jacques Van Lier and Albert Sandler (2), both musicians and the Hotel's orchestra were well known for broadcasting on the BBC in the interwar years.

Today the Hotel's strong musical tradition continues; in more recent years Reginald Leopold and the Palm Court Orchestra have broadcast by radio from the Grand Hotel (3); and violinist Shelley Van Loen and the Palm Court Strings, acclaimed by Richard Baker on Classic FM, have regularly performed at the Grand Hotel (4).

The World War Two years were not kind to the Grand Hotel; or maybe it could be said instead that the intervening war years gave the Hotel's proprietors and management to re-align themselves to the vastly different post-war years with a clientele deeply affected by high taxation and from the 50s and 60s, from competition from overseas holiday possibilities.

Robert Knott Blessley (1833-1923)(5) was the original architect of the building, which manifests rather opulent, eclectic style influences, not least Neoclassicism seen in the two prominent pediments at the main elevation facing the sea, one of them atop a portico at the front entrance. Elements of mansard roofing are also visible and, given the longstanding custom for the Hotel to be kept painted white, the whole arguably gives the impression of a huge, well iced wedding cake. The building is sometimes referred to as The White Palace.

July 23, 2016


(1) Some trivia about Jacques Van Lier, the counductor's birth name in The Netherlands: prior to World War One he reckoned that he could trade on the reputation of German musicians by adopting the German spelling Von Lier. But with Britain's experience of World War One with Germany, accompanied by the most raucous of anti-German sentiments whipped up by politicians and the media, Herr Von Lier suddenly reverted to the Dutch form of his name again!

(2) Indeed, Albert Sandler was a favourite musician of HRH Princess Beatrice (1857-1934), a regular guest at the Grand Hotel, known as the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.

(3) See also:

(4) See also:

(5) A locally active architect who worked on many Sussex church buildings, Architect Blessley was notably also responsible for Leaf Hall, Eastbourne.

Some sourcing: ; Wikipedia

Grand Hotel, Eastbourne
Grand Hotel, Eastbourne | Source
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source

Also worth seeing

In Eastbourne itself, notable sights include: Beachy Head and lighthouse, which lie within the town's limits; the Pier, the Promenade, the Martello Wish Tower, and the Redoubt Fortress attract many summer visitors; the Town Hall is architecturally distinguished; Sovereign Harbour is reputed to be Europe's largest marina; there are many fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture.

At Pevensey (distance: 6.6 kilometres), the castle is partly Roman and partly Norman in origin.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York - Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Eastbourne : 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Eastbourne from London Victoria railroad station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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      Ed Robens 

      14 months ago

      Reference Jacques van Lier, could you have been referring to his brother Simon? Simon's daughter said that he ran the orchestra and his wife Flora was a member. Later Simon became the music publisher manager for Kieth Prowes. Flora parted with Simon and returned to Netherlands and died in Auschwitz, August 31, 1942.


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