Earl De La Warr and the Competition for the Bexhill Pavilion, 1933-34

by Peter Willis, Russell Stevens
Earl De La Warr and the Competition for the Bexhill Pavilion, 1933-34
Peter Willis, Russell Stevens
Architectural History
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Earl De La Warr and the competitionfor the Bexhill Pavilion, 1933-34


Among the distinguishing architectural features of the red-brick seaside town of Bexhill, East Sussex, is the startling white form ofthe De La Warr Pavilion (Fig. I). It is a building of some significance, partly because it represents the aspirations of British proponents of modern architecture in the 1930s in its appearance, its use of advanced constructional techniques (it was one of the first all-welded steel framed buildings in Britain) and its social function as an entertainment centre which aimed to provide amusement and simultaneously improve people's mental and physical fitness. The architects of the Pavilion, Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, had formed their partnership in 1933 when Mendelsohn had been forced to leave Berlin and emigrate to Britain;2 subsequently they triumphed in an open competition of 230 entries which provides a fascinating commentary on the ideological debate among British architects of the time, not least because of the architectural range represented by the designs which failed to win an award.

A central figure in the history of the Pavilion was Bexhill's young, aristocratic and socialist mayor, the ninth Earl De La Warr (190-76) (Fig. 2).3It was largely at his instigation that this competition was one of the first in Britain to enourage modernist designs, and in the controversy which followed he was to prove a powerful advocate for Mendelsohn and Chermayeff's scheme.

When De La Warr was elected mayor in 1932 he had already established himself as a prominent left-wing politician: from 1930 to 193 I he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in the Labour Government, and following the split in the party in 193 I hejoined the National Labour Party, serving as its chairman from 193 I to 1943 and acting as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture from 193 I to 1935. Despite his socialist views -which were not shared by the majority of residents of Bexhill- his election as mayor went uncontested, the local press describing him as a popular choice and emphasizing that he was a peer of the realm and a nationally prominent fig~re.~ a long family connection with

It was also stressed that he had Bexhill: both his father and grandfather had been previous mayors, and the seventh earl had been largely responsible for the expansion of Bexhill from a village into a seaside resort during the late nineteenth cent~ry.~

Indeed De La Warr was Lord ofthe Manor of Bexhill, and owned much property in the town.6



Ironically, it was partly the conservative character ofBexhil1 which made such a radical pavilion possible. During the 192os, while other seaside resorts throughout Britain invested in entertainment halls in order to 'attract tourists, Bexhill's council procrastin- ated, fearful of any change which might threaten the quietness and tranquillity of their town. Meantime, in 1926, Worthing -a resort of similar character further west along the Sussex coast -built a pavilion in a Regency manner designed by Adshead and Ramsey (Fig. 3).' Bexhill might well have followed suit, and indeed in the years immediately preceding De La Warr's term as mayor several such traditional schemes were proposed for Bexhill but were frustrated by local opposition. None the less there was a growing conviction in the town that if it were to compete with other resorts it ought to have its own building for entertainment.8 By 1930 the Borough Council had purchased what was known as the coastguard site (then occupied by thirteen cottages) which included all the land from the Metropole Hotel to the Marina Court Gardens on the promenade facing the sea (Figs 5 and 6). This was to be the location of Mendelsohn and Chermayeff's pavilion.

The desirability of such a building on this site was endorsed by the architects Adams, Thompson and Fry who had been commissioned in 1926 to prepare a general development plan for Bexhill.1° Although their assignment was primarily to control residential growth on the outskirts of the town, the report they submitted in 1930 emphasized that the future prosperity of Bexhill depended largely upon the improve- ment of conditions in the central area. l1Included among their recommendations was a series of proposed buildings which were illustrated by Maxwell Fry (Fig. 4), including a pavilion on the coastguard site, described by the architects as 'the central and most important on the sea front. By nature of its position it is crowded at normal times, so that its development as an entertainments centre is a wise and logical step on the part of the Council'. l2

The report continues by outlining the problems and opportunities which were later to face competitors: The site is good, but not ideal: level on the upper part, where it risessome few feet above the promenade to the level of the Marina Road behind, it provides abundant space for buildings and gardens as well as unimpeded circulation ofany number ofvisitors. The disadvantages ofthe site arise from its being blocked at either end by large hotels. These hotels, being built in expectation offurther extensions, expose rather ungainly rear premises to full view, and any development of the site must include for screening these walls with a line of trees or an architecturalscreen wall.l3

Although the subsequent competition was to be for a larger and more complex building -including facilities for theatrical events, which Adams, Thompson and Fry envisaged as being in an independent building -many of the features of this design were to reappear in the competition brief. The scheme itself was drawn up by Fry and, although conventional in character, there is no reason to suppose that he was not the architect. As William Crabtree has observed, it was typical of the kind of building which he and Fry were encouraged to produce at the Liverpool School of Architecture in the 1920s.~~

Adams, Thompson and Fry were not the only architects to prepare proposals: the local firm of Tubbs and Messer, for instance, designed a hall, museum, library and


reading rooms which were to cost &50,0oo.~~

The debate was lively, with local shopkeepers and hoteliers wishing to encourage tourism, but many residents opposing the idea of their small and select town expanding so as to compete with Hastings, Margate or Brighton. In 1932, frustrated by the Council's inability to reach a decision, Alderman Bending (a former Mayor ofBexhil1) described them as being 'like a number of doctors standing around the patient's bed arguing as to the best means ofcuring him, but, failing to agree as to a remedy, allowing the patient to continue to suffer and even get worse'. l6

The issue was finally resolved by the intervention of the Earl De La Warr. In a speech which followed his installation as Mayor of Bexhill he noted that holiday resorts had a key place in the economy of the country and that the public should never confuse enterprise with extravagance in promoting them.17 In the following months De La Warr conducted a single-minded crusade to ensure that the Bexhill Pavilion was built, and during the early months of 1933 his enthusiasm and political skill persuaded the residents to support him. In a series of public meetings De La Warr temporarily set at rest the doubts of those who had frustrated previous initiatives. While emphasizing that tourism was essential to the economy of the borough he assured them that the Council was sympathetic to those who felt that the genteel character of Bexhill was under threat, 'We all of us', he said, 'want to maintain the existing character of the town, but we believe that we can make more of our existing resource^'.'^ The financing of the project was also a matter of debate. Section 180 of the 1925 Corporation Act had authorized the expenditure of public money on the erection of entertainment halls, but many people argued that they should be funded privately. De La Warr eschewed such arguments. 'My own view', he said, 'is if it is going to pay private enterprise it is going to pay the town'. l9

On 26 May 1933 a public gathering in the town hall held under the auspices of the Ratepayers' Association approved the resolution 'that this meeting is in favour of the Council's scheme for the initial development of the coastguard site at a price not exceeding &~o,ooo'. Only one hand was raised in oppo~ition.~~

De La Warr wanted a pavilion which would both fulfil Bexhill's requirements for an entertainment centre and also establish the town as a shining example of how other resorts should develop. 21 Once the Borough Council had given its support De La Warr announced that there would be a public competition for the design of the pavilion. Almost certainly at his instigation the RIBA was asked to nominate as assessor 'a man who was in touch with modern ideas of architectural development, in order that the younger generation of architects would feel that their plans would receive sympathetic and understanding treatment at his hands'. 22 AS was the policy of the RIBA, the choice of assessor was made by the President of the Institute, in this instance Sir Raymond Unwin. And he recommended Thomas S. Tait.

We cannot tell what part (if any) De La Warr played in this choice but the appointment of Tait (1882-1954) proved to be cruciaLZ3 Tait -a partner in Sir John Burnet, Tait and Lorne, whose early work was classical in inspiration -had shown an increasing sympathy with continental ideas and the Modern Movement: this can be seen, for instance, in his housing at Silver End in Essex for Crittall's (192627) and in his Royal Masonic Hospital in Ravenscourt Park (1930-33), inspired by Dudok, which


was the result of an open competition. All told it is difficult to imagine a more suitable assessor to have been chosen for Bexhill, as Tait was both respected by the older generation of architects and regarded as open-minded by the younger.24 In addition, his experience of entering competitions meant that he was familiar with the informa- tion required by competitors and other practical matters.


The competition was announced in The Architects' journal on 7 September 1933; premiums of 2150, 2100 and 275 were offered, with a closing date of 4 December 1933 (later extended to the 29th of the same month). 25 The estimated cost was not to exceed 250,000,~~ The

though subsequently this was raised to a maximum of 260,ooo.~~ competition was open to all architects, and entries had to be strictly anonymous. The main elements in the schedule of accommodation were:

An ENTERTAINMENTS HALL to seat I $00persons, to be used for concerts, theatrical   performances, lectures, etc.;   An E NTRAN CE HALL giving access to all public rooms (long corridors were to be avoided);  

A RESTAURANT (available for dancing ifnecessary) to seat 200 persons, designed as a sun   parlour with sliding or opening French windows leading on to a terrace facing the sea;   A CONFERENCE HALL to seat zoo persons which could also be used as a lecture hall;   A READ I NG ROOM for newspapers and magazines, again in the form of a sun parlour;   A LOUNGE adjacent to the READING ROOM.  

Each competitor received a site plan and was told that the existing avenue in the centre was to be removed and the coastguard cottages demoli~hed.~~

Car parking space was required, suggestions for alterations to the existing colonnade could be made, and later it was decided that the bandstand should remain in its present position.29 The site sloped sharply and fairly evenly towards the shore, but (as Adams, Thompson and Fry had pointed out) there were hotels blocking it at either end, notably the Metropole Hotel to the west.

The general information also included an indication of the kind of building the Council had in mind: It is the intention ofthe promoters that the building should be simple in design, and suitable for a

Holiday Resort in the South of England. Character in design can be obtained by the use oflarge window spaces, terraces and canopies. No restrictions as to style of architecture will be imposed but buildings must be simple, light in

appearance and attractive, suitable for a Holiday Resort. Heavy stonework is not desirable.

The finish is left to the discretion of the competitor, but if cement finish is employed it must be such that it will not craze. All copings and cills must be well protected from the weather. Modern steel framed or ferro-cement construction may be adopted, but walls and roofs must be

well insulated for heat and sound. Windows must be either in wood or gun metal, thoroughly waterproof. 30

It was added that 'exposure to weather must be considered'.

The conditions were reviewed in subsequent issues of both the Architect and Building News31 and The Architectr'jo~rnal,~~

which observed that such buildings were 'as sadly missing in every part of Britain' as they were 'finely present in many Continental


centres'. Criticizing the heavy-handed Victorianism which had 'laid a monstrous blight of gloomy ornament on park and promenade', The AuchitectsJJouunal cited the 'sound work' represented by Adshead and Ramsey's Worthing Pavilion, and those at Bourne- mouth (by Home and Knight) and Hastings (by Cowles Voysey). Now, at Bexhill, a more progressive approach was called for:

This competition for a centre ofpublic entertainment at Bexhill provides a well-timed chance for British architects to show their mettle. With Mr Tait as assessor they need fear no bias in favour of Victorian or any other tradition, but can strike out individually and boldly for whatever conception of modern styles their imagination dictates.33

The encouragement of modernist designs implicit in the brief caused excitement in architectural circles. As one observer later commented in The ~4rchitects'Jou~nal:

The competition presented or enjoyed all the ingredients necessary for a bumper entry -an attractive programme; a stipulation in the conditions that the building should be on modern lines; a scarcity of architectural work in the country; a competent and open-minded assessor; a period of architectural uncertainty and a (perhaps inflated) belief in the minds of many that the Bexhill competition would set a seal on the future of design and would go a long way towards the vexed question of 'Modern' versus 'Traditi~n'.~~

The 'ingredients' mixed perfectly and an entry of 230 competitors was the result. The results of the competition were announced in the architectural press during the first week of February 1934. Tait made his awards as follows: Design placed First (&Iso): Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, FRIBA Design placed Second (£100): J. W.Haswell and George H. Shepherd, AIARIBA Design placed Third (f75): Philip G. Freeman and William F. Crabtree, AIARIBA Recommended for special merit: James Burford and Marshall A. Sisson, AIARIBA Percy Lingwood, ARIBA

When all the schemes were exhibited at the York Hall, Bexhill, from 6 February 1934 (a similar exhibition ofselected drawings being held subsequently at the Building Centre, London) the predominance of 'modern' designs created much comment in the archi- tectural press. Although the majority of reports were favourable, the exhibition was not without its critics; the Architect and Building Netus, for instance, claimed that the competitors had generally missed the opportunity of producing 'an architecture of joyousness', preferring 'the solemnity of extracting problems inherent in a factory run by a severe board of director^'.^^

The most extensive review was published in The Avchitects'Jouvnal 36 which pre- viously had encouraged designers to 'strike out . . . for whatever conception of modern style their imagination dictate^',^' and which later reported that 'three quarters of the competitors have submitted schemes which are "modern" in elevati0n'.3~

Yet, as can be seen, the words 'modern' and 'modernism', were capable of widely differing interpretations. Indeed, although The Builder noted that all five schemes selected by Tait 'are what are today known as "modern" -of a Continental character or inspired by Continental w0rk',3~ they range from the sophisticated International Style of Mendelsohn and Chermayeff's solution which Tait felt exhibited a 'masterly handling of architectural treatment' (Figs 7-14),~' to the moderne design by Lingwood (Fig. 18 a and b) with its resonances of Tait's own Royal Masonic Hospital at Ravenscourt Park.


The design placed second, by Haswell and Shepherd (Fig. Iga and b), was described by the Avchitect and Building News as 'more spectacular and therefore more in the spirit of the pr~blem'~'

than the winning scheme, but it is in effect an eclectic combination of twentieth-century elements taken from Dudok (notably the tower) and futuristic sources (the bandstand area). A far more thorough essay in modernism was provided by Freeman and Crabtree in their third-placed design (Fig. 16a and b), its beautifully resolved south elevation displaying much of the skill which was to make Crabtree's department store for Peter Jones (1936) one of Britain's most important and successful 'modern' buildings. Only the commended scheme by Burford and Sisson (Fig. 17a and b), however, comes close to displaying the maturity and surehandedness in the use of twentieth-century technology and imagery which is so apparent in Mendelsohn and Chermayeff's proposals. Burford and Sisson divide the pavilion into two almost independent units, its south elevation echoing Emberton's Royal Corinthian Yacht Club at Burnham-on-Crouch of 193 I and demonstrating the lightness of structure that was now possible.42

The wide variety of stylistic approaches elicited by the Bexhill competition is succinctly demonstrated by the three schemes published in The Avchitectuval Association Jo~vnal~~

by architects connected with the Architectural Association school either as ex-students or tutors. The design by Andrew Carden and R. L. Banks (Fig. 19a and b) is clearly influenced by the International Style, while the entry by D. H. Beaty-Pownall is distinctly moderne (Fig. 20). That of D. F. Martin-Smith and John Grey (Fig. 21) is a fascinating hybrid which displays the contemporary taste for Swedish architecture (in particular Ragnar Ostberg's Stockholm Town Hall) but combines it with the imagery of the glazed restaurant wing and apparent use of advanced structural techniques.

Despite their diversity, a comparison between these designs and Adshead and Ramsay's Worthing Pavilion -or some of the more traditional entries such as the one by Smith and Brewer (Fig. 22a and b) -enables one to appreciate why the press found little to distinguish between them. Indeed the overall novelty ofthe various approaches led The Builder to give a warning to any of its readers who may visit the exhibition:

To the older school of architects the character of the designs generally will be revolutionary and almost beyond understanding, but one must not lose sight of the fact that many of the younger architects consider that in this age of flight, wireless and engineering science, architects must produce a new type of design, to utilise the new building materials, the products of a modern age.44

Of the schemes neither premiated nor commended two stand out for discussion because of the significance of the architects involved -those of Oliver Hill and Maxwell Fry. Hill had been invited personally by Earl De La Warr to enter the competitior~,~~

partly (it may be surmised) on the basis of the Morecambe Hotel, Lancashire, which was opened in July 1933 and received wide acclaim in both the professional and lay press as the first 'modern' hotel in Britain. 46 Hill slipped in and out of modernism with a chameleon-like talent,47 but in a letter concerning the Bexhill competition he noted that the assessor 'has rather stressed the point of the desirability of utilizing the most modern constr~ction',~~

and in the report which accompanied his entry he remarked that the 'group of buildings' would be 'practical and efficient in purpose, and stimulating in their effect by the use of modern methods of construction,



and in the use of modern material^'.^^ Hill's design (Fig. 23a and b) was clearly an attempt to come to terms with the tenets of the International Style, although the result is harsh, complicated in planning and lacks the elegance which normally distinguished his work.

The entry by Adams, Thompson and Fry (Fig. 24a and b) is far more sophisticated, and is almost certainly the work of Fry; a comparison between this and his earlier scheme for the site (Fig. 4) emphasizes his change ofarchitectural position. By 1933 Fry was vice-chairman of the MARS group, and his first major 'modern' building, Sassoon House in Peckham (1934), was at the design stage. In 1934 Fry discontinued his association with Adams and Thompson to form a short-lived partnership with Walter Gropius, but it is clear already at Bexhill that Fry demonstrates a mature architectural treatment influenced by the Swedish architect, Sven Markeliu~:~~

indeed Markelius had won the competition for Helsingborg concert hall in 1925, though it was not completed until 1932. In 1933 The Avchitectural Review published an illustrated article on the building, and its similar functions to the Bexhill Pavilion made it an ideal pre~edent.~~ Fry was just one ofthe competitors who seem to have been influenced by Helsingborg, and he borrowed heavily from it. The result was remarkably accomplished. Perhaps its failure to be selected by Tait was due to the awkward external spaces created by the

junction between the rectangular block on the north and the curved restaurant and lounge on the south; but the qualities of Fry's design were appreciated by The AvchitectuvalJott~nalas it was the only scheme neither commended nor premiated to be illustrated in their review of the competiti~n.~~

Aside from the debate about architectural style, Tait was a practical architect with a perceptive view of the various planning solutions offered by the contestants. 'Twenty- five per cent ofthe designs submitted', he wrote in his report on the competition, 'show considerable merit, but most of these are complicated and involved in planning. The design placed first indicates a thorough grasp of the nature of the problem, is direct and simple in planning, and shows a masterly handling of the architectural treatment.'S3 The architectural correspondent of The Times expressed similar admiration for the plan submitted by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff:

Those who associate the name of Mr Mendelsohn with extreme tendencies will be agreeably surprised to find that there is not aggressive 'modernism' in the design. It is in fact, less consciously modern than some of the others and concentrates on a light-handed realisation of site and function with economy ofmeans, following the natural movements ofvisitors with ease and certainty. Almost anybody could find his way about the plans. Quick and lively in suggesting horizontal movement, the design aims at extreme flexibility offunction, and any part of the building can be used separatel~.~~

The planning solution was not only a great victory for the architects -for, after all, Mendelsohn had claimed that 'it is obvious that real creative power is the result of the interplay of dynamics and function'55-- but also a victory for the 'modernists' over the 'traditionalists' genkrally.

Perhaps the main reason, indeed, why no traditional schemes were represented among those singled out by Tait was their obsession with symmetry. This can be seen, for instance, in Smith and Brewer's proposal with its powerful axiality (Fig. 22a and b). For in order to create a synlmetrical design which responded logically to the existing


bandstand the only possible solution was to align the building at right angles to the coastline on the axis of the bandstand, with the main hall to the north and the glazed restaurant wing to the south. Thus the building inevitably turns its back on Marina Road, the route by which most visitors would arrive. This theme, with minor variations, occurred in many schemes. The ArchitectslJournal published sketch layouts of three such entries -those ofL. W. Thornton White, ofL. L. T. Sloot, and of Welch, Cachemaille-Day and Lander. 56 Not all these designs were traditional in style (that of Welch, Cachemaille-Day and Lander being described by The Builder as having 'a ship-like appearance with deck promenade^'),^' but all suffered from a striving after symmetry which, as The ArchitectslJournal observed 'is scarcely justifiable when it involves sacrifices on other important points of efficien~y.'~~

Unhampered by the convention of symmetry, most competitors (including all five singled out by Tait) aligned their buildings parallel to the coast, which gave them the greatest opportunity to control the external spaces and create a logical plan. Some schemes, such as Oliver Hill's, were over-complicated in their planning, while others, such as Haswell and Shepherd's, were criticized by the journals for being 'the wrong way round' in that 'from the apsidal end of their restaurant one would get a commanding view of the Metropole's six storeys'.59

None, however, solved the planning problem as elegantly as Mendelsohn and Cherma~eff.6~

Their building lies parallel to the coast with the theatre to the west masking the rear faqade of the Metropole Hotel from the rest of the pavilion. This element is treated predominantly as a closed box (the row of doors at ground level, opening onto the terrace, is a later development of the design following the competi- tion) and contrasts with the restaurant and cafeteria which are grouped to the east side of the site and expressed through the predominant use of glass with concrete canti- levered terraces. These two main zones are linked by the central foyer, which also serves to link the town to the sea. This central element is expressed on the exterior by means of curved glass staircases at either end. These are typical features of Mendel- sohn's work, and indeed the south stair (Figs 13 and 14) must rank among his finest achievements: an exuberant expression of vertical movement internally and of hori- zontal movement externally. Physically and visually it draws together the glazed restaurant wing and the solid mass of the theatre.

Even the Architect and Building News, which was critical of the appearance of the winning scheme, wrote: It is in the layout that this design recommends itself. The building is well moulded to the levels and set in its surroundings with that inevitability which accompanies good, thoughtful planning. 61

Similarly The ArchitectslJoumal sung the winners' praises:

The assessor, Mr Thomas Tait, must have had little difficulty in choosing the winner. Mr Mendelsohn and Mr Chermayeff have succeeded in making their solution tell on sight by their directness of approach to the problems involved and by the unaffected clarity of their drawings, backed by an admirable report.62

The Builder, in congratulating Mendelsohn and Chermayeff, commented that 'their solution of the problem set is an excellent one, certainly as to the planning, and, for a


design of its type, the general architectural treatment'. 63 The Architects'Journal went further. 'The stage has been miraculously set', it wrote, 'and in all probability Bexhill will have, not an immature tentative design, but one which will establish a criterion for the seaside architecture of the future. '64 But it was recognized that the battle had not yet been won:

As a reward for their initiative the members of the Corporation of Bexhill now find themselves in possession of a number of competent solutions oftheir problem; but they also find themselves saddled with a responsibility. We hope that they will allow none of the obvious devices of obstructionalists or disgruntled persons to interfere with the realization of the first premiated design which is, in the opinion of those who have seen it, a work of outstanding merit.65

But, as with so many buildings of 'outstanding merit', the 'realization' of the Bexhill Pavilion was to be accompanied by dispute.


Although the architecturaljournals and national press almost all supported the award of the assessor, the Bexhill Pavilion immediately became the centre of controversy.

The first issue dominated the letters page of The Architects'Journal during February and March 1934. Whereas it seems true that most immigrant architects were welcomed in England, there was a highly vocal minority of Fascist architects who objected strongly. The success of Mendelsohn and Chermayeff at Bexhill incensed them, and at the request of one such architect The Architects' Journal reprinted an article on 15 February 1934 which had first been published in The Fascist Week and which outlined their objections:

We have been affronted by the spectacle of prosperous British architects lavishing on these aliens, at big professional functions, encouragement which they conspicuously withold from the younger architects of their own race, men ofundoubted ability who, in many cases have already suffered from this invasion.

Thus the Royal Institute ofBritish Architects, whose primary duty is presumably to protect the interests of British Architects, betrays them by encouraging the professional activities in this country of those aliens who have found it advisable to flee from their own land.

Admirable as the individual work of some of these immigrants has been, Fascism will not tolerate aliens practising their trade or profession within Britain or the Empire in unfair competition with British citizens. The planning of our future towns and homes lies before us as an immense and glorious opportunity. Britons, not aliens, shall carry out the task.66

Similarly, the Town Clerk of Bexhill was accused by a Mr Walker Heath of being unpatriotic by 'employing an alien architect to design the building'.'j7

This second letter was published in both the The Architects'Journal and the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer together with a reply from Earl De La Warr which pointed out that the design of the pavilion was won in open competition in which 'no one, not even the Council or the Assessor himself knows the names of the competitors until the award has actually been made'.6s He continued:

The winning firm is a British firm and Mr Chermayeffis not only a British citizen but is actually a member of the RIBA. It is true that the firm has lately taken into partnership Mr Erich Mendelsohn who was one of the greatest architects on the continent before he was turned out of Germany by the present regime.


De La Warr went on to explain that a certificate from the Home Office was required before a foreign member of a profession could be admitted, and that 'this certificate is not issued without consultation with the profession in this country'. De La Warr said that he was

given to understand that the reply of the RIBA to the Home Office when consulted about Mr Erich Mendelsohn was that he was so distinguished an artist that they welcomed his admission . . . .and further that if he stayed and applied for naturalization they would be pleased and proud to consider him for the bestowal of the highest honour that the profession could give.

De La Warr ended his letter by supporting the choice of Tait as assessor, and indicating the competition had been so successful that the prize had been awarded 'to a set ofplans of which I hope that not only our small town, but all those interested in architecture in this country may be proud'.

It is to James Burford's discredit that he (who with Marshall Sissons had been commended for his entry) joined the objectors; both he and Sisson were (or had been) members of Oswald Mosley's British.Union of fascist^.^^ Burford's bigotry was disguised when, in a letter, he suggested that the award to Mendelsohn would hamper the cause of modernism in this country as 'the public generally will not discriminate between the design and its author'.70 In Burford's opinion there was 'strong public protest at the result of this competition'. 71 De La Warr replied by stating that as far as he was concerned there was no such protest,72 though he could not have been unaware of the rumblings of discontent within Bexhill itself.

The initial reaction of local residents to the design was, unsurprisingly, one of complete bewilderment. The editor of the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer wrote that 'many who have been to the York Hall to see the prize design have not gained the impression which they hoped and expected'.73 None the less he felt that

for the present one must accept the opinion of those who are able to judge that the designs give promise of a music pavilion which will fully satisfy the requirements of Bexhill, and will embellish the seafront with a striking feature that will be talked of far and wide. 74

Cyril Sweett, a leading member of the MARS group and the quantity surveyor for the project, recalls that generally the pavilion was not to the liking oflocal residents (many of whom were retired service people) and the idea of having a foreign architect to design it was an anathema to them.75 De La Warr, on the other hand, strongly supported the scheme, and later in the year he commissioned Mendelsohn and Chermayeff to design a house for him which was not, alas, executed.76 De La Warr insisted that the pavilion should proceed, though (to judge by the editor's comments in the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer on 17 February 1934) he was somewhat isolated. After noting that the mayor had been 'remarkably successful' in enlisting support for the pavilion, the editor added:

There must be quite a few people in the town who are in favour of it, although I must confess I have not heard them say much on the subject of late. Is it a conspiracy of silence to let the opposition exhaust itself before the day of battle?77

But those who opposed the scheme could call on more tangible arguments to support their position.


There were two main arguments. The first was that occupants of the coastguard cottages would have to be rehoused in council housing for which there was a desperate shortage; but this had been defused by the mayor who promised additional housing within the borough.78 The second was the seemingly never-ending increase in the estimated cost of the pavilion. When the scheme was first approved a 2d. rate increase had been referred to; the increase of the cost of the building from &so,ooo to&~O,OOO, and the cost of furnishing and running the pavilion, brought the increase to 41/2d. in the pound. 79 The loss of rentals of the cottages (omitted in the original calculations and representing approximately 72d. in the pound) brought the total of sd.80 When, therefore, a residents' association was formed to object to the scheme it had the backing of the Hastings and St Leonards Gas Company who, having works in the borough, were major ratepayers. On 19 February 1934, at a meeting attended by Serge Chermayeff, the Council decided that they would apply to the Ministry of Health for a loan of f80,ooo which had emerged as the realistic cost of the pavilion.81 Before sanctioning any loan, the Ministry arranged for a Public Inquiry to be held before its inspector.

The Public Inquiry opened on 5 April 1934 and lasted two days;82 the town hall was packed and the degree ofemotion involved is indicated by the regularity with which the public had to be silenced. Occupying a prominent position was a model of the scheme (unveiled for the first time) which showed various modifications including a swimming pool in the location of the bandstand and a pier extending from the colonnade into the sea (Fig. 10). Mendelsohn attended the Inquiry which, as Cyril Sweett recalls, he thoroughly enjoyed but took no part It was Serge Chermayeff who represented the architects and outlined the proposals. The pavilion, he said, was designed to obtain the utmost flexibility and was unorthodox and quite unlike any other building in the country.84 He announced that a steel frame not a concrete frame would be used (and welded rather than riveted) which would be cheaper and lighter.85 On matters of cost, Chermayeff was assisted by Cyril Sweett who ultimately joined him in the witness box. Many other witnesses, including De La Warr, were called by both counsels, and it became apparent that the overriding concern of the inspector (the barrister, G. Ewart-Rhodes) was that the project would not cause an increase in the rates over qd., the maximum allowed under the Local Government Act of 1929.

On 28 September the inspector sanctioned a loan of £7o,ooo to be repaid over 30 years, and a further £8,412 with a IS-year repayment period.86 Many cost-cutting exercises were subsequently carried out to keep within this budget, and the increase in cost over the &~o,ooo

originally agreed in 1933 was used successfully by objectors to the scheme to oppose the later construction of the pergola and swimming pool extension. 87

None the less the result of the Public Inquiry was a victory for Earl De La Warr and those who supported the pavilion, and building finally commenced in January 1935. During the early stages of construction the pavilion was visited by King George V and Queen Mary, and the commemorative plaque (which took the place of the conven- tional foundation stone) was laid by Earl De La Warr on their Silver Jubilee Day.

The official inauguration was performed by the Duke and Duchess of York on Thursday 12 December 1935, just one month after the end of De La Warr's term in office as mayor, and so it was the new mayor, Alderman Striedinger, who welcomed


the royal couple.88 In his address the Alderman commented that the pavilion was 'the last word in the scientific employment of modern building materials and methods of constructi~n'.~~ the

Reporting the event as a 'good start for a great enterpri~e'~~ Bexhill-on-Sea Observer noted that 'the pavilion more than realises the public hopes and expectation, and that Bexhill is very proud of the building', and added:

In the early stages of construction, the unaccustomed horizontal lines and austerity of the outer walls were somewhat disturbing to conventional ideas ofentertainment halls, but any doubt that Bexhill was making too bold an experiment in modern architecture disappears with the finished appearance and general setting. g1

The Evening Standard published a letter from Bernard Shaw who was 'Delighted to hear that Bexhill had emerged from barbari~m',~~

but would only be satisfied when all his plays were performed there at least once a year. The architectural correspondent of The Times wrote that it is 'by far the most civilised thing that has been done on the south coast since the days of the Regen~y'.~~

The building was unanimously praised by the architectural press.g4 The Architect and Building News, critical of the design at competition stage, published an article on Mendelsohn and wrote that he 'has always been the most breathtaking of the modernists, and the Bexhill Pavilion, designed in collaboration with Serge Chermayeff, has all the dynamic "attack" of his earlier work'.95

In Bexhill itself the objectors were not silent for long, and their complaints were mostly based on finance and reducing the cost of running the pavilion. The deputy mayor admitted candidly the fear of the Council of 'the terrible catastrophe of what everybody in Great Britain would say as to our having tried a great experiment and failed'. 96 It was in this atmosphere that De La Warr was offered the Freedom ofBexhill. He replied to the mayor:

I feel that it would be wiser for the matter to be deferred. It would naturally be more pleasing to receive such honour feeling that it was with the approval of the burgesses of Bexhill, but whilst so much controversy about the Pavilion still exists there would evidently be a certain number who would once again condemn such action of the Council. Ishould naturally have been very proud and happy to receive such an honour and you will easily understand that it is with real grief and disappointment that I come to this decision, but in the circumstances feel confident that I am taking the only course of action po~sible.~'

Indeed it must be admitted that in some respects the Bexhill Pavilion has proved to be a

white elephant, not only in financial terms but also because it was hoped that it would

generate a larger redevelopment of the seafront which never took place.

Mendelshon and Chermayeffenvisaged that in due course it would be surrounded by buildings of its own kind, and prepared proposals which showed an hotel and cinema embracing the pavilion and forming a unified whole. An axonometric drawing of this scheme, described as the 'possible development ofthe whole site', was published in The Architectural Review ofJuly 1936 (Fig. IZ), and undated sketches of it exist in the RIBA Drawings Collection and in the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.gs But early in 1936the relatively modest proposal for a pergola extension and swimming pool was abandoned, and with the demolition ofthe Metropole Hotel (following bomb damage in World War 11) the pavilion now stands in even greater isolation, apparently awaiting the arrival of a world which will never come.


Yet its wider significance is assured: it represents the enlightened patronage and idealism of the ninth Earl De La Warr, the confidence ofBexhill Council, and one of the finest examples of modernist architecture in Britain of the 1930s Today, looking back over the competition and some of the other designs which were submitted, it is still the clear winner. Professor Sir Charles Reilly, who had welcomed the award to Mendel- sohn and Chermayeff, had no doubts. 'It is safe to say', he wrote,

that no such simple and elegant structure, none so novel in its straightforwardness and efficiency, has before been put up here as a pleasure pavilion. When one looks at the plain cream surfaces, divided by long vertical lines, to define the inevitable graduations in colour, one wonders whether we are yet ready for such elegance.99


The authors have incurred debts to many people and wish to record their gratitude to them.

The present Earl and Countess De La Warr kindly read the text and informed us that the ninth Earl (the client for the Pavilion) left no documents relating to it. This is confirmed in Cameron Hazlehurst and Christine Woodland, A Guide to the Papers ofBritish Cabinet Ministers, 1900-51

(1974)a p. '25. Publication was supported by a generous grant from the Royal Institute of British Architects, made available through Peter Gibbs-Kennett, Director of Education and Professional Develop- ment at the Institute. The material presented here is based on part of a BArch dissertation by Russell Stevens, 'The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (1933-35): Competition, Controversy and Construction', Uni- versity of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1989. This was supervised by Peter Willis and subsequently won an RIBA Dissertation Certificate for 1989.

At Bexhill we are grateful to David Blake (Rother District Council), Stella Bellem and Joan Round (Bexhill Museum), Jill Theis (Pavilion Trust, Friends of the De La Warr Pavilion), and the staff of the De La Warr Pavilion who gave us access to the building and other essential help.

Among librarians and archivists we thank Sigrid Achenbach and Theo Boll at the Kunstbi- bliothek, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; C. R. Davey at the Records Office of East Sussex County Council, Lewes; Ruth Kamen, Robert Elwall, Alison Felstead, and Angela Mace at the British Architectural Library, London; Jill Lever, Neil Bingham and Tim Knox at the RIBA Drawings Collection, London; Janet Parks at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York; Anthony R. Smith at the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, London; and Elizabeth A. Underwood at the Library of the Architectural Association, London.

Particular thanks are due to Birkin Haward, Sr, and Cyril Sweett (both of whom worked on the design of the De La Warr Pavilion in different capacities) for answering many questions about the building, and to William Crabtree for providing a fascinating insight into the competition. Barbara Tilson generously read the text and commented on the Mendelsohnl Chermayeff partnership.

Others who have assisted in various ways include John Archer, George Atkinson, Neil Baxter, Tim Benton, Catherine C. Cruft, Eric Davies, Stuart Forbes, Rex Henry, Malcolm S. Higgs, Adrian Napper, Charles McKean, Andrew Mead, Edward D. Mills, Peter Paul, H. Cullerne Pratt, Gavin N. Tait, Alison Tate, David Walker, Iain Boyd Whyte, andJan Woudstra.

In June 1990 we benefited from discussions with Eric Mendelsohn's daughter Mrs Esther Mendelsohn Joseph.

Figs I, I 3 and 14 Herbert Felton c. 1936, courtesy RCHME.   Fig. 2 courtesy Rother District Council.   Figs 4, 6, 22 and 23 courtesy British Architectural Library.   Figs 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, IS, 16, 17, 18 and 24 courtesy the Architectural Press.   Figs 19, 20 and 21 courtesy the Architectural Association.  



I The Bexhill Pavilion features extensively in the literature on Mendelsohn and Chermayeff. For a recent publication on it see Erich Mendelsohn, 1887-1953, Catalogue of a Touring Exhibition organized by Modern British Architecture (1987), which contains 'The story ofthe De La Warr Pavilion', by Jeremy Brook (pp. 22-23). See also Jonathan Glancey and David Hamilton Eddy, ' Mendelsohn [and] Chermayeff all at sea', RIBA Journal, vol. 92, no. 9 (September 1985), 30-36, which includes colour photographs by Martin Charles. For a different perspective see Tim Benton, 'The De La Warr Pavilion. A type for the 193os', in Leisure in the 20th Century. Fourteen Papers given at the 2nd Conference on 20th-century Design History (London: Design Council Publications, 1977)~pp. 72-80. The construction of the Pavilion will be the subject of a forthcoming article by Russell Stevens. 2 The partnership was short-lived, lasting only three years (1933-36). Apart from the De La Warr Pavilion, their projects included the Nimmo House in Chalfont St Giles (1935), the Cohen House in Chelsea (1936), and unexecuted designs for an hotel in Southsea (1935) and for housing in White City, London (1935). In 1933 Chermayeff (born 1900) was only at the start ofhis architectural career, in which he had no formal training, while Mendelsohn (1887-1953) was at the peak of his creative talent and an acknowledged leader of the Modern Movement. Mendelsohn's influence clearly dominated the practice; the De La Warr Pavilion, certainly in its early stages, was predominantly designed by him. This is confirmed by Birkin Haward, Sr, in aletter to Russell Stevens, 4 August 1988; Mr Haward was an assistant in the practice during the development work on the pavilion in 1934, as he describes in his recollections in Erich ,bfendelsohn, 1887-1953 (1987), pp. 71-72, On pp. 59-67 of the same catalogue Barbara Tilson writes on 'Serge Chermayeff and the MendelsohniChermayeff Partnership'. Chermayeffs own observations on the period are in 'An Explosive Revolution', The Architectural Review, 166 (November 1967), p. 294. 3 Accounts of the life ofthe Rt Hon. Herbrand Edward Dundonald Brassey Sackville, ninth Earl De La Warr, are given in his obituary in The Times, 29 January 1976, p. 16, and in Who Was Who, 1971-80 (London, 1981), p. 208. 4 'The Next Mayor', Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 6 August 1932, p. 7. 5 'The Growth of Bexhill -From Village to Resort: De La Warr Trustees and Mr John Webb's Contract',Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 19 March 1966, p. 2. 6 Obituary, The Times, 29 January 1976, p, 16. Among De La Warr's properties in Bexhill was the Cooden Beach Hotel, and this fact undoubtedly aligned him in the town with those who wished to promote the Pavilion for commercial reasons, although the issue does not appear to have caused any comment in the local press. 7 D. Robert Elleray, Worthing. A Pictorial History (London, 1977), p. 42. 8 In April I923 a meeting of the Commercial Association had passed a resolution that such a hall was an urgent necessity. 'The Growth of Bexhill -From Village to Resort: Entertainment Hall Schemes and the Pavilion Result', Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 30 September 1967, p. 2. 9 Ibid. ro The Borough of Bexhill General Development Plan: 'Formal Resolution to Council to Adopt Scheme, 28 February 1927', signed by N. Taylor, Clerk ofthe Local Authority, 4 April 1927. Public Records Office, Kew, File SO1 BI. I I Adams, Thompson and Fry, Town Planning Consultants, 'Borough of Bexhill General Development Plan, 1930', British Architectural Library, RIBA, S.R. 71 1.4 (42.258). 12 Ibid., p. 19. I3 Ibid. I4 Conversation between Russell Stevens and William Crabtree, 26 August 1988. 15 'Entertainments Hall Schemes and Pavilion Results', Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 30 September 1967, p. 2. An elevation of the scheme is reproduced here. 16 Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 24 September 1932, p. 3. I7 The Times, 19 November 1932, P. 6. 18 Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 27 May 1933, p. 3. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 In a speech at the laying ofthe foundation stone ofthe building (on 6 May 193 5) De La Warr was to describeit as a venture 'which is part of a great national movement, virtually to found a new industry -the industry of giving that relaxation, that pleasure, that culture, which hitherto the gloom and dreariness of British resorts have driven our countrymen to seek in foreign lands'. See The Architectural Zeview, 80 (July 1936), pp. 7-28 [p. 231. 22 Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 24 February 1934, p. 4. 23 For a biography of T. S. Tait see, e.g., the entry on 'Tait, Thomas Smith' in Jill Lever, Editor, Catalogue ofthe Drawings Collectron ofthe Royal Institute ofBritish Architects, vol. T-Z (London, 1984), p. 9. 24 Conversation between Russell Stevens and William Crabtree, 26 August 1988. Crabtree recalls that during the

early 1930s he had considered entering many competitions, including that for Guildford Cathedral (~gjz), but none of these had as attractive a brief as that for the Bexhill Pavilion. Furthermore he had great faith that with Tait as assessor new ideas would be fairly received.


25 Journal ofthe Royal Institute of British Architects, 41 (25 November 19331, p. 103.   26 'Corporation of Bexhill. Architectural Competition for proposed Entertainment Hall, Coastguard Site.   Conditions and Instructions to Competing Architects, 1933' Unpublished document, ~ritish Architectural   Library, RIBA, Manuscripts and Archives Collection, Ref. Hi017913.   27 'Borough of Bexhill, Coastguard Site Competition. Further Information for Competing Architects, October   1933'. Unpublished document, British Architectural Library, RIBA, Manuscripts and Archives Collection,   Ref. Hi017913.   28 The site plan issued with the conditions of entry was reproduced in theArchitect and Building News, I 3 5 (I 5   September 1933), p. 291, but failed to show the hotels which abutted the site. Although this mistake was later   corrected in a more detailed ~lan published in the Architect and Building News, 136 (20 October 1933)~ p. 67, it may   explain why the planning of some of the schemes (such as Haswell and Shepherd's) appears to ignore them.   29 'List of questions and answers addressed to the competition promoters', Unpublished document, undated,   British Architectural Library, RIBA, Manuscripts and Archives Collection, Ref. Hi017913.   30 See above n. 26.   3I 'Bexhill Entertainments Hall Competition. An Abstract of the Conditions,Architect and Building News, 135 (15 September 1933), p. 291; 'Bexhill Entertainments Hall Competition. The Conditions Reviewed and Explained', Architect and Buiding News (22 September 1933)~ pp. 3 1~20;'Bexhill Entertalnments Hall Competi-   tion. Some Points in Planning', Architect and Building l\'ews, 135 (29 September 1933), pp. 351-52; 'Bexhill Entertainments Hall Competition. Further Points in Planning', Architect and Building News, I 36 (6 October 1933),   pp. 5-6; 'Bexhill Entertainments Hall Competition. Further Points in Planning', Architect and Building News, 136 (13 October 19331, pp 3637.  

32 'Bexhill Entertainments Hall: The Conditions Reviewed', The Architects'Journal, 78 (28 September 1933),   pp 380-83.   33 Ibid., p. 380.   34 Wesley Dougill in a letter published in The Architects'Journal, 79 (22 February 1934)~ p. 278.   35 'Bexhill Competition Reviewed', Architect and Building News, 137 (9 February 1934)~ pp. 196-97 [p. 1961.  

36 'The Bexhill Competition', The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February 1934), pp. 205-23 [p. 2051.   37 'Bexhill Entertainments Hall: The Conditions Reviewed'. The Architects'Journal, 78 (28 September 1933),   PP 38~-83 [P. 3801.  

38 'The Bexhill Competition', The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February 1934), pp. 205-23 [p. 2081.   39 The Builder, 146 (23 February 1934), p. 323.   40 'The Bexhill Competition', The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February 1934), pp 205-23 [p. 2051.   41 Architect and Building News, I37 (9 February 1934), p. 196.   42 The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club (193 I) is one of the most successful early modernist buildings in Britain.   Extensively published in British architecturaljournals (e.g. the Architect and Building News, 77 (4 September 193 I),  

p. 265) it was also the only British work to be illustrated in Hitchcock and Johnson's The International Style, first published in 1932.   43 'Bexhill Competition', The Architectural Association Journal, 49 (March 1934)~ pp. 332-34.   44 'Bexhill Competition Reviewed', Architect and Building News, 137 (9 February 1934), pp. 19697 [p. 1961.   45 Oliver Hill, letter to B. L. Hurst, Esq., 6 November 1933. British Architectural Library, RIBA, Manuscripts   and Archives Collection, Ref. Hio17913.   46 'The Architecture of Oliver Hill', Architectural Design, Profile 24: Britain in the Thirties (1979). 30-41 [p. 321.   47 For Oliver Hill see recently Alan Powers, Oliver Hill. Architect and Lover ofLi$e (1887-1968) (London, 1989).   48 Oliver Hill, letter to B. L. Hurst, Esq., 6 November 1933. British Architectural Library, RIBA, Manuscripts   and Archives Collection, Ref. Hi017913.   49 Typewritten report accompanying Oliver Hill's entry. British Architectural Library, RIBA, Manuscripts and   Archives Collection, Ref. Hi017g13.   50 Fry was later to express his debt to the work of Sven Markelius, and in particular his Helsingborg concert hall,   in a speech at the RIBA in London. See 'Presentation of the Royal Gold Medal for 1962 to Professor Sven   Markelius', Journal ofthe Royal Institute ofBritish Architects, 69 (May 1962), pp. 166-69 [p. 1671.   51 'A Small-town Concert Hall', The Architectural Review, 73 (June 1933), pp. 246-51.   52 'The Bexhill Competition', The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February 1934), pp 205-23 [p. 2121.   53 Ibid., p. 205.   54 'An Entertainments Hall. Winning Design for Bexhill-on-Sea', The Times, 19 February 1934, p. 15.   55 'Architecture of Our Times', transcript of lecture by Erich Mendelsohn, The Architectural Association Journal,   46 Uune 1930), pp. 4-22 [p. 161.   56 The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February 1934), p. 21 1. 57 The Builder, 146 (23 February 1934), p. 323.   58 The ArchitectsJJournal, 79 (8 February 1934)~ p. 208.   59 Ibid., p. 206.  


60 See ibid., pp. 214-17, which gives the report which Mendelsohn and Chermayeff submitted with their entry and thoroughly explains their planning solution and intentions. There are eight drawings of Bexhill by Mendelsohn and his assistants in the RIBA Drawings Collection in London: Nos U18165.1-3 were presented by Mrs Louise Mendelsohn in 1955 and are listed in Catalogue ofthe Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Arrhiterts, vol. L-N, edited by Jill Lever (1973), p. 69; and Nos XO~IBII-5, were presented by Birkin Haward, Sr, in 1983, and described by him in a handwritten memorandum ofFebruary 1983. Mendelsohn's chiefassistant was Hannes Schreiner (who had come to England with Mendelsohn from Berlin) and some of the drawings were by him, John Cunningham, and Birkin Haward, Sr. Also at the RIBA Drawings Collection is a copy ofthe 'Listing of Archive Contents. Work of Eric Mendelsohn' of 1969 which gives the material sold by Mrs Mendelsohn to the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen Preusshischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. The 'Catalog of Sketches' lists the 22 drawings of Bexhill by Mendelsohn now in Berlin; twenty of these appear to concern the development of the design after the competition, and two to the later proposal for a cinema and hotel. See recent catalogue entries 256-61 in S. Achenbach, editor, Erich .Zlendelsohn (1887-lgj3). Ideen, Bauten, Projekte, Exhibition Catalogue, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, 1987). Dr Achenbach kindly answered our queries, and Dr Iain Boyd White examined these drawings for us. An interior view by Chermayeff ofthe auditorium at the De La Warr Pavilion is in the RIBA Drawings Collection, resented by the architect in 1967. See Catalogueofthe Drawings Collertion of the RIBA, vol. C-F (1972), p. 23. According to Janet Parks, Curator of Drawings, who kindly responded to our queries, there is no Bexhill material in the Chermayeff collection at the Avery Library at Columbia University, though it should be added that cataloguing is not yet complete. 61 Architect and Building Sews, 137 (9 February 1934), p. 196. 62 The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February ry34), p. 205. 63 'The Bexhill Entertainments Hall Competition', The Builder, 146 (9 February 1934)~ p. 242. 64 The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 February 1934), p. 197. 65 Ibid. 66 The Architects'Journal, 79 (15 February 1934)~ p. 244. 67 Ibid. 68 Ibid. 69 James Bettley, RIBA Transactions, no. 2 (1982), pp. 93-100 [p. 971. 70The Arrhitects'Journal, 79 (22 February 1934)~ pp. 278-79. 71 Ibid. 72 The Architects'Journal, 79 (8 March 1y34), p. 351. 73 'Town Talk', Bexhill-on-Sea Observer,10February 1934, p. 2. 74 Ibid. 75 Conversation between Russell Stevens and Cyril Sweett, 27 September 1988. Cyril Sweett has published his recollections of the project in Erirh .Mendelsohn. 1887-1953 (1987), pp. 6~70, in which he expresses similar opinions. 76 Ibid., p 33, where a sketch of the scheme is reproduced. 77 Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 17 February 1934, p. 2. 78 Ibid., 3 February 1934, P. 7. 79 Ibid 80 Ibid., 17 February 1934, P. 2. 81 Ibid., 24 February 1934, P. 7. 82 The Public Inquiry was reported in detail in the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 7 April 1934, pp. 4-7. 83 See n. 75. 84 Bexh~ll-on-Sea Observer, 7 April 1934, p. 4. Mr H. Cullerne Pratt, who was an articled pupil ofTait, remembers Mendelsohn and Chermayeffvisiting the office of SirJohn Burnet, Tait and Lorne after winning the competition, points out that Mendelsohn's difficulty with the English language would have made it awkward for him to appear at the Public Inquiry. Conversation between Peter Willis and H. Cullerne Pratt, 16 September 1989. 85 The Bexhill Pavilion was one of the first all-welded steel framed buildings in Britain. The engineer was Felix J. Samuely who worked extensively in Germany (at times with Mendelsohn) before emigrating to Britain in November 1933. It was Samuely's skill as an engineer which enabled the pavilion to be built as envisaged by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff. The structure created a great deal ofinterest in the technical press, the most notable articles being a series written by Samuely for The Welder which appeared between April and December 193 5. See The Welder, 10-11, part I (April 1935)~ pp. $2~33; part 2 (May 1935), pp. 55~63; part 3 (October 1935), pp. 71622; part 4 (November 1935), pp. 751-59; part (December 1935), pp. 783-89. 86 Ministry of Health Records. Sanctioning of Loan for Bexhill Entertainments Pavilion, 28 September 1934, Public Record Office, Kew, File HLGzo15. 87 At a Council meeting on 28 October 1935 it was decided to delay the f 18,600 bathing pool scheme and to vote

later on the original proposal to build a pergola on the eastern part of the site. See Southern Weekly News, 2 November 1935. On 19 November 1935 it was agreed to defer the architects' scheme for the pergola extension and


reconstruction of the colonnade along the lines of the competition's design, which would have cost £8,734 See   Sussex Daily News, 25 November 1935. At a ratepayers' association meeting on 23 January 1936 a resolution was passed that:  

This meeting heartily congratulate the Bexhill town council on its decision not to proceed with the consideration   ofthe bathing pool, and is strongly ofthe opinion that no steps should be taken to construct the suggested pergola   or to demolish any part of the buildings now known as the colonnade.  

See the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 25 February 1936. Later attempts to revive the idea ofthe swimming pool do not   appear to have been taken seriously.   88 Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 14 December 1935, p. I.   89 Ibid.   90 Ibid., p. 11. 91 Ibid.   92 TheEvening Standard, special edition on the day oftheopening, quoted in 'Growth ofBexhill-from Village to   Resort: Entertainments Hall Scheme and the Pavilion Result', Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 30 September 1967, p. 2. 93 The Times, 14 December 1935, p. 17.   94 Reviews of the building appear in: Architect and Building News, 144 (20 December 1935)~ pp. 343-47; The Architects']ournal, 82 (12 December 1935), pp 873-85;Architectural Design and Construction 6 (January 1936)~   pp. 90-93; The Builder, 149 (20 December 1935), p. I094 with illustrations on pp. ~roq-og, and constructional   details on pp. 1010-11: and Designfor Today, 4 (December 1936), pp. 49-54.   95 Architect and Building News, 144 (20December 1935), pp. 343-47. On 30 March 193 5 Mendelsohn had written   to his wife about Bexhill. Translated from the German, his letter reads: 'Bexhill on Friday was a greatjoy. The iron   frame is finished and also already a part ofthe walls. The situation is first-class: seen from the sea, the building looks   like a horizontal skyscraper which starts its development from the auditorium. Seen from the street, it is a festive   invitation. The Interior is truly music. Lord De La Warr told me so: he was quite excited'. See 0.Beyer, ed., Eric Mendelsohn. Letters ofan Architect, trans. G. Strachan (London, New York and Toronto, 1967), p. 140.   96 Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, 27 June 1936, p. I.   97 Ibid., p. 3.   98 See RIBA Drawings Collection, London, No. U18165.2, and Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz,   Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, Erich Mendelsohn Archive.   99 Charles H. Reilly, 'The Bexhill Pavilion', The Manchester Guardian, 13 December 1935.  




Fig. 7 Bexhill Pavilion. Winning cotnpetition entry by ~Zlendelsohn and Chertnayeff (1933/ South, east and north elevations. The Architects' Journal, 79 (8 February 1934)) P. 216

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