The picture below was printed and published by Photo Precision, St Albans, photographed by Aerofilms Ltd., London, and was taken on 17th April 1949. It is postmarked 20th August but the remainder of the postmark is missing; the stamp is that of HM Queen Elizabeth II and cost 2½d. But as we know, when the card was posted and when it was produced can be two very different things. This one was from ‘Deb’ to someone in Surrey assuring them she was having a good time.
The small building in front of the hotel is a café. Behind the hotel is a row of lock-up garages. This picture also shows Conifers, with the round turrets, facing onto Seal Road and what is now a much-altered Tenchley Manor Care Home.
As the only sea-front hotel in Selsey, The Marine Hotel was much photographed and I would like to share some of my images with you.
The earliest picture I have is published by E Gardner and postmarked 1903, from Daddy to Muriel in South Lambeth, telling her that he ‘had a very slow journey, did not get here till 9 o’clock.’ From this you can see the large expanse of grass in front of hotel and the cliff onto the beach.
This coloured one is unusual due to the ‘Birthday Wishes’ and is postmarked 12th September 1907. It is one of The Wrench series. It’s Bessie Stewart’s birthday and Charlie and May are sending her birthday greetings. Even in this short space of time, some more buildings have appeared.
The following one is also 1907 but there is much more going on. The tent is typical of its era – no motor homes with electricity, running water and awnings to increase the available space in those days. The middle girl of three in the centre of the picture appears to have some material draped over her arm. Towel? Swimsuit? Cardigan? I’m also in a quandary as to the purpose of the hut on wheels. My initial thought was bathing machine but the access to the beach from here was down a quite significant cliff and, surely, no respectable girl would be seen hoofing across all that grass to get to the sea in her bathing costume. Having consulted Sylvia Endacott, the well-known Bognor Historian, we have come to the conclusion that it was a shepherd’s hut which has morphed into a changing room.
Whatever the answer to this question is – Mother sent Beatie ‘Happy New Year’ greetings.
Exactly when the Marine Hotel was built is open to conjecture. It was constructed at the end of New Road (aka Hillfield Road), on the left hand side, with wonderful views of the open sea.
The earliest record I have found is in The Chichester and West Sussex Recorder of 22nd August 1900 when it reports a fire ‘which broke out on the bathing ranche at the corner of New Road’. The full article is recorded in Putty Medals and Heroes, the History of the Selsey Fire Brigade. From this report we see that ‘One soul alone remained with sleepless eyelids, that was Frank the barman of the new Marine Hotel’. This report also states that ‘A good deal of abuse was at first hurled at the stove in Fisher’s bathing hut. At one time there was even talk of arresting its charred remains on suspicion’. Is this the precedence on which the ‘bathing hut’ in the picture is based?
The Hotel appears on a map of 1901and, at this time, Daisy A Jennings was a Servant (Barman) and Hester G Wren was a visitor.
In 1908, the West Sussex Gazette reported that the licence of the Marine Hotel had been transferred from Mr J B Beattie to Mr H A Cappelli and that a spacious saloon bar was being built.
The Marine Hotel seems to have been run largely by women. In 1911 Alice Castle was the Hotel Manageress, Mary Maud Bailey was the Bookkeeper and Caroline Hamelman of Wurtemburg was a chambermaid (and a widow). Edward Ernest Searle was the Pantry Waiter.
Also in 1911, the census showed Harry (aka Henry) Rowland Meakin in London with his first wife, Edith, owning 99 and 101 St Georges Road, Hanover Square. He was a Solicitor and Edith was a Boarding House Proprietress. It must have been quite an upmarket establishment as they employed a cook, several housemaids, a waiter, a kitchen maid and a porter. There were 30 rooms in a good area of the City.
By 1913 Harry had bought the Marine Hotel and appeared in Kelly’s Directory as the Proprietor. Harry married Alice Florence Morrill, the daughter of a deceased engineer, on 21st November 1917 in the Parish Church of St Mary, Paddington Green. He was a widower of Selsey, Edith having died aged 49 in 1915. Harry styled himself as Managing Director in 1918 and he had installed that new-fangled device, the telephone. (No. 15).
On 4th September 1919 a devastating fire at two bungalows near the Marine Hotel affected the Hotel very significantly. Mr Meakin , along with other people, helped get out the furniture besides doing what they could with buckets of water as the Fire Brigade had to come from Chichester. He rapidly contracted double pneumonia which, by 10th September, had killed him at the early age of 51. His funeral was at Norwood Cemetery.
Kelly’s Directories of 1920, 1924 and 1930 all record that Mrs Meakin was now the Managing Director. It was the only hotel on the seafront, standing in its own grounds of about 2 acres.
This image is taken from a guide book ca. 1920. The prices for staying at the hotel are as follows:
Room and board from 8/-; lunch 3/-; tea 1/-; dinner 5/- attendance 1/-.
Boarding terms from 15/- per day and from 94/- per week.
And inside the guide book, we have more eulogies on the wonders of Selsey:
In 1933 Harold Pink was running the Marine Hotel Garage with taxis and cars for hire and in 1938 the hotel became a limited company (Marine Hotel (Selsey) Ltd), with two telephone numbers (15 and 322).
The Chichester Observer reported on 17 July 1935 as follows:
‘A SELSEY DEVELOPMENT – The Marine Hotel
It will be of interest to our readers to know that the Marine Hotel, Selsey, has been acquired by a well-known hotel accountant, Mr T Harold Platt, of Birmingham. Mr Platts is associated with several leading hotels, is managing director and substantially interested in the well-known Raven and Park Hotels of Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire.
Mr Platts has instructed London architect, Colonel Jas. E Adamson, DSO, LRIBA, FFAS of Ashford Trust Limited, 56, Victoria Street London S”W1, to prepare plans for modernising and equipping the Marine as an up-to-date hotel with enlarged dining room and lounge bar. New beds, refurnishing and redecorations will be immediately provided in time for the August holidays and later hot and cold water installed in all bedrooms. An enlarged car park is also being provided.
During the winter a new wing will be built comprising a dance hall, additional toilet and bathroom accommodation with bedrooms over.
It is understood that Mr Platts has under consideration the building of a modern swimming pool with filtration and heating plant to keep the water pure and at a constant temperature.
The improvements to the Marine Hotel, Selsey, should improve the amenities and greatly assist in the development of the town and will be welcomed by all who know the excellent possibilities of its unique position.’
Is it a coincidence that Alice Florence was born and died in Birmingham?
The Marine Hotel ‘did its bit’ during WW2. Between 1940 and 1945 there was a coastguard lookout there and, between 1939 and 1945, the American Navy took it over as their HQ. A batch of incendiary bombs fell in the grounds of the hotel and another bomb fell on the beach, immediately in front of it. One bomb got closer than the rest knocking a chimney off it and damaging the US Navy quarters, injuring 30 servicemen .
By 1953 there are still two telephones, one for guests (238011), the other for the office (2356) and on 29th November 1961 there was one of those inexplicable Selsey fires in which the Marine Hotel was burned to the ground.
And what of the Snug Bar? Ah well! Those of you who frequented it know the stories better than I!
Ruth C Mariner