15 September 2011

Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Sited on the seafront, the De La Warr (pronounced "Delaware") Pavilion was built in 1935 in International Style to the design of Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff. They had won an architectural competition set up by Herbrand Sackville, ninth Earl De La Warr, the brief for which specified a 1,500-seater hall, a restaurant for 200, a reading room, and a lounge. The budget was initially set at £50,000.

The pavilion was built with a welded steel frame cased in concrete, the first in the UK, which enabled graceful cantilevered balconies. Construction took less than a year. However, after the war the council failed to properly maintain the pavilion, and made a number of philistine and ham-fisted alterations. Grade I listing was applied in 1986, but the council dithered. In 2002 serious funding was secured from the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable the pavilion to undergo a major restoration in 2004, returning it to its elegant modernism. Thankfully, the pavilion is now owned by a charitable trust.

Bexhill lays claim to being the birthplace of motor racing in Britain, hosting the first recorded race, in 1902. It was also the original home of Elva cars. In the town's museum is a lovely Elva Climax III, rebuilt by its original creators. The bodywork was undertaken by Hastings Motor Sheet Metal Works, also behind the one-off Jensen Esporando.

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