Constructed in 1935, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex was one of Britain’s first Modernist public buildings.
The seafront building was the brainchild of Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl de la Warr, Mayor of Bexhill. The Earl, who was a socialist, persuaded Bexhill council to develop the site as a public building. A competition was announced in the Architects Journal in February 1934 and run by the RIBA. The requirement was for an entertainment hall to seat at least 1500 people; a 200-seat restaurant; a reading room; and a lounge. Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff were selected from over 230 entrants. Construction work began in January 1935 and the building was opened on 12 December of the same year.
The building was damaged when a nearby hotel was bombed during the war and it was neglected during the postwar era. However in 1986 it was awarded Grade I listed building status and three years later a Trust was formed dedicated to restoring the building to its former glory. These efforts were eventually successful and with the aid of a £6 million Lottery grant the building was restored and converted into a contemporary arts centre. This opened in 2005, as the building marked its seventieth anniversary.
© Christopher Seddon 2009