Royal Victoria Hotel
Opened on the 26th Oct 1828, the Royal Victoria Hotel was originally called the 'St Leonards Hotel' at the time of opening when the premises were run by an ex-Convent Garden proprietor, Mr. Hodgson, then the Imperial Hotel, taking the name of Victoria following the visit to St. Leonards of the Princess Victoria during 1834 in around 1840. As originally laid out by James Burton, the hotel formed the centre-piece of his new town of St Leonards, the surrounding buildings being symmetrical and having shops under colonnades.
The foundation stone was laid by John Ward, the son of John Ward, Esq. of Calverley Park in Tunbridge Wells on the 1st of March 1828, with a number of coins being placed beneath the stone. Brett states that the builders were Mr Goyne (sic), Scott & Houdam and Mr Benjamin Homan.
There was some difficulty in construction, the location chosen for the hotel being that of a pond known as Bullrush pond or Old Womans Tap. In 1876 one of the wings of the hotel was incorporated into the main building, leading in part to the un-mirrored appearance of the current hotel as compared to the original construction. A number of further additions/amendments to the building followed later, including the addition of a further two floors and sun lounge in 1903. The original entrance was around the rear of the hotel, so visitors would not be exposed to sea-spray as they alighted from their carriages.
The hotel rapidly became popular with members of royalty, past residents including Queen Victoria (in 1834), King George V, Prince Albert, Princess Louise, Edward VII and Edward Prince of Wales. After the French February Revolution of 1848 Louis Philippe resided here between the 22nd of May 1850 and the 8th of July the same year, being visited by Guizot and Thiers. Other distinguished visitors include:- Gladstone, Palmerston, Tennyson, King of the Belgiums, HRH the Grand Duke of Baden, Duke of Saxe Cobourg Gotha.
A number of tunnels are known to have provided exits from the hotel to both the baths opposite, the Masonic Lodge behind - this apparently being utilised to deliver food from the hotel's kitchens to the Assembly Hall (as the Masonic Lodge was known after construction) and directly on to the beach (as illustrated in the 1840 view from Harwood's Scenery of Great Britain Vol. 3 1840) - this to enable patrons to access the beach without the necessity to cross the road.
References & Notes
- London Courier, 24 Oct 1829
- Pocket guide to St Leonards and Hastings (C. H. Southall) pg.8
- Osborne's Stranger's Guide to Hastings and St Leonards c1854 Pg. 12 Google Books On this wiki
- Brett Manuscript HistoriesVol. 1. Chap. 1 Pg. 3
- Brett Manuscript Histories Chap. 1 Pg. 4
- Bett Manuscript Histories Vol. 1 Chap. 13
- Brett Manuscript Histories Vol. 4 Chap. 18