As a building Marine Court is certainly not difficult to read; in fact even a myopic school boy with a bad squint couldn’t help but notice it’s shaped like A MASSIVE OCEAN LINER. No doubt many people were, and still are, a tad sniffy about such an obvious maritime conceit (one certainly wonders what the MARS Group had to say about it), but isn’t that rather mean spirited? This is the English seaside after all!
According to Modernist Britain Marine Court was designed by Roger K Pullen and Kenneth Dalgleish (the architect, not the Scottish footballer). A contemporary drawing by Raymond Myerscough-Walker and the newspaper advertisement below reveal a successive diminishment of height as several floors were shed prior plans finally being accepted.
Unfortunately the outbreak of war only one year after work finished saw the closing of Hastings and St Leonards seafronts as both were considered vulnerable to invasion. Instead of the well-to-do residents envisioned by the developers it was soon regular soldiers who were billeted in Marine Court, and the upmarket businesses which had been planned for the ground floor never materialised. A private resident’s tunnel leading directly from inside Marine Court to the beach was bricked-up and is yet to re-open.
Evidence of a major 1960’s overhaul remain, not least in the large Stymie Bold font of the main sign and the funky trimmings to the four lobbies, but Marine Court suffered the same fate as most seaside towns in the later part of the 20th century and entered a long period of decline. Later works include the unsympathetic window replacements, the clumsy boxing in of some of the balconies, and most recently, the replacement of the wibbly-wobbly boarding around the street canopy.
We were hoping that the rear aspect, obscured by the cliffs, would have allowed Dalgleish and Pullen the opportunity to produce something more daring and abstract. Alas the rear façade is on the whole a bit of a scrappy affair; although it does have some nice touches in the emergency stairwells and the curved balconies of the west end which wrap neatly around the corner.
Happily in 2010 the residents, who were previously at the mercy of a landlord and their management company, were able to purchase the lease and became freeholders of this remarkable building. Since then restoration work has begun and several new businesses have moved in on the ground floor. Clearly the expense involved in restoring Marine Court will remain a financial burden in the short-term, but hopefully the plucky residents will soon have the old girl ship-shape once again (sorry we couldn’t resist).
© Modernist Tourists 2016