Marine Court, St Leonards-on-Sea

Marine Court in St Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex was constructed by South Coast (Hastings & St Leonards) Properties company. On 30 November 1936 the foundation stone was laid by Robert Holland-Martin, Chairman of the Southern Railway and the building was completed in 1938. Marine Court is fourteen storeys high, and from basement to roof, measures 170 ft/49 metres in height; east-west 416 ft/127 metres in length.

When viewed from the east or west Marine Court is very tall and slender, from the beach (south) or north, the full expanse of the building dwarfs all those on the seafront. Marine Court was an early pioneer of steel-frame construction, like the earlier De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea.

The building was designed by architects Kenneth Dalgleish and Roger K Pullen, with overt references to the Cunard White-Star Line Queen Mary, which had entered commercial transatlantic service in 1936. The east end of Marine Court is shaped to imitate the curved, stacked bridge front of the Queen Mary; the eastern restaurant served to imitate the fo'c'sle deck of the ship.

The south elevation is vertical, with balconies imitating the promenade deck aboard the Queen Mary. The upper stories of Marine Court are stepped-in from those beneath, like the superstructure of a ship, those beneath like the immense hull of a liner. The ground floor shop frontages were black, the external walls of Marine Court were painted white.

Marine Court was damaged at its eastern end by bombing during the Second World War and restoration of the building took place in 1949-1950. The uniformity and clarity of the design of Marine Court has been blunted over time, with replacement windows and glazing-in of balconies in a haphazard manner blurring the vision of the architects.

Over time the general condition of the exterior suffered from the sea air and general neglect; the shop fronts on the ground floor have had their external finishing altered and changed. Efforts have been made to restore the exterior, it has been repainted and the canopy edge retrimmed. Replacement windows have been installed in the former restaurant, but while similar in style to the original Crittall windows the glazing bars are much thicker, and so it is a disappointing decision. The glazed-in balconies and mixture of replacement windows still give a disharmonious appearance to the sea-front facade. The illustration above shows the building with the balconies "restored" to their original appearance.

The building was awarded Grade-II listing status in 1999.

This is an updated and revised building profile first published on 1 June 2008.

Posted on Sunday, March 6, 2016

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