Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ship Ahoy!

In the late afternoon drizzle, driving west out of Hastings towards Bexhill, a magnificent sight straight ahead of me distracts my gaze from the flat grey of the sea on my left. The bow and superstructure of an ocean-going liner, dazzling white in the November gloom, rises above me. Giving the impression that it has run aground on the St. Leonards’ shore, this vessel on the land side of the coast road is in fact the dry-docked, Art Deco edifice of Marine Court.

Built to a design based on the Queen Mary - pride of the Cunard White Star Line in the 1930s - Marine Court is a fourteen-storey building that is home to over 150 apartments. Known locally as The Ship, the design also features a tiered bridge and, at the eastern end, a restaurant and viewing platform that imitates the forecastle. The balconies on the steep elevation of the coastal side are reminiscent of the promenade decks of the Queen Mary.

The building has had a slightly perilous voyage since it was constructed in 1938: damaged by bombing during the Second World War, it was fully restored in the 1950s only to be the perennial loser in a constant battle to halt the erosive effects of the sea air on the facade. And architects Roger Pullen and Kenneth Dalgleish’s original nautical vision has been undermined over the years: a variety of replacement windows, alterations to residents’ balconies and a failure to maintain consistency in the ground floor shop fronts, have all disrupted the uniformity of design.

With the designation of Grade II listing in 1999, and the purchase of the freehold by the residents in 2010, Marine Court is finally getting the level of attention needed to preserve this iconic building. However, such work is expensive and the downside is that many residents are selling up as they cannot afford to pay their contributions towards the renovations required to maintain the building.

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