Happy new year! In the post Christmas pre new year no man’s land I went in search of sea air to blast away the cheeseboard cobwebs and ended up in Norman’s Bay, a slightly bleak yet atmospheric looking East Sussex coastal outpost I’d often seen from the train and been intrigued by.
A small collection of houses and a Martello tower was all it seemed to offer, but after meandering along the coastal road towards Pevensey Bay with my architecture obsessed companion Alex, to our joy we stumbled upon a hidden wonder – a beautiful estate of charming modernist bungalows from the 1930’s named Beachlands.
Most the the bungalows were built between 1937 – 1939 with plans for a cinema, shops and a whole modernist seaside ‘village’ before work was abandoned in the face of the Second World War. There were some very clear Art Deco motifs whilst the bright colours and kitsch unusual decor on some of them reminded felt like we might be somewhere like California or Florida. Some of the grand street names “Marine Drive” and “The Boulevard” somehow evoked ideas of these places too.
Designer and Architect T Cecil Howitt was responsible for the initial designs, sketches and layout of the first fifty houses in Beachlands and is well known for his Council House in Nottingham and buildings in the interwar years and some iconic Odeon cinema buildings of the time. The estate also had some two storey properties with distinctive 1930’s balconies and long windows.
Some later bungalows were added on to the edge of the estate in the 1950’s – also pleasing in their simple design
Interesting wood effect on these 1950’s ones
We were particularly taken with these amazing ‘oyster bungalows’ that looked like little boats. Apparently there are no examples elsewhere of this sort of design
Here’s a photo of the distinctive oyster bungalows from 1950
Aside from a handful of blogs, surprisingly little information was available about Beachlands online when looked it up after our chance visit.
I found here that local residents have now crowdfunded a book shortly to be released in an attempt to get the estate wider recognition in the field of modernist seaside architecture – clearly it is loved by the local population and residents on the estate certainly seemed keen to put their own stamp on their homes with their colourful and cheery facades and quirky garden ornaments. For now, it remains an overlooked coastal gem.