I’ve stayed twice at the Cliftonville Hotel, Cromer [http://www.cliftonvillehotel.co.uk], so I’ve observed the architecture at close quarters over a full English breakfast.
The dining room is an impressive example of the exuberance of the Norwich architect, George Skipper, but the archaeology of the building is odd.
According to the material I surfed in the local-studies section of Cromer Library, a local retailer, William Churchyard, built a residence designed by A F Scott in 1894 on the site of Skipper’s later extension. This was a dignified Victorian villa which looks on the only photograph I could find quite different to the existing hotel.
Within a couple of years Churchyard had the elaborate corner building constructed by an unknown architect, and then appears to have demolished the house and replaced it by Skipper’s elaborate wing of 1898, which includes a grand staircase, a ballroom and an elegant dining room with a minstrel’s gallery. Why would someone knock down a four-year-old house to extend a hotel over the site?
I could find no clear indication of a domestic structure lurking within the shell of Skipper’s 1898 work. The rooms and floor-levels are entirely logical for a hotel, and I couldn’t discern any odd changes of level or oddly positioned doors and windows.
The spaces are impressive and the surroundings – marble fireplaces, dark woodwork and stained glass – add to the enjoyment of staying there. And the owners have taken care to preserve the electric-bell boards and the instructions for operating the original lift.
I’m still wondering if the history of the building is even more interesting than it looks.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all: the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside: the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.
The 44-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Norfolk’s Seaside Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.