Aldwick Bay Estate
Build in the 1930’s, Aldwick Bay Estate is a private marine estate on the West Sussex coast in England. It has beautiful tree-lined streets, many architecturally interesting period houses, and it’s own private beach that has been designated a site of special scientific interest.
The location of what is today the Aldwick Bay Estate was in the mid 1800s a small fishing hamlet. In 1929, Captain H. G. Alaway M.C. purchased the 575 acres of land from the then Pagham Farm Estate, and was determined to design and build an “outstanding example of estate development”. This included ample provision for open spaces, tennis courts, bowling greens, gardens, and the enjoyment and pleasures of the seashore. In particular it was to cater for the town dweller who desired a good type of seaside residence, and for those wishing to retire in a peaceful neighbourhood not invaded by holiday makers and charabanc parties. The image of the locality had also been raised by King George V, who gave his “blessing” in 1929 to the local town of Bognor with the suffix “Regis”. This was where he had stayed and made a remarkable recovery from his serious health issues, due to the warm climate.
Every house was architect-designed, many by Guy Church (1880-1950), Architectural Editor to Ideal Home in the 1930s, and only detached properties were to be built. All principle rooms were to be facing south, but with bedrooms and bathrooms benefiting from the early morning sun from the east, together with sheltered verandas, sleeping porches and sun terraces. There were to be tubular electric heaters to “welcome you home”, Vivo gas heaters to heat the water, and fitted wardrobes and wash basins in every bedroom. In many cases, garages were provided with a room over for the chauffeur, and provision was also made for a maid’s bathroom. Water provision was from deep wells at Eastergate and the supply of gas and electricity was an efficient and enterprising undertaking. As for telephones, this progressive service was also available, and as with the electricity supplies, all cables were laid underground. Three pillar boxes were placed around the Estate, with three daily deliveries and collections, and when dustmen entered the Estate, they had to wear ties!
Although the Estate had its own office on site, it mainly marketed the development from its head office at 20 Bloomsbury Square, London, W1. This attracted the wealthy Londoners, and postcards were made to offer and provide a personal service with car transfer from the local railway stations. With Goodwood (including “Glorious Goodwood”) and Fontwell horse racing nearby, good quality golf courses, hunting, cricket, football, hockey and local theatres, as well as churches and “first class” schools, Aldwick Bay soon became a mecca for weekend / holiday homes, including rental properties. The Estate also had its own clubhouse, through the conversion of the Old Tithe Barn into the Tithe Barn Club, where social amenities and activities were readily to hand for residents. They could enjoy hard and grass court tennis (said to be the best on the south coast), riding school, bridge, dances and games. Squash courts were also contemplated, and on the beach were private bathing chalets, a bathing pavilion and a diving raft.
First class shopping was available at Aldwick, Bognor Regis and Chichester, “where banks have branches” and “tradesmen’s motor vans” delivered daily on the Estate. With the local railway station within two miles, it made access easy to Brighton, Portsmouth and London.
Of particular architectural significance are numbers 14-23 and 81a-86 The Fairway. They were designed by Philip Dalton Hepworth (1888-1963), who worked with Lutyens on the RA plan for London, and who in 1945 was appointed principal architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission, and responsible for about sixty war cemeteries in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, including the Commonwealth Memorial at Bayeux. Also of significance is Beach House in The Dunes, designed by (Berthold) Lubetkin and (Anthony) Chitty of Tecton in 1933, and accepted as one of the best Modern Movement houses in England. It was one of the earliest houses on the Estate and designed for the original owner, the Duchess of Sutherland, and referred to by Sir John Betjeman as having the “natural efficiency one associates with coastal building. This is not an ordinary seaside villa with modernistic trappings. It fits into the landscape and this age as a streamlined car looks dignified even beside a cathedral”. Number 1 Bay Walk (before its major modernisation in 1973), was of similar style to Beach House and designed by Evelyn Simmons and Cecil Grellier in 1934. Number 1 The Byeway by J.D. Clarke (“very Clough Williams-Ellis”), 8 & 10 The Fairway and The Thatched Cottage (now named The Cottage) in Beach Close by Raymond A. Baker, 35 The Fairway by Guy Church and 87 The Fairway by Sidney Carter are also of significance, as is Red Stacks – a perfectly preserved example of Bay Estate Tudor. Many other houses were by Alaway and Partners, including 2 The Byeway, 3, 6, 11, 25-28 and 71-76 The Fairway, and 120-125 and 128 Manor Way. The descriptions in this paragraph are taken from letters by Sir John Sloane’s Museum and The Thirties Society following their visits to the Estate in 1990 and 1992 respectively.
Needless to say, many well-known and famous personalities have lived on the Estate, including those from the world of sport, theatre, film (including Hollywood), television, literature and the arts, and indeed members of the Royal Family.
Today, the beach is designated as an area of Special Scientific Interest (S.S.I.) and the Estate has won Certificates of Excellence for the South and South East in Bloom awards, and is looked after and managed by a volunteer Board of Directors, who are themselves residents.