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Pram Race - Frank Cooper

History of the De La Warr Pavilion

Commissioned by the 9th Earl De La Warr in 1935 and designed by architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, De La Warr Pavilion was the UK‘s first public building built in the Modernist style.

Pioneering in structure as it was in spirit, the purpose of this steel and concrete Pavilion was to provide accessible culture and leisure for the people of Bexhill and beyond and so regenerate the economy of the town and the surrounding area.

Seventy years later, an £8 million restoration and redevelopment project has enabled the De La Warr Pavilion to fulfil its original ambitions whilst creating new aspirations for the building and its visitors.

A competition was held to find a design for the new building, although Bexhill Council made the specification clear, they said a modern building was required and stated that heavy stonework was not desirable. More than 200 entries were received for the competition, which closed in December 1933.

The entries were judged by a professional architect, who declared Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermanoff as the winners.

With a loan from the Ministry of Health, building work began in January 1935 and the De La Warr Pavilion was opened on 12 December 1935, by the Duke and Duchess of York. Some other ambitious plans had to be abandoned as the grant fell short of the architects’ budget.

The modern style of the building was a shock to many of Bexhill's inhabitants and there was some resentment over the cost of the project; this resulted in the 9th Earl De La Warr turning down the offer of Freedom of the Borough in June 1936.

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