80 years of memories at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion

PUBLISHED: 10:12 31 May 2016

Nalgo dance in 1939

Nalgo dance in 1939


Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion turns 80 this year. As part of the celebrations, staff at the much-loved venue asked the town’s residents to share their memories. Many partnerships were forged here, as they discovered...

Patrons Derek and Christine Govier married at the De La Warr Pavilion on 21 February 1997.

Derek spent his childhood summers in Bexhill with his grandmother from the age of seven to 15 playing on the beach and watching magic shows at the De La Warr Pavilion. While doing his apprenticeship as an engineer in his teens, he would visit the town and spend time at the Pavilion with his grandmother. He remembers: “We used to sit at the top of the stairs. She’d have a cider and I’d have a Guinness.”

At 18, Derek announced to his grandmother on a trip to the Pavilion that one day he would retire to the town. He said: “It’s a very special place. If you look along the south coast, there’s not very much you can compare it to.”

Derek and Christine decided to make the move down to Bexhill and get married, the third marriage for both of them. The De La Warr proved to be the obvious venue for the occasion. Christine said: “We had decided that we were going to retire down here [to Bexhill] so we bought a small place and when we decided to get married, there was really no choice – the De La Warr Pavilion was such a wonderful place. When we found that we could actually hold our ceremony here, it was just wonderful. In those days it was in the Elizabeth room so we just had a few friends that day and we were overlooking the sea as we said our vows to each other. It was absolutely wonderful, very special.”

Christine got married in a dress spotted in a local secondhand shop.

“Hanging from the ceiling was this pink dress. We were looking at up it when this little lady came over and said ‘you could get married in that dress’. We looked at each other and I said ‘let me try it on’. It fitted where it touched and it was just wonderful so that was the wedding dress. It cost me £25.”

It is possible that John Dowling owes his very existence to the Pavilion.

Here is his story in his own words: “Were it not for the De La Warr Pavilion my parents may never have met and I would never have seen the light of day.

“In the course of 40 years working as a gas fitter in Bexhill my father, Percy Dowling, ‘carcassed’ the pavilion (installed its gas supply) during its construction in 1935.

Tea Dance circa 1953Tea Dance circa 1953

“One of the first big events staged at the Pavilion after its opening was a trade exhibition which included a tableau by the Borough Water and Gas Department featuring the latest gas stoves and water heaters.

“Dad had the task of installing these gadgets. The department needed an attractive young lady to play the role of the lucky housewife. Someone (I never knew who) recruited my mother.

“The result was the happiest of marriages – and, nine years later, me...”

Another partnership was forged at the modernist venue. Pamela and Richard Pitcairn-Knowles are now joint DLWP members. They met at a dance in what is now the restaurant on 15 August 1959.

Pamela lived in London but was accompanying her mother who was staying at the Granville Hotel in Bexhill to recuperate from an illness. It was her first time in the town and fearing that her daughter would be bored, her mother persuaded her to go to a dance at the Pavilion.

Richard, who lived in Hastings at the time, was attending the dance with an old school friend. Both were going without a partner.

Pamela said: “As soon as I walked in the door, somebody asked me if I’d like a dance. I said ‘yes, but what do I do with my handbag?’. The chap said ‘give it to him’ – that was Richard you see – so I handed him my handbag.

“When I went to pick it up, Richard asked me if I’d like a dance and I said ‘yes, that would be lovely’. At the end of the evening he said ‘can I take you home?’ His friend had a car so they drove me home and I got out at the Granville Hotel. Richard said to me ‘I’ve a good mind to ask you out again’. So we went out for a picnic the next day.”


Eddie Izzard on Bexhill, the De La Warr Pavilion and performing in different languages - Bexhill comedian Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure tour has now played in 28 countries and four languages – an unofficial comedy record. The local polymath, an honorary patron of the De La Warr Pavilion, spoke to Jenny Mark-Bell in its 80th anniversary year

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