A potted history

The Bedford Hotel was designed by Thomas Cooper and opened in 1835. It was considered the most distinguished late-Georgian building in Brighton after the Royal Pavilion. It had 5 storeys with 2 recessed Ionic porticoes facing south and west above the entrances, while the west wing was built back from the road and was decorated with giant pilasters. Inside was a Grecian hall with Ionic columns and a glazed dome. Guests included Charles Dickens who wrote Dombey and Son while staying there. The hotel was destroyed by fire on 1 April 1964. On 16 September 1967 a 17 storey block including a new 127 room Bedford Hotel opened on the site.
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
Holiday Inn, formerly The Bedford Hotel
Photo by Tony Mould

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Opened on 16 September 1967 on the site of the old Bedford Hotel, it was the first major new hotel development in the town for over half a century. Designed by R.Seifert and Partners, the 17-storey block includes a 127-room hotel and the flats of Bedford Towers, and at 168 feet tall is one of four modern blocks that unfortunately dominate the western sea-front vista.

The old Bedford Hotel was opened in October 1829 for William Manfield who, in 1835, leased it to the designer, Thomas Cooper, but bought the lease back the following year and ran the hotel himself until 1844 when he leased it to Joseph Ellis. In 1855 Ellis purchased the Bedford outright, and established for it a reputation as the town’s leading hotel for the accommodation of royalty, the fashionable and the famous; the guests included Charles Dickens who wrote Dombey and Son while staying there.

The Bedford was also considered the most distinguished late-Georgian building in the town after the Royal Pavilion. It had five storeys with two recessed, Ionic porticoes facing south and west above the entrances, while the west wing, which was the first part to open, was erected back from the road and was decorated with giant pilasters. The interior had a splendid Grecian hall with Ionic columns and a glazed dome. In 1963 there was considerable debate over whether permission should be given to the owners, AVP Industries, to replace the hotel with a 14-storey block, but it proved academic as the building was destroyed by a fire on 1 April 1964 with the death of two people.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.
The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above:

Update to the text

The hotel is now The West Pier Hilton

The Bedford was used by Graham Greene in Brighton Rock, thinly disguised as the ‘Cosmopolitan’ where it was the base for the major Brighton gang leader ‘Mr Colleoni’.

Comments about this page

  • I went to a dinner dance for staff of Palmiera Stores at the old Bedford Hotel. It was a beautiful building. I remember being taught to dance the square tango by a man who said he was the cousin of Mr Teazy Weazy, hairdresser of the day. Does anyone remember him?

    By Sandie Waller (nee Taylor) (27/05/2007)
  • Yes, I remember Mr Teazy Weazy and also the Bedford Hotel where I used to stay taken there by my grandmother. Mr Teazy Weazy was a top hairdresser of the 1950s and 60s and very colourful. He cut my very long hair when I was 11. He was a friend of my aunt. He had two daughers I think, Scarlett and Amber and sadly I think one of his daughers died in a road crash together with her husband and children. I have fond memories of the Bedford and was sad to learn it had been burnt down. We went to Brighton today and I thought of how I used to love those holidays staying in the Bedford though for a small girl it could sometimes be very creepy.

    By Elisabeth Segal (06/10/2007)
  • My mother and I were living in Lansdowne Place, Hove on the day the Bedford Hotel burned. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were sitting on the beach when suddenly the sun disappeared behind what we thought was a thick black cloud, so the wind must have been coming from the east. Many of us who were on the beach then walked along to see the fire. I clearly remember the ladders up against the west end of the building and people being rescued. What I am not sure about is my “memory” of someone falling from one of the upper windows, this may have been a picture developed in my mind with the knowledge that people had died. The fire made a vivid impression on me and I can still see it in my mind’s eye.

    By Susan Terry (06/10/2008)
  • For Susan Terry, I would be very interested to hear from you. I am now 49 and adopted at an early age. My birth mother, Edith Alice Rouse was living at 30 Lansdowne Place during 1962 (she would have been 38) when she married Jack Morley (he would have been 31). They had a daughter Deborah Ruth (my half sister) born on 23 March 1963 at Brighton General Hospital. I have been searching for my birth mother for many years without success and you are the first real person who could have possibly known of her. Are you able to enlighten me at all? I would love to hear from you.

    By Rachel Illsley (29/10/2008)
  • Actually Raymond, who I was so happy to call Tant Ton, had three daughters: Cherry, the oldest, Amber, my dearest friend, and Scarlet; by his first wife who took off to Australia with a new man. Also his niece Marika always lived with them and Roslie Ashley near Maidenhead. It was Amber who died, her car was in front of Tant Ton as they were driving home from Ascot. He never recovered from that.

    By Sheila Morrell (09/01/2012)
  • Whilst I am old enough to recall ‘Teasy Weasie’, my memory of the Bedford Hotel is, as usual, more down to earth. I was milkman to the hotel during the late 70s, and have hazy memories of a Polish chef, who, over several weeks, provided me with croissants for breakfast, until a belligerent shop steward complained. I recall the name of the chef, who lived in Clifton Hill, but I will not embarrass members of the kind man’s family by naming him here. I would, however, like to tell them, that, over a short time, I grew to like the man, not only for his generosity, but for his open and pleasant nature.

    By Joe Reid (09/02/2012)
  • We lived in Middle Street and I was only 5 at the time. I remember my oldest brother Paul running in and saying something was going on along the seafront. He took me and my other brother to see what was going on and I still get a shiver to this day, as I vividly remember a woman hanging out of one of the windows screaming and I was sure her hair was on fire. My mum was furious with Paul for taking us to see it when we came back and I would not stop crying.

    By Teresa Murray (nee Passi) (11/02/2012)
  • Hello Matt, we am sorry to say that we are not permitted to publish queries on people’s whereabouts due to data protection. We do hope you manage to locate the chef that worked at the Bedford Hotel around 1974. With best wishes, the editing team. 

    By Matt Feaver (28/07/2017)
  • I remember the day well. I was a young plumber working on the roof of a house on the hill at the back of Brighton. I remember the smoke and seeing a fireman come up through it on a big extension ladder, he sprayed water over the smoking roof and it exploded as it was so hot. It was an image I will never forget. 

    By Christopher John Young (24/08/2018)
  • Do any pictures exist of the interior of the original Bedford hotel? I’ve looked online and cannot seem to find any. 

    By Peter-Antony Rogers (24/10/2018)
  • I was an assistant manager at the rebuilt Bedford Hotel in the early eighties. Great place to work and I remember the previously mentioned polish chef. He was in fact the breakfast chef and singlehanded would cook up breakfast for as much as two hundred hotel guests. Amazing!
    I believe at some point he had been a chef in the polish army.
    During that time there were some great staff who formed a fantastic team and I met many famous people of stage, screen, music, sport and government etc. Such a great experience to have worked there. Would love to meet up with any ex staff of those times.

    By Robert Sidebottom (10/04/2022)

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