Opened in July 1890

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.

Brighton’s largest hotel , with 328 bedrooms of various sizes, was opened by the Gordon Hotels Company in July 1890 on the site of several houses and shops in King’s Road and WestfieldGardens. The architect was Alfred Waterhouse, but the building, which cost £57,000 to build, was at the time called the ugliest in Brighton, especially as the seven-storey hotel was erected in red brick and terracotta, the first building to break with the traditional cream colour of the sea-front. The rather plain edifice has some decorative details at fourth- and fifth-floor levels, and is adorned with ironwork balconies. The construction itself was delayed by continual labour disputes that led, in 1890, to the establishment of the Brighton Trades Council at the Eagle Hotel (now the George Beard) in Gloucester Road , uniting the many unions in the town {104,105}.
The Metropole , which was then the largest hotel in the country outside London, naturally became a focus for social and other events in the town, and has played host to many important guests. During the Second World War it was used by the Australian and New Zealand armed forces. In 1959 the hotel was purchased by AVP Industries which almost immediately made major alterations. Extra bedrooms and flats were added on the roof, resulting in the removal of the distinctive bronze spire and several turrets, cupolas and pinnacles. The interior was also considerably altered with the addition of a winter garden, but the original marble arches, barrel-vaulted ceilings and panelled walls remain. The roof-top Starlit Room restaurant, opened in October 1961, became famous for its superb view, but closed in August 1975.  A casino, the first in the country, was established in 1962 following the revision of the gaming laws.
Following these improvements, architects R.Seifert and Partners designed the 85,000-square-foot Metropole Exhibition Halls, the Sussex Heights ‘tower-block’, and a 250-space underground car-park at the rear of the hotel ; the site was previously occupied by a large courtyard and ornamental garden, some houses in Cannon Place and Queensbury Mews, and St Margaret’s Church. The development was completed in 1966, but the exhibition halls were extended to 110,000 square feet in 1972, and have proved a great benefit both to the hotel and to the town as a whole. SussexHeights have not proved so popular, however. At a height of 336 feet, the 24-storey block is the tallest building in Brighton and has been severely criticised for dominating the sea-front vista.
Further major improvements to the hotel facilities were made with the opening of the Cannon public house in 1981, and with the addition of a swimming-pool and health club a few years later. The modern east wing though, while utilising features of the original hotel , has destroyed the building’s symmetry somewhat.

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.

Comments about this page

  • This picture is from the Western, iinside view. Looking from the roof of the Metropole Exhibition halls accross the Old Winter Garden roof under the western chimney.

    By Liam (03/07/2007)
  • This view is of St Margaret’s Place showing the Newburgh Rooms to the left. At the end of this road stood St Magarets’ Chapel.

    By Liam (03/07/2007)
  • I was a page boy at the Metropole in 1959 when it had the Winter Gardens.

    By Alan Read (24/05/2011)
  • This title is misleading – St Margaret’s chapel is named after St Margaret. Unless Gregory was actually married to St Margaret, it’s more correct to say his choice of name was influenced by the name of his wife. Sorry to be a pedant 🙂

    By Mark (12/10/2011)

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