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Oasis of calm in the town centre: Part II

Park Royal Hotel
From the private collection of Mark Thompsom

Strangely full of country charm

This wonderful building was much added to over the years. In the 1930s, the Sixty-Six Hotel as it had become, was bought by bandleader and impresario Lou Praeger. Praeger was the leader of a fine, swinging dance band for more than 30 years. He renamed his hotel The Park Royal. It became very much a one-off, retaining its country house character, and so was quite different from any other hotel in the town. It was actively marketed as full of old world country charm, even though just a few minutes from the beach, and a stones throw from Western Road.

Three acres of gardens

I became acquainted with the place as a small boy in the 1960s. My parents spent their honeymoon there, and became friends with the management and a couple of the permanent residents. On our frequent visits, I was usually left to my own devices to explore the house and garden. The atmosphere is still with me today; the sunlit lawns and towering trees in the three acres of gardens. Can you imagine that today in the middle of Brighton! Unthinkable. 

Heavy with Victoriana

The public rooms were heavy with Victoriana, cream-painted Lincrusta, (still used today it is a deeply embossed wall-covering), and crimson flock wallpaper in the lobby. A towering grandfather clock stood by the door into the dining room, measuring its slow seconds in the hush. Then a wide, elaborately Jacobean balustrade  staircase, which led up to the tall, mullioned landing window visible in the guide book photos.

Both fascinating and terrifying

On this landing there were two huge ebony statues of a female figure clasping her baby child protectively away from the jaws of a dragon-like creature. I found these features both fascinating and terrifying; I think they must have been Chinese. I can remember the big black teeth of the dragons, their jaws, and sightless, ebony eyes. I wonder if they still exist? They flanked an enormous blue-patterned Chinese vase, which I never grew tall enough to see into!

Wax polish, flowers and soap

On a quiet sunny afternoon, in that long lull between lunch and dinner, the whole interior would be suffused with green light, reflected in from the trees outside. It always smelt of wax polish, cut flowers and Palmolive soap. I would happily explore for hours, the hotel seemingly deserted, up into the attic. The staff corridor under the ribs of the roof, would be close and heavy with the afternoon heat. I would explore out around the gardens, which became a wilderness the further you went from the hotel, towards the far end which bordered onto Norfolk Terrace.

Read Part I of the Park Royal Hotel here

Read Part III of the Park Royal Hotel here

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