The Riviera Hotel, Weymouth
The Riviera Hotel, Weymouth – L Stewart Smith (1937)
Risk: Decline and neglect
The Riviera Hotel is a coastal Art Deco delight: A slender square tower is dramatically flanked by two continuous arcs, accommodating some 98 bedrooms over two storeys. The Spanish style balcony railings, blue and whitewashed walls, and colonnaded walkways give the feeling of a Mediterranean or Aegean holiday locale, not a slightly windswept outpost on the English Channel.
With the increase in car ownership during the 1930’s, destination hotels began to appear beyond the boundaries of traditional resort towns. When the Rivera opened in 1937, Bowleaze Cove – 2.5 miles east of Weymouth town centre – was almost devoid of any development. The remote locale with its modernist design reflected an air of exclusivity that would appeal to an affluent, car-owning clientele.
After serving as a wartime hospital by American Forces during the Second World War (many of the US troops for D-Day launched from the harbours of Weymouth and Portland), the hotel was taken over by Fred Pontin in 1958 and remained under his holiday camp chain Pontins until 2000. Grade II listed in 1997, Historic England noted how the building epitomised the ‘austere approach of the modernists in the immediate pre-war era, and suggests the designer’s acquaintance with contemporary work in Rome and elsewhere’.
In 2009, the hotel was sold for £3.5 million to Saudi Arabian hospitality chain (Diyafa Group) and despite a phased programme of room renovations over the past decade, the building has slipped into a cycle of decline. With various visitor facilities permanently closed, the site was advertised for sale (at £5.5 million) then taken off the market due to lack of interest, and most recently suffered significant storm damage. The celebrated Midland Hotel in Morecambe demonstrates how a revived Riviera could once again be a glamorous destination, yet it is currently fast fading into obscurity. C20 is urging the hotel owners to present a proper vision for the building and reverse this decline.
How to help: Express your concern at the neglect of the Riviera by writing to owners the Diyafa Group at Info@diyafagroup.com
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