The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

T J Hughes – Eastbourne

Nominated by: C20
Have C20 acted upon before? yes
Region: South East
Former names: Dale and Kerley
Dates from: 1920s with post-war extensions
Built for: Dale and Kerley
Architect: PD Stonham
Listed: No
Conservation Area: Yes

The former T J Hughes building dates from the 1920s when the local drapery business of Dale and Kerley had expanded to become a department store supplier of higher-end goods. It replaced Victorian properties and was designed by the Eastbourne architect P D Stonham, also the designer of several listed Eastbourne buildings such as the now-demolished St Elisabeth’s church.

Described by Pevsner as ‘Baroque, with round-arched dormers over circular windows’ its elevations are decorated with rusticated pilasters, cartouches and swags. Internally it possesses a domed second-floor area with skylights, used as a restaurant/café and venue for inter-war years daily tea dances. In WWII it was reportedly turned over to parachute-making. The building suffered bomb damage in 1943 and post-war re-building saw the addition of modern side extensions consisting of horizontal bands of glazing and solid panels. It is located in the Eastbourne Town Centre and Seafront Conservation Area and is identified in the Conservation Area Appraisal as making a positive contribution to the identity of the conservation area and Eastbourne.

The store occupies a prominent position at the junction of Terminus Road and Seaside Road in Eastbourne’s retail centre and records both Eastbourne’s commercial development and wider department store history. Dale and Kerley’s had been one of four smarter stores in the town in the 1920s and 30s and post-war were bought by Barkers of Kensington in 1952 (who were in turn bought by House of Fraser in 1957) and in the 1990s the store came into the ownership of the national discount department store chain T J Hughes. T J Hughes themselves had a hundred-year history and a chain of 57 stores in 2011 but experienced mixed fortunes after going into and leaving administration in 2011 and in 2019 the Eastbourne store closed.

The former department store is currently empty and unused and the subject of a planning application (ref: 210904) for demolition and redevelopment of the site in mixed commercial and residential use. There is significant local opposition to the demolition of the building and support for its retention and re-purposing, including from the Eastbourne Society who have opposed the application and started an online petition. C20 Society wrote to oppose the store’s demolition in December 2021 arguing it to be a building of townscape merit and landmark quality positively contributing  to the character and special interest of the Town Centre and Seafront Conservation Area. The planning application is due to be determined in February 2022. Last update: January 2022

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