Hilton Brighton Metropole: A walk through 125 years of history

Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman

It is 125 years since the Hotel Metropole opened on Brighton seafront.

It is 125 years since the Hotel Metropole opened on Brighton seafront. Its successor - the Hilton Brighton Metropole - is marking the anniversary with an impressive exhibition of the people and events that are central to the city's development.

Frederick Gordon

Frederick Gordon

The exhibition was created in partnership with KEVIN NEWMAN (pictured left), a historian, teacher and founder of All-Inclusive History, a specialist in walking tours in and around Brighton and Hove. In the first of a series of articles, he recounts the origins of this historic hotel.

Following a private opening to the press and trade the previous week, Frederick Gordon Hotels Ltd, one of Britain’s first hotel chains opened their third Hotel Metropole and fifth hotel on July 26 1890.

The site was formerly a roller-skating rink, customs house, shops, drill hall, and 12 lodging houses on the King’s Road, in what was the West Laine Cliff Butts area.

Costing £57,000, built by Thomas Holloway, with more than 700 rooms and seating 500 diners simultaneously, the hotel was the largest and most prestigious in the town - as well as the nation’s largest hotel outside the capital.

An 1890 advertisement from London Pall Mall Gazette

An 1890 advertisement from London Pall Mall Gazette

The hotel’s opening day caused such excitement that special luxury trains had to be chartered from London Victoria for the 1,500 extra visitors.

King’s Road turned red as a special red carpet of Hassocks sand graced the road to meet the VIPs who would climb the entrance steps.

Rumours flew around the town, including that the hotel sported over 4,000 bedrooms, that the Turkish baths could accommodate a thousand bathers at the same time, and that there were enough electric lights inside to light every house in Brighton.

Despite predictions that hotels as magnificent as the Metropole would never be viable, or that existing hotels would be hit by its opening, the Brighton and Hove Gazette was correct in its prediction that there was “Plenty of room for as new and elegant (an) hotel as the Metropole.”

The hotel’s opening day was the beginning of a golden era for Brighton hotels that would last until the late 1930s.

For more information about All-Inclusive History, visit: www.allinclusivehistory.org