As part of our year long celebration of reaching the 'Grand' old age of 140, we have been looking back to find some interesting facts about our wonderful hotel. Last time we looked at what Eastbourne was like at the time of the hotel opening, this time we focus on some of the famous guests who have stayed with us.
As you can imagine, over 140 years we have had many a famous name stay so hopefully the ones chosen will make for some interesting reading!
One of the earliest guest was actually from abroad... France in fact and this was the renowned French composer Monsieur Claude Debussy in 1905. His companion, although registered as Madame Debussy was actually Emma Bardac, his lover and carrier of his child! The story goes they had fled France to avoid the scandal and complications of their liaison and subsequent divorce proceedings. Why they chose Eastbourne is not entirely clear, but the reason for The Grand is clear from the man himself, he stated 'its peaceful and charming spot' where he could 'relax like an animal' He even managed to complete his perhaps greatest symphony - La Mer, whilst overlooking the English Channel. Claude and Emma stayed for 2 months and in his honour the room they stayed in was renamed and continues to the is day as 'The Debussy Suite - Room 200'. Claude Debussy has made such an impact on our hotel we decided to name our travelling Bear after him.... our Claude can be found on his own facebook page.
Sir Ernest Shackleton was a visitor to the Grand on 1914 just before his epic Antarctic Expedition and even drew some plans on the back of a hotel napkin served from the bar! Move on from the back of a cigarette packet I guess!
Charlie Chaplin was another regular guest in the 1960s together with his wife Oonagh, their children and the children's nannies. A wonderful photo show the Chaplin children sitting on a horse called George outside the front doors, owned by a permanent resident guest of the time.
Although he cannot 'officially' be classed as famous, it is only right to mention this particular resident guest in this blog! His name was Michael Myers and he lived at the Grand with his sister during the 1950s and 60s and really was quite a character. He would be chauffered up and down to London regularly but preferred to live at the hotel. One great story is that he would not eat the hotel food (it does not say why) preferring to have frozen chicken, bought from Sainsburys on a daily basis. This was with one cup of water , with no salt, placed in a casserole and topped with pastry. Understandably he finally bored with this diet and moved on to Lamb cutlets (bought and cooked in the same way). As the owner of George the Horse, it was interesting to see as part of his will it stated 'Any animals in my possession at the time of my death must be put down by laughing gas'... Lucky George!
Many Royals have graced the Grand since 1875, too many to mention individually but most came in the early days of the hotel to see their great friend The Duke of Devonshire. The Duke still owns large parts of Eastbourne and had great influence on how the town expanded... thanks to him no shops or arcades are allowed on our 3 beautiful proms. His house in Compton Place Road was known for its wonderful parties and weekend retreats. More recently Her Royal Highness, Queen Sofia of Spain made regular visits to the Grand staying whilst visiting her children's retired Nanny who by this time was residing in a local nursing home. You can imagine our Spanish staffs excitement and surprise, when the Queen came down to dine in the Restaurant for dinner.
During the filming of the remake of 'Brighton Rock' a few years ago (most of which was filmed in Eastbourne by the way) the cast including Dame Helen Mirren and John Hurt made their base here. On checking in John Hurt was told his room (101) was ready! Not realising the relevance of this number and actors it came as quite a surprise for the front office team when he turned a little pale! He decided he would stay in this room and was delighted to have overcome his theatrical fears the following morning. When he returned again for final filming this room was requested!
This was always going to be a tricky blog due to the sheer number of guests we have looked after over so many years... just how long would it be if we noted all the stories. So hopefully the ones chosen have shown the diversity of guests.
One last story was back in the 1980s when a famous Band of the Time - 'Bros' came as entertainment for a large Record Label Conference. Radio One got hold of the story and within minutes the hotel was surrounded by screaming fans..... Don't think anyone was at school that day!... Rumour has it a Duty Manager of the hotel had great fun waving his arm out of a sea view room from behind the curtain to whip up the crowd even more!…