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Kursaal Exhibition opens March 2012

SIX months of detailed research and painstaking work have produced an evocation in miniature of a long-lost Bexhill landmark.

At 82, retired architect Bill Hill’s eye for detail and steady hand with a pair of tweezers are undiminished.

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The man who undertook the expert restoration for Bexhill Museum of Mendelsohn and Chermayeff’s architectural model of their design for the De La Warr Pavilion has not only re-created the pavilion’s predecessor but set it in context in its post-Edwardian heyday.

Bill Hill’s home overlooks the site of the former Kursaal, a form of truncated pier which from its opening in 1896 until it was supplanted by the De La Warr was Bexhill’s centre of culture and entertainment.

The Kursaal (a German term for a kind of health spa) stood for 40 years roughly on the site of the present Sailing Club on De La Warr Parade. Not a trace of it now remains.

Close inspection reveals how Bill has re-created the pre-Great War scene. The Kursaal is shown jutting over the foreshore. Vintage cars ply the parade, then Earl De La Warr’s private promenade, denoted by impressive entrance gates. The former Glyne Hall Hotel stands on the Sea Road corner. Bill has even put in period costume the tiny figures which people his scene.

Bill’s beautiful 200th-scale model was unveiled at a ceremony in Bexhill Museum’s Sargent Gallery by Rother District Council chairman Lord Ampthill last Friday evening.

kursaal_opening_160312Introduced by John Betts, chairman of the accredited, independent, voluntarily-run museum, Bill explained his involvement with the museum and curator Julian Porter’s encouragement for his Kursaal project.

He had chosen to depict the Kursaal as it appeared in 1912 – before its exotic Oriental design was marred by later adaptations.

His researches had included sifting the museum’s archive, the county archive, the library and the internet.

He concluded: “It was a challenge – one that I am glad that I took up and one which gave me a lot of fun. I only hope that it will be a worthwhile addition to our museum collection.”

Congratulating Bill on his modelling skill, the chairman emphasised the importance of the work of organisations such as the Society of Bexhill Museums to the whole of Rother and its visitors.

Does Bill have another project in mind? Eyeing the nearby museum display of photographs of the Manor House before its demolition, he says: “Well, I’m having my arm twisted…I might do the Manor House.”

But first he has a commitment to do a model for his son’s architectural practice.


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