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On Eastbourne seafront there is a hotel called The View. Until the 1960s it was a bomb site, because previously it had been the Park Gates Hotel. This is on land owned by the estate of the Duke of Devonshire.

When it was re-built, the hotel was a convalescent one for members of the Transport and General Workers Union, every room had a sea view, and when opened in 1966 by TUC General Secretary Jack Jones had cost £3m.

But I heard more of a background story.

A senior Labour politician told me that the TGWU had approached the 11th Duke of Devonshire at his Chatsworth estate, and asked if he had any land or property in Eastbourne, on the seafront, that would be suitable as a convalescent hotel for their members.

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In the post-WW2 period the unions were desperate to maintain their influence on working lives, and this involved the welfare of their members.DSCF0465 (Small)

This facility was not to be free, but the high quality of the establishment was to be renowned. The TGWU at the time had a very large membership, and vast funds, so a project such as a new seafront hotel was well within their financial abilities. However, the Duke, being a canny businessman, asked if there might be a trade off, with land elsewhere in the country to be exchanged.

The Dockers Union was part of the TGWU, and they owned vast areas of Docklands that was derelict after WW2 bombing devastation. The land had been mostly cleared, and was awaiting decision as to future development.

It was not a particularly wealthy area of London, so the Duke agreed to take Docklands land in exchange for the Eastbourne seafront. And that is why Devonshire Estates owns part of Docklands.DSCF0464 (Small)








What makes this all the more interesting is the fact that the majority of land between Eastbourne pier and the foot of Beachy Head cliffs descends from the Devonshire Estates ownership, and if any property owners want to change the usage, or add to the property, then permission must be sought in exchange for a fee.

Yes, they might buy the freehold, but they still have to obtain this permission. The same rule applies for any Devonshire land. Anywhere.

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