The former Bell Hotel in Leigh-on-Sea has had a difficult and chequered history over more than 200 years.
But it is now looking forward to a new life as part of the exclusive Bell Sands residential development, attracting a lot of interest from potential buyers.
The original Bell Hotel was situated near to the seafront, giving its name to the nearby Bell Wharf. Local folklore has it that the name originates from a story about Henry IV, who was said to have been chased across the Thames Estuary by French pirates. He sought sanctuary in Leigh and was so grateful to the townspeople that he presented them with a new bell for their church.
The hotel relocated to its present site with the construction of the railway in 1836. But following the closure of Leigh’s original train station in 1934, it steadily lost trade and has been empty since the 1950s.
Local residents and councillors alike repeatedly called for it to be demolished or re-vamped.
In the late 1990s, permission was granted for it to be turned into a restaurant. Work started, but the owner became ill and the plans were subsequently abandoned.
Following the owner’s death, the hotel was earmarked as the ideal site for a marine centre and youth hostel, but an ongoing will dispute, prevented the sale.
Following use as storage, the building was eventually bought by developers, LeVack Estates, who spent nine years negotiating planning issues.
Their ambitious plans, included the conversion of the structurally sound but dilapidated hotel, into 5 luxury flats. Behind the hotel itself, three attractive contemporary four storey blocks facing out to sea were planned. Featuring pastel coloured cladding, reflecting the original period dwellings and fishermen’s cottages of the town, the individual blocks were to be named after Old Leigh’s four wharfs – the Bell, the Victoria, the Billet & the Strand.
Works started in 2014. In November 2015, with the contractor progressing towards completion, the roof and rear wall of the Bell Hotel failed, followed just two days later with the spectacular collapse of the rest of the building
What was left of the building had to be demolished on safety grounds.
This was not to be the last of the Bell Hotel though. Work restarted in 2016. The Bell Hotel has been re-built, faithfully following the appearance of the original building, and the new accommodation facing out over the Thames estuary, is also nearly complete.
Daniel Connal Partnership have been pleased to be involved as Contract Administrator and Quantity Surveyor on the Bell Sands residential development since the Summer of 2016 and look forward to seeing the new owners talking possession of their luxury apartments towards the end of 2017.