Sands Holiday Motel

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Panorama of Sands Holiday Motel and the Bahia Bar, August 1982

Sands Holiday Motel was build in late 1970 and early 1971 at a time when the St Mary’s Bay Holiday Camp (across the Dymchurch Road) was a thriving organisation. It took its first guests in May 1971.

Ground floor during construction, late 1970

Ground floor during construction, late 1970

It was built on the site of the earlier single storey Sands Hotel, which was demolished in September 1970.

Nearing completion, early 1971

Nearing completion, early 1971

By today’s standards, the motel looks rather down-at-heel and lowbrow, but to families with young children on a Summer holiday (and with a limited budget), it was the perfect destination: comfortable accommodation with a heated pool and one of the most glorious beaches in England not more than a stone’s-throw away.

Aerial view, completed, 1971. The Holiday camp and St Mary's Bay village can be seen in the background

Aerial view, completed, 1971. The Holiday camp and St Mary’s Bay village can be seen in the background

View of Motel and pool showing proximity to beach, August 1980

View of Motel and pool showing proximity to beach, August 1980

View southwest with Dungeness in the distance, far left, August 1980

View southwest with Dungeness in the distance, far left, August 1980

The Motel consisted of about 40 self-catering chalets, 20 on each of two levels arranged in a U-shape around a swimming pool with diving board, and a semi-circular paddling pool, both of which were heated. Each chalet comprised two bedrooms, bathroom, galley kitchen and living/dining area. The reception was located on the ground floor in the north-west corner of the Motel.

Cleaning the pools, August 1980

Cleaning the pools, August 1980

Although there were kitchen facilities in each chalet, there was a restaurant block to the north of the Motel. Over the years there were two such restaurants. The first was destroyed by fire in the mid-1970s and was replaced by a Spanish-influenced building known as the Bahia Bar.

Bahia Bar during construction, 1975/6?

Bahia Bar during construction, 1975/6?

Bahia Bar completed

Bahia Bar completed

Bahia Bar completed

Bahia Bar completed

Bahia Bar interior, 1982

Bahia Bar interior, 1982

Other facilities on site were a tennis court, putting green and table tennis table.

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View from chalet overlooking Bahia Bar, August 1980

The photo above shows the Bahia Bar and also the small putting green on the lawn to the left of centre, with small red flags indicating the holes. The building on the far right was a kiosk which sold newspapers, milk and other essentials. The cream building in the distance is the old shop on the corner of Jefferstone Lane and the Dymchurch Road. The tennis court was directly behind the Bahia Bar in this photo.

From the Motel it was possible to see Folkestone to the East and Dungeness to the West. A short walk onto the sea wall led down to the beach, of fine sand with very little shingle.

View from chalet towards Dymchurch, August 1980

View from chalet towards Dymchurch, August 1980

The outfall from the marsh drainage channel known as “New Sewer” (not to be confused with the modern usage of the word sewer, as it was only for excess water from the marsh) cut across the beach. This provided a perfect place to go fishing for crabs with lugworms dug from the sand.

Sands Holiday Motel, May 1981

Sands Holiday Motel, May 1981

A short walk inland, down Jefferstone Lane, brings one to the station for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway. Other web sites, such as the official RHDR site, do much better justice to this marvel of miniature engineering than I can hope to, but suffice it to say, that it is the smallest passenger carrying steam railway in the world. The station has been known, over the years, as Holiday Camp, St Mary’s Bay, and for most of the 1980s and 1990s, Jefferstone Lane. Recently the decision was made to rename it St Mary’s Bay, which seems the most appropriate. From this station it is possible to make very pleasant journeys southwest to Dungeness, and northeast to Hythe.

Motel at night, August 1982

Motel at night, August 1982

The Motel’s heyday was in the 1970s and early 1980s. During this period it was always fully occupied in summer and during a number of other holiday periods throughout the year. The pool was always bustling with children and parents enjoying the generally pleasant Kentish summer weather.

The pool, August 1982

The pool, August 1982

However, with the rise of cheaper foreign travel and the demolition of the School Journey Centre, it became uneconomical to run. For a period during the mid-late 1980s, the Motel was used by Social Services to provide housing.

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Aerial view, early 1980s – the majority of the School Journey Centre has been demolished

The motel was severely damaged in the Great Storm of 1987. The roof of the north-eastern (Dymchurch) wing was almost completely destroyed, and the windows in a number of chalets on the upper level were blown out.

Aftermath of the Great Storm, 16 October 1987

Aftermath of the Great Storm, 16 October 1987

In 1989, a second storm hit the Motel, further damaging the temporary repairs made after the Great Storm two years earlier. By this stage, the Motel’s days were most definitely numbered.

Aftermath of 1989 storm, showing damage to the north east (Dymchurch) wing

Aftermath of 1989 storm, showing damage to the north east (Dymchurch) wing

Damage to Dymchurch Wing

Damage to Dymchurch Wing

Flooded car park, 1989

Flooded car park, 1989

The decision was therefore made to demolish the Motel and redevelop the site. The Dymchurch wing was demolished by Spring 1990…

View across the Motel showing the Dymchurch wing removed, and pool fenced for safety

View across the Motel showing the Dymchurch wing removed, and pool fenced for safety

View from Bahia Bar showing remains of Dymchurch wing

View from Bahia Bar showing remains of Dymchurch wing

The Games room, located on the right at the end of the driveway, were demolished next, along with the old dining room …

Games room demolition

Games room demolition

Demolition of kitchen and dining room

Demolition of kitchen and dining room

The remainder of the demolition took place during the Summer of 1990.

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Northwest wing, viewed from New Romney wing

The pool emptied and fenced

The pool emptied and fenced

Reception prior to demolition

Reception prior to demolition

New Romney wing (left) and north west wing (right) during demolition

New Romney wing (left) and north west wing (right) during demolition

New Romney wing during demolition

New Romney wing during demolition

By September 1990, all recognisable traces of the Motel had gone:

Motel foundations are all that remain, September 1990

Motel foundations are all that remain, September 1990

I visited the site in 1999 on an appropriately sombre day in terms of weather, and took some video and still photographs. The quality of the stills from the video is not very good, but gives a good impression.

View of site from same point as photo above

View of site from same point as photo above

Site of entrance to Motel (left) and reception

Site of entrance to Motel (left) and reception

Paddling pool, filled with rubble

Paddling pool, filled with rubble

Site of Bahia Bar

Site of Bahia Bar

New Romney wing foundations, showing partitions

New Romney wing foundations, showing partitions

Sad remains of diving board

Sad remains of diving board

Present state of the site (2014)

Google Maps satellite view from 2013 is still showing the site unchanged since 1990. Any further information, please let us know.

St Mary's Bay, 2013

St Mary’s Bay, 2013

 

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