Monday, January 17, 2011

Steyning Mansions Hotel, Eastern Terrace, Brighton

We know a great deal about the life of Lady Dorothy Mills (née Walpole), and still more information is coming to light regarding her penchant for globetrotting.

Our last 'contact' with Lady Dorothy, however, came as a telephone listing in a 1939 London directory years after her ostensible retirement and divorce from author Arthur F. H. Mills, brother of George Mills: Mills Lady Dorothy, 17 Burnsall st S.W.3 FLAxman. 2476.

More than one source describes Lady D. as living in Brighton at the time of her death in 1959, including records at Where in Brighton, though, I couldn't determine.

Yesterday, I found the manifest of the twin-screw ship Alcantara [right] of the Royal Mail Lines that arrived in Southampton on 21 January 1952, steaming in from "Brasil and the River Plate." Aboard was a "MILLS, Dorothy R. M."—our own Dorothy Rachel Melissa Mills—and English author, aged 62 years.

The typewritten address given is "Steyning Mansions Hotel, Eastern Terrace, Brighton." [Pictured in 1950, top left]

A quick internet search turns up only one mention of Steyning Mansions Hotel in the National Archives:



Steyning Mansions, Kemp Town Client; Steyning Mansions Hotel Syndicate PTS/2/9/804 23.4.47, 3.3.48"

There's more, however, to be found in Google Books.

Here's an advertisement found in The New Statesman and Nation, Volume 8, issue 355, dated February 7, 1948:

STEYNING Mansions Hotel, Brighton. Kings Cliff. Sea front near bathing pool. Unique comfort and excellent cuisine. Every room has own private bathroom "en suite," G.P.O., phone, wireless and elec. fire. Lift. Garage. Fully licensed. Brochure... Tel. 2589.

And here's an almost identical entry from The Spectator, volume 80, 1948:

BRIGHTON. Kings Cliff. STEYNING MANSIONS. Unique comfort and excellent cuisine. Sea Front. Every room has own private bathroom "en suite," G.P.O. Telephone, wireless, and electric fire. Lift. Garage... Tel. 2589.

Nothing anywhere mentions Mills being a resident. However, we do know a smattering about a few of her neighbors, at least around the time Lady Dorothy likely moved to seaside Steyning Mansions [A view from a flat today is pictured, left] , circa 1939.

We know that in 1939, Steyning Mansions housed a "Miss Parry" of the British Orthoptic Society, according to Volume 1 of the British Orthoptoic Journal of that same year.

Another resident just before WWII was Georgette Heyer (16 August 1902 – 4 July 1974), an English Regency romance and detective fiction novelist, who'd moved "briefly to a flat in Steyning Mansions, Brighton, and then to a service flat at 25 Adelaide Crescent, Hove", with her unemployed husband (according to biographer Jane Aiken Hodge in The Private World of Georgette Heyer; Bodley Head, 1984). Heyer had recently lived in Macedonia, and one wonders if Lady Dorothy might have taken a fancy to the fellow traveller, author, and breadwinning woman.

Heyer was renowned during her career for rejecting her publishers' requests to do interviews to propote her books, saying, "My private life concerns no one but myself and my family," a sentiment that must have been echoed by Lady Dorothy, whose so-called autobiography contains precious little about her own private life.

Steyning Mansions is also advertised in the periodical The English-speaking World (vol. 40-42) in 1958:

BRIGHTON. Marine Parade, Steyning Mansions Hotel PRIVATE BATH and telephone to every bedroom. Licensed. TV. Winter from 9 gns., Summer from 10½ gns. Tel. 26461-2-3.

When did the Steyning Mansions Hotel Syndicate start operating the hotel? When did the hotel cease operation? We do know it was at least in business from 1939 through 1958.

It wasn't the only hotel on the block: Unit No.1 on Eastern Terrace became the Court Royal Hotel in 1914 and was converted into Court Royal Mansions around 1955 [The time is pictured in the photograph, circa 1955, right].

Among other units on Eastern Terrace, numbers 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 are now owned and maintained by Brighton Polytechnic as Halls of Residence. Others contain flats that range from over a half million pounds down to a basement flat going for roughly £250,000—quite a change from back in 1958, when a winter in likely that same subterranean locale started at just 9 guineas a week!

Yes, Eastern Terrace has changed a bit since Lady Dorothy Mills called the area home in the mid-20th century.

If you have any information about Lady Dorothy, Steyning Mansions Hotel, or the Eastern Terrace, Brighton, of that era, please don't hesitate to contact me... and thank you!


  1. Wonderful detective work. I can picture Lady Mills staying at Steying Mansions Hotel. So, no record of the hotel after 1958?

    By the way, are you watching Downton Abbey on Masterpiece (PBS)? It takes place in 1912 and is about an Earl who only had three daughters and must leave his estate to a distant cousin. The middle daughter reminds me of Lady Mills.

    Wouldn't the story of Lady Dorothy Mills make a great Masterpiece series?

  2. As a resident of Eastern Terrace for the past decade, I must correct your assertion that "Among other units on Eastern Terrace, numbers 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 are now owned and maintained by Brighton Polytechnic as Halls of Residence".
    The properties are now all in provate hands and have not been used as student accommodation for many years. Nos 8 and 9 are still individual, one-family houses worth in excess of £3m. All the others are sub-divided into flats.
    Here is link to fascinating piece of history about Eastern Terrace...