Dover Stage Coachotel

Dover Stage ‘coachotel’

Dover Stage ‘coachotel’

The Dover Stage Coachotel, near the seafront, was demolished in November 1988 to create a car park on Camden Crescent. It had been built on the site of an equally as distinctive building, the Round House.

Dover’s first Council surveyor was builder Richard Elsam, who also designed and built the Round House in about 1820. The house was the private property of Dover’s Town Clerk, John Shipdem, who had already given the contract for the building of Dover’s Gaol to Elsam. This was to land the council with a huge bill as the tendering process, drawn up by Shipdem, ensured that Elsam would be given the contract! Thus, the distinctive tower of the Round House that gave the building its name, was said by locals, ‘so that the devil wouldn’t be able to catch the Town Clerk in a corner!’

Round House, Camden Crescent

Round House, Camden Crescent

Following the death of John Shipdem’s grandson, Reverend Thomas S Frampton, on 2 February 1923, the building was sold. On 27 July that year, it was officially re-opened by Sir Roger Keyes, who was in command of the Dover Patrol during World War I. The House was one of the 80 branches of the British Legion in Kent.

In the 1930’s, the British Legion moved out and the building stood empty until it was reopened by the Gospel Mission on 10 December 1936. They had moved from the Central Gospel Hall, Queen Street. However, in September 1940, following the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945) the house was badly damaged by a bombed blast. Pastor Efemy was conducting a service at the time but luckily he survived. The Round House was totally devastated.

In the late 1940s brewers, Watney, Combe and Reid acquired the site, for £4,250 but in November 1950 it was purchased by Dover Corporation as part of their Redevelopment Plan for the whole of Camden Crescent. The site was then offered on a lease, through estate agents, ideally for a new hotel. As an incentive, the council promised that they would ‘use their endeavours to secure a full unrestricted licence for the sale of intoxicating liquors on the premises.’

The Corporation eventually sold the lease in 1956 to Graham Lyon and Watney’s Breweries and work started on a thoroughly modern building to be called the Dover Stage. It was built by the local firm of Barwick’s to a design by Louis Erdi. The £100,000 ‘coachotel’ had six floors, five of which were balanced on V-shaped struts. It was expected that the design would attract  continental visitors to England, travelling by coach. It had a large ballroom, bars and the 42 rooms with balconies that were angled to give a sea view. The council undertook, as part of the project, to lay out Granville Gardens and the re-aligned Camden Crescent in front the hotel.

Opening of Dover Stage. Kent Messenger 31.05.1957

Opening of Dover Stage. Kent Messenger 31.05.1957

The Dover Stage, only the third hotel to be built in Britain after the end of World War II, was opened in May 1957 by J G Bridges, director-general of the British Travel and Holidays Association. He arrived together with the Mayor – Alderman John Williams – in the Red Rover stagecoach drawn by four horses. The driver was Sanders Watney of Watney’s Breweries.

Initially, the coachotel was very successful but as time passed tourists’ demands increased to include en-suite toilet facilities. These were added to the detriment of the size of the bedrooms. Nonetheless, the hotel remained well patronised and the ballroom became one of the most popular venues in Dover. As the 1980s progressed and Dover District Council (DDC) turned its attention to tourism, both the Dover Stage and the nearby White Cliffs Hotel came in for bruising rumours, a ploy favoured in Dover to destroy reputations. The rumourmongers said that both hotels were past their ‘sell by date.’

A postcard of the Dover Stage sent in 1958 to Massachusetts by American tourists who stayed at the hotel. They tell the recipient that they went to see 'the Castle on the hill' and the White Cliffs. Thanks to Robert Bedard

A postcard of the Dover Stage sent in 1958 to Massachusetts by American tourists who stayed at the hotel. They tell the recipient that they went to see ‘the Castle on the hill’ and the White Cliffs. Thanks to Robert Bedard

On 30 June 1988, DDC Planning Committee granted approval for the demolition of the Dover Stage in order to replace it with 49 sheltered flats and warden accommodation. The architecturally striking Dover Stage was demolished in November that year. Then in early January 1989, DDC announced that the site was, instead, to be used for additional parking for their pet project, the ill-fated White Cliffs Experience.

A couple of years later the vacant land was offered for sale and in 1993 Henley Lodges submitted a planning application for a 60-bed roomed budget style hotel. The application included a road running through the Granville Gardens and was turned down. The land became a car park and to date it is still an under used car park.

  • Published:
  • Dover Mercury: 31 May 2012

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About Lorraine

I am a local historian, whose love of Dover has lead to decades of research into some of the lesser known tales that this famous and beautiful town has to tell.
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