‘THE CLIFF HALL’
Marine Parade, Harwich, Essex
At the outbreak of the First World War, several places in Harwich were taken over by the Admiralty and for the Admiralty. Harwich was a fortress town so patients were not always sent directly to these hospitals – they would be transferred from surrounding camps and other towns i.e. from Colchester.
In Harwich, a ‘Garrison Military Hospital’ was created at ‘The Great Eastern Railway Hotel’ and it’s Annex.
There was also a ‘Dovercourt Military Hospital’ which was a separate unit but not a true auxiliary hospital – it was a ‘section’ of the Garrison Military Hospital, Harwich. Being a ‘section’ rather than an ‘auxiliary’ meant that they were able to take patients directly from disembarkation and were under the control of the War Office rather than the British Red Cross Society and/or St. John (the Joint War Committee). Additionally, in Dovercourt, the ‘Isolation Hospital’ was used to care for soldiers and sailors with infectious diseases.
Three private houses in the area were also requisitioned for use as hospitals, ‘Cliff Hall’ (Marine Parade) with beds for 120 patients, ‘The Grange’ (Hall Lane) and ‘The Gables’ (Marine Parade), as well as the ‘Tower Hotel’ (Main Rd). The ‘Quay Pavilion’ was used as a canteen – it had entertainment facilities and a bar for naval personnel. Local residents entertained the patients by providing concerts.
The Admiralty requisitioned much of the Harwich Great Eastern Railway fleet during late 1914. Cargo steamers ‘Clacton’ and ‘Newmarket’ where converted to minelayers and minesweepers, whilst ‘Munich’ and ‘St. Petersburg’ were converted into hospital ships.
There is no doubt that not all the people who assisted in the running of these establishments have been discovered within records and, thus, they remain un-named.
The ‘Cliff Hall’ property was built in the early 1900’s with the holiday trade in mind. It had double glazed windows, which were a rare sight at the time.
During the First World War, ‘Cliff Hall’ became a convalescent home/hospital for service men. To date, no person has been identified working at ‘Cliff Hall’.
In 1938, John Elliott purchased ‘Cliff Hall’ and renamed it ‘The Elco’ and opened it as a private hotel and cafe. The declaration of WW2 led to the business closing and it was soon requisitioned by the military. The building was subject to an incendiary attack in 1940, which set the roof on fire and resulted in considerable damage to the second storey. It was repaired and then became briefly under naval control – mainly being used as billets for the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
‘The Elco’ reopened briefly after World War Two as holiday flats but this venture did not prove very successful . The building became empty and and remained thus for many years as an abandoned eyesore on the sea front. The building was demolished during the summer of 1972 – it is now the site of Wimborne house.
Thanks go to Steve Delves ref research on ‘Cliff Hall’.