Arthur Christiansen was born in 1904, in Wallasey, Cheshire and at 16 became a reporter for the Wallasey & Wirral Chronicle, his journalistic flair shining through. By 1926 he was working for the Sunday Express and it wasn’t long before he was Assistant Editor, becoming the Editor of the Daily Express in 1933. In 1935 Little Holland Hall was put on the market with the aim of selling it by auction. But bidding was disappointingly slow and the property withdrawn. It was subsequently purchased by Arthur Christiansen and his wife Brenda following private negotiations, and the couple moved in to their new home in 1936. Little Holland Hall by the Frinton Road/Kings Parade roundabout goes back over 400 years to the Tudor period although it has had “more recent” additions over the centuries. By the roadside is a boundary stone that identifies the ancient burial ground that the Hall sits in. Back in the 12th century a small church was built on the site, the ruins/foundations of which were exposed in the 1980’s when the sheltered accommodation was built. And back in Elizabethan days there was a landing place in Little Holland Hall ground for the Gunfleet estuary which ran up to the Hall.
Christiansen was much revered in Fleet Street, working for his boss Lord Beaverbrook (known as “the Lord” rather than “his Lordship” by those working for him), and increased the circulation of the paper; going from 2 million in 1936 to 4 million in 1949. Christiansen strove to ensure the very best journalism from his paper and would be keen to impart words of wisdom:
“The people who lived behind those clean lace curtains, in row after row of identical boxes were newspaper readers, and every word in, at any rate, my newspaper must be clear and comprehensible to them, must be interesting to them, must encourage them to break away from littleness, stimulate their ambition, help them to want to build a better land.”
“Show me a contented newspaper editor and I will show you a bad newspaper.”
“My approach to newspapers was based on the idea that when you looked at the front page you said: 'Good heavens', when you looked at the middle page you said: 'Holy smoke', and by the time you got to the back page, well, I'd have to utter a profanity to show how exciting it was.”
Away from work he would relax with his wife and four children at Little Holland Hall with its twenty rooms, surrounded by momentos; photographs and documents autographed by famous people of the day, including letters to him from Field Marshall Montgomery. “Monty” related how every time Mr. Christiansen sent him a photograph of one of his opposing generals, its presence in Montgomery’s Caravan HQ seemed to assist in the downfall of that enemy.
If the house itself had real character and charm, the grounds it sat in formed an equally beautiful setting. With sunken gardens, arches, wrought iron gates and apple trees, plus a significant lke, it was hard to believe that, in reality, it was so close to the main road from Clacton to Frinton.
Arthur Christiansen was the subject of Eamonn Andrews’ BBC programme ‘This Is Your Life’ in 1957, and in 1961 he appeared in a film “The Day The Earth Caught Fire” where he played the editor of a national newspaper - the Daily Express! Two years later he was once again in a film, this time playing a news editor in the movie “80,000 Suspects”.
Sadly, in October 1963, Christianson collapsed and died whilst in a television studio in Norwich, but his widow Brenda lived on at Little Holland Hall, and every year she would open the Hall up to a local art exhibition. In May 1967 four skeletons were dug-up by workmen laying cables for the Eastern Electricity Board and in October 1969 three amateur archaeologists unearthed a finely preserved skeleton. All these findings were believed to date back to medieval times.
In July 1987 plans were put forward to convert the Hall into part warden’s residence, offices and communal area.