Sign 18 - Biana Bay

Biana Bay

As Holland on Sea evolved it resulted in a wide and diverse range of architecture.  Many properties identify with the time they were built, and none more so than the modernist movement art deco house “Biana” built up at Holland Haven in 1935.  It was designed by Ronald H. Franks and built for seaside holiday use, therefore being equipped to be quickly habitable at weekends.  The house was built some 100 yards east of where the Clacton on Sea Sailing Club clubhouse now stands and in line with it but at the time being set back quite a way from the unprotected cliff edge.

Its design was a radical departure from the more traditional red brick, pitch-roofed property; the original idea of this style being that the roof had a garden on it and it was just as though the building had pushed its way up through the ground, with no loss of natural land.  This worked well in the dryer countries abroad but the flat roof proved to be its Achilles-Heel here in the UK.

The construction was of 11 inch cavity brickwork and breeze concrete slab partitions, wood-joisted floors and roof; the flat roofs being ventilated by using the wall cavities as flues.  The terrace was insulated with asbestos slabs, as yet unknown to be a dangerous material, on bituminous sheeting, and the roofs themselves similarly covered.  The external finish was in ivory white cement rendering and the windows, made by Crittall of Witham, along with the balustrading painted tangerine, whilst the front door and gates were a light blue.

Internally the walls and ceilings were plastered and distempered and the rooms had flush doors which, along with the internal joinery, were enamelled green.  The window sills were of buff quarry tiles, whilst the hall and lounge floors were of oak strip.  The lounge fireplace was of black and Napoleonic marble and stainless steel.  The bathroom, which was downstairs, had white tiled walls and a rubber floor, and stood next to the kitchen with its built-in enamelled deal cupboards and dresser.  Heating of the house was by electrical wall panel heaters, as well as coal fire in the lounge, and cooking was by electricity.  Understanding that this was built simply as a holiday home it is not surprising that as well as the main bedroom and guest room upstairs, there was also a maid’s room.  In 1935, at a time when average house prices were around £600 to £700 the house, “Biana”, cost £1,200.

One can only imagine the owners turning up for a very gay weekend in their car; the property included a garage, and the house suddenly coming to life.  A game of tennis in the morning, swimming in the afternoon, followed by a picnic on the beach before scrambling up the cliff and listening to some Ray Noble, Henry Hall and Jack Hylton on the gramophone as the sun set.

Sadly it wasn’t long before the shadow of war hovered over Europe and as Great Britain went into battle so “Biana” was requisitioned by the army, and the sound of laughter was replaced by the wailing of the air raid siren.  Once hostilities had ended the house had lost its shine, and the coastal erosion had brought the building much closer to the cliff-edge.  Clacton Urban District Council later took ownership of the property and, at the very start of the 1960’s, a substantial sea wall was built and the cliffs landscaped.  The house was converted to a cafe and run by Monty Montague.  In 1961 Clacton Sailing Club relocated from its Hazlemere Road site to Holland Haven and was granted temporary use of the first floor of “Biana”, now simply known as the White House.  A year later the sailing club opened its own clubhouse and the White House found its upstairs furnished with arcade machines.  By the end of the 1960’s the former house was looking very sorry for itself and the Council built a refreshment kiosk on the promenade, opposite The Gap and “Biana” was demolished.  In reality a fairly short but, none the less, varied life; the house served to remind us what might have been, had it not been for the war - a piece of Holland on Sea that is now just a memory.

Last updated on: 03/09/2021 - 14:48