The Grand Bay
When East Clacton was first laid out it was envisaged that one of the large building plots on the Marine Parade should be occupied by a spacious hotel, and in 1882 the pioneers promoted the Grand Hotel Company with the intention of erecting it on the Vista Plot. The scheme never materialised and the land remained vacant. In 1891 Henry Grant, who had recently come to the town, acquired the site and shortly afterwards building work began but it did not continue. Five years later Grant’s daughter married the son and heir of the managing director of Harrods, who thereafter became associated with the Grand, and work was resumed.
In 1897 Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and amidst the rejoicing and pageantry the Grand Hotel was formally opened on 1st July. The Grand was essentially Edwardian, and contained the comfort and elegance of that rather pompous age. Advertised as “one of the finest and most comfortable hotels in the Kingdom”, it boasted numerous public rooms, nearly 100 bedrooms and, in due course, a large ballroom. There was an electric lift and an orchestra. Fashionable society did not flock to Clacton but when it did come it was invariably to the Grand Hotel for a weekend by the sea.
The Grant family followed the Essex and Suffolk Hounds and the annual meet, held for some years at Great Clacton’s Sodbury House (built for the Grants), was later transferred to the Grand where it became a social gathering each Boxing Day.
In 1904 the hotel was a headquarters during the military manoeuvres with the Duke of Connaught in attendance, and three years later it was visited by Prince Francis of Teck. In 1916 King George V lunched there as the guest of General Sir Arthur Paget when inspecting troops in the town, and going passed his portrait, of when he was the just the Prince of Wales “to this he graciously appended his signature”. Then, in 1931, came his cousin, Prince Arthur of Connaught, to lunch after opening the Clacton Town Hall.
Henry Grant died in 1906 but his son Harry continued to preside over the establishment; a portly and affable figure he was himself likened to King Edward VII.
Between the wars the Grand continued as a venue for social occasions but its clientele were changing with the times. With evacuation the hotel was closed in June 1940, and after the war it was never fully reopened. It was acquired by Essex County Council in 1946 and became St. Osyth’s Training College two years later. In more recent years it was to become part of the Colchester Institute before being sold and converted into residential apartments.