By steve downes
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
In its pomp, it was a popular coastal retreat, visited by big names including Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Shackleton and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
But 50 years ago this week, more than a century of holidays and heritage ended in fierce flames and billowing smoke as Cromer’s Newhaven Court Hotel was destroyed by fire.
The fire on January 22 and 23 1963 was tackled by 40 firemen, who battled through the night to keep it to the first floor.
But the building was never restored, and was demolished to make way for homes and flats at Newhaven Close in the town.
A cutting from the front page of the Eastern Daily Press on January 23 said: “Flames and sparks leapt high into the night from the roof, 50ft above the ground. Fire gained a good hold till the whole roof was ablaze.”
Leading fireman Gillette, from Holt, received hospital treatment for a hand injury and three or four other firefighters received minor injuries.
The building was the home of the Locker-Lampson family for many decades, including the MP and naval officer Oliver Stillingfleet Locker-Lampson, whose connections drew many of the aforementioned famous names to the Norfolk coastal town before it became a hotel.
They developed covered tennis courts which were among the best in England. But the courts were destroyed by fire in January 1961.
At the time of the 1963 fire, it was a hotel run by Mr and Mrs Donald Stevenson, who leased it from local building firm AG Brown.
Mr Stevenson and his 15-year-old son, Ian, ran upstairs to fight the blaze, but were beaten back by smoke.
The blaze is one of the main features in Cromer Fire Brigade 1881-2006, written by Jamie Edghill and Keith Entwistle.
In the book Mr Edghill, who joined Cromer fire brigade in 1962, recalled that it happened during a month of sub-zero temperatures, and included a battle with a sledgehammer to gain access to a frozen hydrant.
He said: “We’d been in the building about 10 minutes when we heard a lot of people shouting at us; eventually we realised we were being told to get out of the building quickly.
“Debris from the roof had fallen down onto the lower staircase and that was blazing away. So we had to make a quick getaway. We jumped through the flames and fled outside through the door.”