In around 1880 the hotel was constructed by the South Eastern Railway: 10th July saw the grand opening of the Seabrook Hotel, soon to be renamed the Imperial.
The hotel was built as part of an ambitious development called the Seabrook Estate, which fortunately was never fully realised, as it envisaged building all over the present hotel golf-course. But it was a railway hotel, in the sense of being the property of the South Eastern Railway Company, and it was proud of having ‘the most recent appliances for securing that luxurious comfort, which enters so largely into modern life and manners’.
Some of the features of this comfort were ‘well-fitted lavatories – having a constant supply of hot and cold water – and secluded closets, those at the western end being reserved for ladies and those at the eastern end for gentlemen’. The hotel prospectus also drew attention to the ‘small but powerful steam engine’ used to heat the viands and keep the plates warm in the ‘hot closets’, and the soil pipes ‘carried up through the roof to obtain thorough ventilation’.
The ‘well-padded spring mattresses’ on the beds were mentioned, and the Axminster carpets, the silk tapestry on the couches, the grand piano, the billiard room and so on. And all this could be had for half-a-crown a day, with an extra shilling and sixpence if one had a second person in one’s room.
Indeed, a room at between half-a-crown and seven and sixpence could be cheaper than dinner at three shillings to five and sixpence for two to five courses, though you had to pay an extra one and sixpence for a hot bath. With your dinner you may have had a bottle of claret for two and sixpence. But the Rothschild tipple, Château Lafite 1868, cost eleven and sixpence.
Outside in the grounds of the hotel were the tennis courts and croquet lawns, and military bands came down from Shorncliffe to play ‘good class’ music during the summer months. The tennis courts were soon to be hosting the Kent Coast Open Lawn Tennis Championships. But more recently, the nine-hole golf course, in the dried-out harbour area between the canal and the sea wall, where seaside houses had originally been envisaged, has given the Imperial the name of a golfing hotel.