Amanda Davidson tells us about Murder at Tudor Close!
AOH: Hi Amanda – your Open House sounds really fascinating this year!
AD: Thanks, yes as soon as I moved into this flat my neighbours were full of tales of the old movie stars who had stayed here when Tudor Close opened as a hotel in 1930.
AOH: Would you like to tell us a little more about the glamorous history of Tudor Close, including that of your own house?
AD: The story begins with property entrepreneur Charles Neville who, having created Saltdean and Peacehaven as post WW1 housing in the Art Deco style, then set his sights on some old 15th century tythe barns. These were in the rough farm track near The Elms where Rudyard Kipling had moved to live, to be near his aunt Georgina Burne-Jones.
With great skill and vision Neville developed a group of seven houses, importing old oak ships’ timbers and employing master craftsmen to carve Tudor style motifs, faces and even mock dates as a pastiche of the Tudor architectural style. At £800 each they were too expensive to sell, so he turned the complex into a hotel. A 1932 brochure described it as ‘The Loveliest Hotel on the South Coast’
The appeal of the Tudor Close Hotel was that you could rent a whole house with your chauffeur housed nearby, while you enjoyed the luxury swimming pool with all its mod-cons. As it grew in popularity, a 1937 extension provided a billiards room, ballroom, ladies bar and a restaurant.
Very soon it attracted big movie stars of the day such as Bette Davies. With her came Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and later the 12 year old Julie Andrews, who was said to have sung here for the first time.
AOH: ‘Murder at Tudor Close’ refers to games of Cluedo reputedly played here in the 1920’s – would you like to tell us about the references to the game in your Open House?
AD: Travelling entertainers Anthony and Elva Pratt hosted their murder mystery games here, which were played out by guests and local actors. Called ‘Murder at Tudor Close’ they later took it to Waddington’s games, who made it into Cluedo in 1948.
As my flat was once the butler’s quarters, I thought this would make a fun theme for my Open House this year. Designed with long corridors for the staff to move around, there are many cupboard doors behind which visitors will find clues to the game of ‘who dunnit, in what room and with what murder weapon?’
Artwork is created by my guest artist Philp Sugg, and there will also be architectural drawings by me about the hotel, which eventually closed in 1952. I have also created spoof posters with all the famous people who stayed here, portraying them as Cluedo characters, as well as references to ‘The Adventures of Jane’, a famous wartime cartoon pin-up.
AOH: What other projects will you and Philip be exhibiting?
AD: Also on display will be Philip and my Tudor Close puppet theatre suitcase, miniature theatres, puppets and theatrical paintings – these featured last summer in the Hove Art Gallery and Museum exhibition The Art of Puppetry, Making Magic in the Museum.
On sale will be theatre kits, posters, prints, cards and original artwork.
AOH: You’ve been taking part in AOH for many years – what do you most like about being part of the festival?
AD: I have taken part in AOH since the mid 1990’s, first in Kemp Town, then in Hove and now here in Rottingdean. It is a great opportunity to show people how an artist works in a home/studio environment, something that can’t be witnessed in any gallery. It’s an opportunity to explain what drives one to create and how you go about making the work from art desk and easel to public exhibition and private commissions. AOH is a totally unique experience.
AOH: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
AD: Philip and I work to commission on theatre props and I paint animal, human and architectural portraits – and I also teach.
AOH: Thank you Amanda – it’s been great to hear this story!
Visit The House: