Situated on the beachfront, this 97-bedroom hotel was once a very fashionable place to stay on the Isle of Wight. Notable visitors included author Lewis Carroll and naturalist Charles Darwin. It opened in 1899 and is full of historic features such as the beautiful panelling in the dining room. It’s easy to understand why it was such an attraction, with a heated swimming pool and landscaped gardens. The hotel saw its last visitors in 2017 and has since been the victim of arson attacks and squatters.
The hotel was the built on top of the former King’s Head hotel and was designed by Henry Lowenfield, who owned Apollo Theatre in the West End. Lowenfield employed architect Lewin Sharp for the design of both of these buildings. They used a local builder James Hayden to build the 5 floors of luxury rooms. The hotel included its own bathing machines, pleasure boats and horse-drawn coach. In the early 20th Century the hotel attracted an exclusive clientele, drawn in by access to the High Street, views of Sandown Bay and miles of sandy beaches.
Sandown enjoyed great popularity through the 1950s and into the 60s. However, by the late 1960s tourist numbers had decreased with the rise of cheap package holidays. Like many other hotels in the area, The Ocean Hotel closed its doors in 2017.
Exploring this historic hotel was highly exhilarating. Both facades of the hotel face either directly onto the High Street or the beach front. The current owners didn’t appear to be trying to keep explorers out. The fast fencing was incomplete, the main entrance was only half boarded up and the beach-facing windows had no glass in. We waited until there was nobody passing by and ran inside.
The beauty of the hotel can be seen in the dining room and lobby areas. The dining room is panelled and the fireplace is still as imposing as it would have been during the hotel’s heyday. It was easy to imagine how beautiful it would have been to sit here and eat your breakfast. When it opened in 1899, the dining room had green and gold tapestry panels and Chippendale furniture. It was said to be the exact copy of Queen Victoria’s private dining room at Windsor. The staff wore nautical naval-inspired uniforms.
The site has been abandoned and left unsecured for many years which has meant that the furniture that had been left behind is gone. The site has also been taken over by pigeons which scared us on a number of occasions! It seems that some repair work has been carried out- the bannisters had been covered in bubble wrap and some builders’ tools left behind.
As we went upstairs we immediately noticed that parts of the roof had collapsed due to fire damage. Some walls were crumbling and there was debris everywhere. Unfortunately we couldn’t explore all of the main building due to safety concerns but we were able to enter a few rooms.
After the Ocean Hotel closed its doors to its last guests it was sold to a development firm Carlauren. They had plans to turn it into a luxury care facility but it remained empty. The site slowly decayed and historic features were left to rot. Carlauren group fell into liquidation at the end of 2019.
The site was left uncared for and vandals had smashed the stain glass windows and youths were frequently accessing the building. Concerned by the mistreated of the historic building, a group of heritage activists squatted at the hotel. The Nutters Productions feared that the hotel’s history was being lost forever and so they occupied the building for a short while to try to preserve its cultural heritage.
Unfortunately in May 2021 a devastating fire broke out at the Ocean Hotel, which was deemed to have been caused by arson. Firefighters from all over the Island and across the Solent in Hampshire battled the flames for hours. Three weeks before a catastrophic fire the site was bought by Phoenix Commercial Property Development (PCPD). The councillor said after the fire “The positive is that it was already sold, which was the biggest hurdle. The fire still makes the building recoverable and it will be brought back to life”. However its owners believed it was unlikely to return the site back to a functioning hotel and had ideas for it to be of mixed commercial and residential use.
There are no clear plans for the current eyesore of Sandown. Fires have destroyed a large percentage of the hotel- the roof and upper floor are extensively damaged. In March 2022 a notice was issued by the council to the owners giving them four months to have the site tidied and secured. There is no evidence of this work being completed.
Last Updated on 1 September 2023 by Michael