06 December 2022
Helen Murray tells the story of some of the famous inhabitants and guests at Newhaven Court, an imposing mansion what once overlooked the town of Cromer.
“This is the house by Cromer town,
Its bricks are red, though they look so brown.
It faces the sea on a windswept hill-
In winter it’s empty, in summer it’s chill:
Indeed, it is one of Earth’s windiest spots
as we know from the smashing of chimney pots.
In August I ask for an extra quilt-
This is the house that Jane built!”
Newhaven Court was an imposing red brick turreted mansion that once stood exposed and proud on the Norwich Road overlooking the small North Norfolk town of Cromer. Built over the winter and spring of 1883/84 under the instruction of Hannah Jane, the wife of minor celebrity poet Frederick Locker-Lampson, the elegant house stood for almost eighty years before its dramatic destruction by fire in 1963.
Jane and Frederick Locker-Lampson
The wealth of the Locker-Lampson’s political, literary and society connections meant that prominent friends followed. Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson came to stay, as well as the heroic chain smoking explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Troubled author Oscar Wilde played tennis on the lawns alongside the handsome poet Wilfrid Blunt. Children’s illustrator Kate Greenaway was a frequent guest, as was the ghost story author, Montague Rhodes (M.R) James. Winston Churchill with his wife, Clementine, dined at the house alongside retail magnate, Harry Selfridge. Aristocracy rubbed shoulders with artists, authors with royalty and poets with politicians.
Frederick and Hannah-Jane’s handsome younger son, the charismatic Oliver Locker-Lampson M.P, inherited Newhaven Court in 1915. Following the Great War, and with the help of his beautiful young wife, Bianca, Oliver converted Newhaven Court into an exclusive guest house with a new sprung ballroom, bandstand and two world famous indoor tennis courts.
Here the colourful couple entertained the very top echelons of society, including the exiled Greek royal family, Princess Ileana of Romania, the young Prince Philip and the brandy swigging, fur wearing French tennis superstar, Suzanne Lenglen. Oliver’s connections to European royalty and his fluent grasp of the German language led Professor Albert Einstein to accept Oliver’s offer of sanctuary on the Norfolk Coast in the late summer of 1933.
After financial difficulties led to the end of Oliver’s tenure, a succession of owners moved through the house, including a charming Swiss hotelier and a risk-taking entrepreneur. The devasting blaze in the freezing January of 1963 led to eventual demolition.
Read more about the fascinating history of Newhaven Court and the illustrious inhabitants that dwelled within in the newly released book Newhaven Court: Love, Tragedy, Heroism & Intrigue by Helen Murray (The History Press, 2022)
Newhaven Court image courtesy George Baker