While browsing through the properties for sale in Cromer (my favourite place in the UK) the other night I was gobsmacked to come across details for The Bath House, on sale for a cool £1,350,000. The Bath House will be familiar to anyone who knows Cromer, being one of only two houses sitting directly on the promenade. It was originally built in the early 19th century as a subscription reading room but as Cromer rose in popularity as a seaside resort and bathing in the sea became a common pastime it was extended to include private bathing areas in the basement, with saltwater pumped in directly from the beach. The building was destroyed in a storm in the 1830s and rebuilt, with space for a hotel. Eventually the baths were closed but The Bath Hotel continued to trade until the 1990s, when it was converted into a home.
In my childhood the hotel/pub/restaurant seemed to be bustling and I have fond memories of sitting with my family on the prom outside the pub with a bottle of coke as we watched the world go by. When the hotel finally closed the building looked very sad and sorry for itself and I was thrilled to see restoration work going on – but less thrilled when I discovered it was going to be a private residence. By losing such a vital tourist attraction a little of Cromer's soul seemed to slip away, and the newly restored Bath House always had an air of abandonment about it, even as the paint was drying.
So now the house is up for sale. The specs are impressive – four bedrooms, four receptions, four bathrooms, a spa and private cinema. The photos look stunning and in many ways this would be my dream house, situated where it is and with the best views in the world.
Yet actually I wouldn't want to live there. Its very location makes it a less than ideal home, with holidaymakers walking past all day and evening. No doubt it sees its share of drunken behaviour too. I can imagine it just be pretty bleak in winter too, when the waves can come over the sea wall, bringing with them hunks of seaweed, driftwood and shingle. Plus I rather fancy the idea of spending the British summer in Cromer and the winter in Dahab, Egypt – so would need to fund for two homes!
What I'd really like to see is someone returning the Bath House to its former use as a pub, hotel and restaurant. Cromer has suffered over the years but the town feels like it's a booming holiday resort again, with a good mix of arty shops, cafes and restaurants, yet there seem to be few hotels – so many closed back in the 80s and 90s with the rise of the foreign holiday. I could see the Bath House as a boutique hotel, quality restaurant and family-friendly pub, and having a popular, successful business on the promenade can only benefit the entire town. All it needs is someone with the money and the vision …