FOR several generations, Bournemouth was the fashionable place for British Jews to go on holiday.

The town had several specialist Jewish hotels, differing from each other not only in their levels of comfort but in how strictly they observed religious custom.

One of them was the East Cliff Court, which is today the Hallmark Hotel Bournemouth East Cliff. A website set up by a grandson of its founder has been collecting people’s memories of their trips there.

Edward Hayman was born in the hotel, which was established by his grandmother Annie Morris in 1931.

“It was founded by my mother’s mother. Apart from when it was requisitioned during the war, we lived there until my mother sold it in about 1960,” he said.

An advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle of November 6, 1931, told of the hotel’s “spacious and beautiful dining hall, electric elevator, garages, handsome ballroom” as well as “a direct and limitless supply of seawater hot and cold to all bathrooms”.

Edward’s mother Sadie handled much of the hotel’s administration, taking more of a role later and eventually becoming proprietor. His father, John Hayman, was not involved in day-to-day management, but had his own antiques and jewellery business, King & Hayman.

John and Sadie had their first son, Ronald Hayman, in 1932. He is known today as a playwright, director and critic, who has written books about such theatrical figures as Arnold Wesker, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and John Gielgud.

Edward was born in the hotel in 1936 and remembers his nanny, Clara May Lawrence, becoming effectively a member of the family.

Bournemouth’s kosher hotels – including the Green Park, the Normandy, the Majestic and the Ambassador – were the first Jewish hotels in England, Edward said.

“If you wanted to be kosher, to have the dietary restrictions and wanted to be on holiday, you needed to go to a Jewish place. I think the great thing about what Jews came for on holiday was just to be kosher and stay in a nice hotel as well,” he added.

While the Green Park Hotel was the height of luxury for Jewish visitors – and was the subject of a documentary film in 2015 – Edward discovered that people had equally fond memories of the East Cliff Court.

“I was a bit surprised and pleased that people seemed to prefer what they acknowledged as the more relaxed atmosphere of the East Cliff Court compared to the Green Park, which was terribly kosher and orthodox,” he said.

“There was this kind of continuum of hotels, some of which were more orthodox than others. We were at the bottom end as far as orthodoxy was concerned.”

To be recognised as kosher, a Jewish hotel had to have a rabbi supervising the kitchens, but Annie was unwilling to have one around. Edward says this policy cost the hotel the custom of some more orthodox holiday-makers, but might have gained some visitors as well.

The hotel was requisitioned during World War Two and was not returned to the family until 1946, by which time it needed comprehensive refurbishment.

"This was a golden era. Bournemouth was considered a fashionable resort for English Jewry up to the point when people started going abroad,” Edward recalls.

The hotel held regular dances in its ballroom, with two male dance hosts (sometimes called gigolos). Sadie, who was fond of ballroom dancing, took a keen interest in the dances, and encouraged guests to attend, making sure refreshments were served around the ballroom before they reached guests who were reading or playing cards upstairs.

While the surroundings might have seemed perfect for a growing family, Edward doesn’t believe it was the ideal place to raise children.

“It’s a comfortable place to be but it’s not a place where a family can really operate as a unit,” he said.

“Maybe other families would do better in those circumstances but I feel, and my brother feels the same, that it wasn’t healthy for children.”

Edward went to Oxford in 1958 before doing a catering course. He stopped practising Judaism in his 20s. “At that stage I thought I might take over the hotel. I’m glad I didn’t. I’m totally unsuited to that kind of life,” he said.

The website Memories of East Cliff Court, Bournemouth, was founded to collect memories of the hotel from 1931-60.

Many former residents have already been sharing their stories and photographs.

John Kasmir told how his older sister’s wedding celebration took place at the hotel on September 3, 1939 – the day prime minister Neville Chamberlain declared that Britain was at war with Germany.

Hilary Myers, who lived in Bournemouth, told how she often visited friends or family in the Jewish hotels. She was once invited to spend an evening with Ronnie Hayward, but were both so shy that they never discovered their common love of theatre.

Anthony Winston of New Jersey remembers visiting the hotel with his family – including his brother Robert, now the eminent scientist Lord Winston.

“As a child, my impression was that East Cliff Court was more sophisticated and more refined than the other kosher hotels in Bournemouth, including the Green Park,” he wrote.

“I especially enjoyed the hotel food… One of the special treats as a young child was to be able to order my own afternoon tea in the lounge.”

Edward says he has been happy to discover how fond the memories shared on the site have been.

"It’s a tribute to my mother. The memories seem to be happy ones," he said.

* All the pictures on this spread were shared to the Memories of East Cliff Court, Bournemouth website, at