Seabank Hotel

This hotel starts as a private residence, perhaps one built as a holiday villa, which in 1844 is occupied by Mr S. Bennett. According to an advertisement in the Coleraine Chronicle of 2nd November, Mr Bennett is the proprietor of Greenfield House near Coleraine, two houses in Society Street, Coleraine and a handsome cottage and garden attached to Greenfield House. In an article in the same newspaper from January 1846 we find Mr Stephen Bennet contributing 2s 6d (12½p) to the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Benevolent Fund. An “improved” Greenfield House is being advertised “To Be Let” in 1852.

By 1865 occupation of Seabank House has changed to Colonel William Chaine and family. He appears to remain in residence until 1887 when the Northern Constitution informs us that Colonel Chaine is selling a large number of greenhouse plants by auction on 14th December 1887. The sale comprises the contents of three large greenhouses – “About Six Hundred Plants, in Pots, some very rare ones”. In 1888 Doctor and Mrs McKeown and family are in residence.

Seabank - Ossory, Seabank House, No’s 1 & 2 Seabank Portrush
Above: Seabank Hotel in 1950’s. Original buildings from left: Ossory, Seabank House, No’s 1 & 2 Seabank

In 1894 advertisements for No.’s 1, 2 & 3 Seabank start to appear in the newspapers. These are the three houses adjoining Seabank House on its northern side. TheColeraine Chronicle of 20th July 1895 gives the first indication that Seabank House has now become Seabank Hotel:

Seabank - Advert in the Coleraine Chronicle 1895
Seabank Advert in the Coleraine Chronicle 1895

Ownership has changed to Sheills & Co. who, by 1901, are proprietors of a number of furnished properties around Portrush and agents for many others in addition to owning Seabank Hotel. During the holiday season each year the Northern Constitution carries a list of people staying in the various hotels, guest houses and furnished houses in Portrush and No.’s 1, 2 & 3 Seabank and Seabank Hotel feature regularly. Throughout a large part of the 1906 season the Irish Temperance League occupied one or more of the three houses at different times for its Summer School.

In September 1908 an advertisement in the Northern Constitution seeks tenders for the building of a dwelling House for Mrs Fitzpatrick, Seabank, Portrush. She would seem to be the new owner of the Hotel. The house in question was adjoining the south side of Seabank Hotel and was known as The Ossory and would be the home of the Fitzpatrick’s when in Portrush. Further building work is advertised in September 1910 for “Alterations and Additions to Seabank House, Portrush, for Miss Emily Fitzpatrick”, presumably the daughter of Mrs Fitzpatrick and the new owner of Seabank. It may have been at this time that the houses, previously advertised as No.’s 1, 2 & 3 Seabank were incorporated into Seabank House to form the new Seabank Hotel. In 1910 the popularity of Seabank and the street leading to it, which is now Bath Terrace, caused the Portrush Urban District Council to provide an esplanade from Seabank to Bath Cottage which would be continued from the Northern Counties Bath House to the Lifeboat House. Miss Fitzpatrick was a supporter of the Christian Endeavour Society and in February 1911 she is giving “a most useful address” to the junior members during a society conference.

An advertisement in the Belfast News-Letter on 5th April 1912 reminds prospective guests that Seabank is a “Temperance Hotel” i.e. one which does not sell or serve alcoholic drinks and also advises that the hotel is “first class … very comfortable and well aired” has a “best situation” a “billiard room” and “perfect cuisine”. The charges it states are moderate. Miss Fitzpatrick is named as the person to whom prospective guests should apply. Miss Lily Sara Fitzpatrick, an Associate of the London College of Music, also advertises “Pianoforrte Tuition, Ear Training, Theory, Harmony, etc.” at Seabank.

Seabank Hotel stayed open throughout the year and advertises heavily for both Christmas and Easter, even during the First World War. The hotel was redecorated over the winter of 1915/16 and the proprietors are now shown as the “Misses Fitzpatrick”. These ladies would continue in this role until their deaths in the middle years of the 20th century. In 1917 the hotel’s advertisement includes, for the first time, a telephone number – 37.

The first year after the war ends, 1919, brings a further development in entertainment: an orchestra during the summer season is now advertised and in 1922 the hotel now has its own bus meeting guests arriving by train at the Railway Station. From 1923 a manager has been employed to run the hotel and special arrangements and terms are being offered to “Convention Visitors”, no doubt in an effort to attract more guests outside the summer holiday season. Also in 1923 central heating is now being advertised, again, to make the hotel more attractive to guests in the Autumn and Winter.

By 1930 the adverts are becoming more detailed and include “Choice and abundant Amusements for everybody”, a named orchestra – “Mr Horton’s Band”, central heating and “Electric Light”. In 1931 the orchestra changes to “Jim Baillie’s Orchestra” and picnics and tours can now be arranged for guests. For Christmas 1932 the hotel is offering “Festive Catering. Amusements for Everyone”. The Ballroom is noted as having an “Oak Dance Floor” but whether or not this is a new feature is not made clear. However, what is new is the orchestra which is now Mr Dyer’s Band. In a feature on Holidays in Portrush for 1933 the Northern Whig extolls the attributes of the Seabank Hotel:

“Right on the sea-front in one of the best positions in Portrush, the Seabank Hotel offers splendid accommodation with every comfort, and an enjoyable holiday is assured to everyone who makes it their headquarters for their stay. Sports, amusements, picnics and tours are arranged for the visitor, who has also the advantage of being able to bathe from the hotel. Open throughout the year, it is splendidly equipped, including a ballroom with an oak floor, and the cuisine and service are excellent.”

High praise indeed!

In 1935 the member of staff responsible for placing the hotel advertisements has seemingly discovered a new word – “Good”. From the Northern Whig dated 11th December 1935:

Seabank Advert from the Northern Whig 1935
Seabank Advert from the Northern Whig 1935

A new electric Lift has been installed by 1941 and the hotel continues to advertise and welcome visitors even though war is raging across the world.

Sadly an era ends in 1955 with the death of Miss Edith Jane Fitzpatrick, aged 68 years, one of the sisters who had owned and operated the hotel for more than forty years. A fall had fractured her femur and during the hospital operation to reset the bone a clot in her lung caused her to pass away. An Electoral Register of this period names four Fitzpatricks resident at Seabank: Hannah M., Edith Jane, Lily Sara and Pearl H..

The hotel continued as a successful business until, like many similar businesses in the town, the advent of cheap foreign holidays followed by the onset of “The Troubles” it closed and was sold at the end of the 1960’s. The purchasers were the Methodist Church in Coleraine who converted it into student accommodation for the newly opened New University of Ulster in Coleraine. As the University had no Halls of Residence or other student accommodation of its own students relied on the large volume of vacant holiday accommodation which generally was unoccupied outside the main holiday season.

By the late 1980’s demand for such accommodation had fallen and the hotel was sold to a developer who divided it into its original constituent parts and sold them separately. Seabank House became Seabank Care Home in 1989 and the houses, No’s 1, 2 & 3 Seabank became private homes.