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Englishmen in Alassio: the Belle Epoque in the Riviera

In the history of Alassio, between the end of the 1800s and the first years of the 1900s, the marvellous landscape and the mild climate made this small town an excellent destination for the English people who landed here first and then attracted so many fellow countrymen who stayed  here for more than a century leaving behind precious and important records of their long stay in the Riviera.

Near the railway station they built their Anglican Church, the Library, the Richard Whateley West Picture Gallery and the Hanbury Tennis Club which still maintains its almost pristine splendid architectural structure.

The construction of the Anglican Church, in a perfect neo-Gothic style, began in 1882 under the supervision of the Canon of St. Paul’s Church in London.

The Richard Whateley West Picture Gallery houses 76 paintings by the Irish artist of which it bears the name, who settled in Alassio in 1890 and consecrated his art by immortalising Alassio and its neighbouring areas in poetic perspectives. It was William Douglas Caroe, a well-known English architect who planned the picture gallery which opened to the public in 1907. The precious collection was increased at the beginning of the 60s thanks to the donation of a further 70 paintings by his daughter. This is also the seat of the British Library for the Anglo-Saxon Book Fund which can boast a heritage of about than 15,000 volumes dating back to between 1850 and 1930.

Last but not least for its beauty and glamour, the Hanbury Tennis Club which Daniel, son of Lord Thomas, managed since 1927, date of its creation, together with other real estate activities founded by his father in Alassio such as the British Club, the Norfolk Hotel and the many villas which he had had built on the hills of Alassio at the turn of the century.

In the last ten years the original interiors of the Club-House, though preserving the furniture and period decorations, have become a kind of tennis museum in which hanging on the walls about a hundred wooden rackets, photos, posters and various trinkets and objects connected to the world of tennis and Old England can be admired!

[Viviana Spada]

 

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