Arriving in Brighton around 1901 Harry took over the dilapidated Royal York Hotel in the Old Steine. Once the haunt of royalty and well-known figures such as Benjamin Disraeli and Charles Dickens, it was now a ruin that had to be rebuilt from the bottom up, taking every penny he possessed. The result was an overdraft of £3,000, a tidy sum in those days.
At the turn of the century, when Harry arrived, Brighton was in decline. It was no longer seen as ‘London by the Sea’ as it once had been in Regency times. A derogatory front-page article published in the Daily Mail saying the town was an “unenterprising, unattractive and outdated holiday resort” didn’t help in its image. The article infuriated Harry and caused him to take action. He travelled to London and insisted on seeing the newspaper editor, Kennedy Jones. Harry politely convinced him of the error of his ways and a far more favourable review was published in the paper two days later.
The more flattering newspaper article and newly refurbed Royal York signalled a turning point for both Harry and Brighton. The hotel went on to attract the rich and famous including the Prince of Wales, Lloyd George (Chancellor and later Prime Minister) and world speed record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell, together with a host of stars from the entertainment world and the newly established class of “celebrity”.
In 1929, following Harry’s retirement, the hotel was converted into council offices known as Royal York Buildings. In 2003 the council vacated the building and in 2006 it was converted back to hotel use while also gaining a Grade II listed consent.