Sir Harry Preston

1860 – 1936

Harry Preston of car racing fame was also a successful hotelier. In 1901 he acquired the Royal York Hotel (now Royal York Buildings) which was almost derelict. Following the hotel’s refurbishment, he wined and dined London newspaper editors to promote visitors, particularly motorists, to Brighton and to encourage them to stay at his hotel. Soon after moving to Brighton in 1901, he acquired a motor yacht, LADY ADA, and in 1906 made it available to the mayor as a flagship when a naval flotilla visited the town. Shortly afterwards, Harry took possession of a more powerful yacht, MY LADY MOLY, 60 ft. in length with a 75 h.p engine, which was built at Shoreham. This probably inspired the creation of the Sussex Motor Yacht Club, which introduced motor yacht racing to Brighton. From a ‘Flight’ magazine report, Sir Harry was in 1913, the Vice Commodore of SMYC. He was spectacularly successful and in 1913 he bought the nearby Royal Albion Hotel which had been closed since 1900, for £13,500. During the twenties and early thirties the Royal Albion Hotel became the town’s leading hotel where authors, actors, film stars, sportsmen and even the Prince of Wales were entertained by Preston who had a wonderful feel for publicity. Like many Edwardian gentlemen, he was a sportsman in the widest sense, embracing yachting (‘My Lady Ada’ was the first motor yacht on the Brighton stretch of coast), motor racing and flying, as well as his first love, boxing (in his younger days he fought at bantamweight).