langtry manor (1/7)

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels
in the UK returns to take another look at some of
the establishments that featured in earlier
programmes. Following on from the first visit of
hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s
show sees the cameras return to Langtry Manor
in Bournemouth to see if the staff have managed
to turn around the hotel’s fortunes.
In this week’s instalment, the hotel inspector
heads back to Langtry Manor, a three-star hotel in
the resort town of Bournemouth. Originally built by
King Edward VII for his mistress, actress Lillie
Langtry, it was bought by Pamela Howard more
than 30 years ago and has been run as a hotel by
she and her family ever since.
When Ruth first visited the hotel two years ago,
her initial impressions were mixed: “It’s a really fine
Edwardian house, but I don’t know why they’ve
painted the bricks,” she said. Things soon got
worse when she inspected one of the hotel’s 27
bedrooms. “Oh dear!” she cried. “It’s like some
elderly lady decorated it in the late 50s!” When
shown to the Lillie Langtry Suite, one of Langtry
Manor’s most prestigious offerings, Ruth made no
attempt to disguise her disgust at the avocado
corner bath that greeted her. “Oh, for God’s sake!
Why do people ruin beautiful houses with this
rubbish?” she asked. Then, after road-testing a
room for the night, Ruth’s bad impression of the
place was cemented. “There were rattling noises
at 6.20 in the morning, and the bathroom is so
crap it’s untrue,” was her conclusion.
The restaurant was next on Ruth’s agenda and,
again, it was a mixed picture. The “hugely
generous helping” at breakfast got the thumbs-up,
but an over-complicated and unseasonal dinner
was less impressive. The dated table settings did
not improve the overall experience. “I loathe these
burgundy napkins,” said Ruth. “They just look
rather Trusthouse Forte, 1982.”
Although many of these issues were
straightforward, Ruth soon identified some more
serious underlying problems. The main issue
concerned the fact that owner Pamela Howard
wanted to be involved in the day-to-day running of
the hotel, despite having supposedly retired and
left her daughter Tara at the helm. Tara, meanwhile,
did not have enough confidence to run things her
own way – leading to ongoing conflicts about all
manner of issues, including room décor and hotel
maintenance. Arguments between the two were
commonplace, meaning that important issues
such as high staff costs went ignored.
Although Ruth warned them that they needed
to cut back, Pamela and Tara found it hard to
consider the prospect of making any of their 30
staff redundant, creating the need to make
savings elsewhere.
One of the most important changes Ruth
insisted upon was that the women establish their
roles more clearly and schedule in a structured
meeting once a month. Also, in order to give the
pair some food for thought, Ruth sent them off to
Winchester to have lunch at the Hotel du Vin, a
hotel that manages to combine period charm
with modern service and comforts. Pamela and
Tara agreed that there were touches at the Hotel
du Vin that could be carried through to their own
business – including the restaurant’s simple, wellexecuted
food. But could they stop squabbling
long enough to put any new ideas into practice?
Over two years after Ruth’s first visit, the Hotel
Inspector returns to Langtry Manor to see what
changes the Howards have made to their
business. Is the décor still firmly rooted in the
50s? Has the chef managed to develop a lesscomplicated
dinner menu? And have mother and
daughter managed to put aside their differences
in order to create an effective partnership?

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  • Hayden

    We stayed at the Langtry for a wedding there, one of our British friends were getting married and wanted a period setting. We loved it – really fab. No sign of avocado Jacuzzi. In actual the fact the Langtry had modernized its rooms while still keeping its Edwardian period feel.

    I watched the show recently and it bought back memories of my stay there. Though I was not impressed with Ruth Watson, has anybody decided to critique her awful dress sense. At least the daughter of the Langtry looked great.

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