Its undergone a few name changes in its time – and has been part of Richard Cattermole’s business empire for the past two decades – but now it has been sold to a London based hotel company, and it is hoping that this popular venue will be given the much needed investment it needs to help it survive into the 21st century.
In 1898 the railway came to Felixstowe and this had a most dramatic effect on the population of the town. In 1844 there were just five hundred residents, in 1891 this number had increased to three thousand five hundred, and just ten years later in 1901 it had nearly double again to six thousand.
Built by brewing magnate The Honourable Douglas Tollmache, the hotel was officially opened on the same day as the railway – 1st July 1898, the press promoting Felixstowe as having “the finest recuperative air of any watering place in England”.
The hotel was designed by local architect John Shewell Corder in a style called “Flemish Revival”. It was constructed of red brick with ancestor stone dressings and guntons terracotta parapets. The interior was in the Jacobean style. All the furniture was supplied by Shoolbred of Tottenham Court Road in London, and it was carpeted with the very best Axminster. The thirty-one bedrooms all had electric bells and speaking tubes. The hotel also had good stabling with stalls for twenty horses.
In 1966 the hotel was put up for sale and the council had secret plans to turn it into the Town Hall if no purchaser could be found. However it was sold to Mr. Charles McCoy who was an experienced hotelier and had already been involved with many good hotels in East Anglia. The hotel was closed down for a six month period whilst it was given a face lift.
In 1974 the Queens Moat House group purchased the hotel, and a year later it was franchised to Mr. Button. The franchise ended in 1992 but Mr. Button stayed as General Manager. The Moat House group sold the hotel in December 1995 due to a financial crisis within the group, and a local businessman, Mr. Gray, bought the hotel and kept it until August 2002 when it was sold to Richard Cattermole.
Mr Cattermole’s Ryan Elizabeth Holdings group, from which he also stood down as a director last month, has owned many hotels across East Anglia and beyond since it was established in the 1970s.
Three of the group’s companies, which owned 11 hotels and 13 pubs, went into administration in 2010 but the Orwell Hotel in Felxistowe was not among them.
Last year the Orwell was offered discreetly to the market by leisure property specialists Fleurets.
Bob Whittle, of Fleurets, said: “My brief was to seek and find a competent and experienced hotelier to take over the total operational running of the business in its entirety.
“Strong and varied interest in the business opportunity was expressed but I am delighted that Bloomsbury Realty Management has secured this substantial 68-bedroomed hotel and functions business and I wish the company much future success.”
Bloomsbury Realty Management specialises in operating hotels and wedding venues and has a portfolio of four hospitality businesses, three hotels in central London and a country house wedding venue in south London.
The company has its own online reservations network and receives circa 1.8 million visitors per year and 50,000 room nights per annum.
Gajan Suresh Rajasekaran, operations director for the company, said: “We are delighted to add the Orwell Hotel to our growing portfolio.
“The Orwell Hotel has been long established in Felixstowe. It is ideally located and we believe it has great potential.”
Although it has an impressive past – the hotel has been allowed to become run down over the years with very little investment being put into it. It is brilliantly located and is used by many groups and societies for a variety of functions. Let’s hope the new investors are true to their word and do see it as a worthy investment rather than an opportunity for a bit of asset stripping or land development.