Chapter 12 Momentous Change
As I drove the 25 miles to my home I was considering my options, I couldn't live on the profits from the hotel as it was too small, so I thought OK I will get a bigger one.
That afternoon I visited the estate agents and was informed there was a very large ex girl’s school for sale in the town, I considered the fact that it was at the top of the hill and away from the seafront, and so I inquired if there was anything else.
The agent said “I haven’t done the paperwork yet but you can go and have a look at the old Cairo Hotel”, this was the Hotel that was next to the one where I lived when I first came to Weston-super-Mare, it had not been used as a Hotel for the last twelve years but it had not been vandalized because the owner was still living there.
It was actually being sold by the bank, who had repossessed it, and was on the flat, 50m from the seafront, had 46 bedrooms a ballroom and a huge dining room with a garage for about 30 cars, and part of the deal was the freehold of the property next door which used to be part of the Hotel, this consisted of 25 apartments that had been sold off leasehold some ten years earlier.
I went back to the agents put the Wychwood Hotel on the market at a slightly reduced price, and arranged with him to put in a provisional offer to the bank, then went back to speak with the current owner and arranged with him that he would tell everybody else that was interested “Sorry it is already sold”, in exchange I would give him 200 pounds for the carpets and curtains.
We managed to keep this deception going until eventually I had sold my hotel and bought the old Cairo Hotel and the adjacent freeholds for just a few thousand pounds more than I got for the Wychwood.
Most members of my family told me I was completely crazy, but I could see the potential and I knew my capabilities with regard to doing the repairs, there are two philosophies to maintaining an hotel, you can do everything yourself, or you can sit back and pay trades people to do everything for you, I chose the former.
The completion date for the purchase was June the 6th 1977 and by July we were having our first customers in the best rooms, I had to apply for planning permission to put up signs with the hotels new name, I had chosen to call it Chairman’s Choice because in some of my social circles I was known as the chairman, and it fitted in with the stained glass windows which had a CH motive.
I wanted an illuminated sign over the front door, a roof sign, a logo painted on the lift shaft and some flagpoles along the front of the gardens, so I applied for planning permission, initially they rejected all of these saying “ too much like a circus”, eventually I got permission just to put the illuminated sign over the front door. I had fun and games when I first tried to turn the water back on, the hotel was on five floors so I had to turn the water on slowly and fix the leaks on each floor, proceeding up through the building, the leaks were caused by the pipes having frozen and burst where the water had not drained properly.
The previous owner had been desperately short of money even to the extent of putting a ladder up to cut off the few inches of lead on the numerous overflow pipes, his was a riches to rags tale as this hotel used to be the biggest in Weston-super-Mare and was one of five similar hotels they had throughout the country, these were all run by his mother who was the real businesswoman, after I bought the hotel he got a job clearing tables at a local café and finally committed suicide.
Many of the rooms had been fitted as kitchens and I had to remove some twenty sinkunits and replace them with wash basins, modifying the plumbing and electrics to turn these rooms back into bedrooms.
I sold the Wychwood as a going concern and I moved our private furniture on the roof rack of the Austin Allegro I was using as a private car at that time, Hazel and her daughter Anna came with me to the new hotel, I visited the local salerooms every week and I never bought any new furniture, I went to the furniture sale at the royal hotel in Bristol and bought masses of carpet, and eight dressing tables to name a few items.
The local scrap yard had a caravan chassis so I acquired this and converted it into a trailer, I needed it to be half the width and half the length so I cut it up and welded it back together, it did us sterling service for many years.
My knee-------in 1977 just after I bought the chairman’s choice I suffered a strange complaint which caused my left knee to swell to two or three times its normal size, I was bedridden for about ten days and the doctors said that I had Rieters disease, which I had never heard of: fortunately it came and went never to be seen again, the strange thing was that doctor gave me some pills which had a very peculiar effect on my nervous system I could lie in bed and not move at all with no effect but the slightest movement of any part of my body caused a ripple effect where every nerve was activated, very strange, the doctor said I should stop taking those pills.
Dear Reader Do you think I was crazy to take on such a task? Please leave a comment.