Here is a brief history of the Cavendish Hotel for anyone who may be interested. Most of the research for this section of the website was done by Stanley W Lack, who was a Director of the hotel from 1972 until 1988.
1863: Building commenced on ‘The Towers’ and ‘Lupton’. ‘The Towers’ was the section on the seaward side of the building comprising the unusual feature of a square tower at the entrance and a round tower on the corner of the building. The square tower is in itself unusual as it has a 3-2-1 arrangement of windows with three on the top (attic) floor and only one on the first floor.
1866: The building was completed and occupied as private residences. These were substantial and extensive properties for occupation by ‘gentlemen’ of that time, but (presumably because of the long and narrow shape of the plot), no stables were provided on the site. However, there are documents in existence showing that a few years later stables in nearby Croft Road were rented by the residents.
1889: Both houses were under the ownership of Dr Richardson, who lived at ‘The Towers’ for many years. He was Mayor of Torquay at the time that Princess Pier was opened by the then Princess Royal.
1918: By a Deed of Gift Dr Richardson gave ‘The Towers’ to his married daughter, Mrs Ruth S Evans, but her husband was an army officer with a London address and the property was sold after a short time. Dr Richardson moved (perhaps retired) to Wrangaton, Near Ivybridge.
1924: First record of use as a hotel, then known as ‘Hotel Metropole’.
1930s: The first extension was built giving 27 additional bedrooms and a large lower-ground floor restaurant (now the ballroom). In 1975 an elderly long-serving postman reported that as a young man he had regularly visited the hotel to attend the roller skating sessions which were held each winter prior to 1939. These were obviously held in what is now the ballroom, which still has an extensive dance floor.
The extension was at the Scarborough Road end of the building and the ground floor had an additional glass-fronted room with a hatch that opened directly onto the pavement on the Belgrave Road/Scarborough road corner. From here ice creams and refreshments were sold during the summer months and it was here that the late Les Shambrook met his future wife, who worked at the ice cream parlour. Mr Shambrook lived at that time at the Chillingworth Hotel (now the Rainbow) and he subsequently ran a butcher’s shop in Lucius Street.
1939-46: Like most large hotels in the area, the building was taken over by the RAF as part of the Aircrew Training Centre. Towards the end of the period it was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a convalescent depot.
1947: Until this time there had been a ‘Hotel Cavendish’ next to the Rosetor Hotel on Chestnut Avenue. When the Cavendish owners sold out to their neighbours, who incorporated the Cavendish into the Rosetor, they were permitted to take the Cavendish name with them. They then purchased the Metropole and changed its name to the Cavendish Hotel, and it has kept that name to this day.
The Rosetor Hotel, which featured in an Alec Guinness film called ‘The Last Holiday’ in 1950, was demolished in 1979. The Riviera International Centre now stands on its site.
1964: A heated outdoor swimming pool measuring 40 feet by 20 (12m x 6m) was built in the garden. This was one of the first heated swimming pools in Torquay. It remains in more or less its original form to this day.
Late 1960s/early 1970s: At this time the hotel was approved by the AA and RAC as a 3-star hotel, but this was reduced due to the shortage on en-suite bathrooms. In 1972, when the Skinner and Lack families bought the hotel from Mr and Mrs Owen, there were 50 bedrooms of which only four were en suite and six had showers but no toilets.
1974: The building at the rear of the Cavendish, Greystoke Hotel (on Scarborough Road), which had been used as furnished flatlets for retired people, was purchased. The following year the two buildings were linked together by a small extension and extensive building work was undertaken to provide 10 excellent en-suite bedrooms and private living accommodation. One of the most valuable advantages gained was the extensive Greystoke car park, which was badly needed as until then the Cavendish car park was only big enough for six cars. The existing kitchens and restaurant at the Cavendish were fortunately big enough to cater for the extra 20 or so people accommodated in the extension.
1976: Following completion of the extension a Fire Certificate was granted to cover the whole building, but this was only obtained after considerable expense for a complete electrical re-wiring, new fire escapes and many new fire doors.
1986: A lift to all four floors was installed. From the early 1970s onwards coach parties began to replace individual ‘private’ guests as the core business of Torquay’s hotels, and the lift was installed to meet the new demographic’s needs.
1987: The hotel now had 58 bedrooms, 36 of which were en-suite and with colour TVs.
1992: The Ryder and Blagden families bought the hotel and, through the 1990s, continued to improve the hotel and strengthen the business. One major addition was the indoor swimming pool and sauna, which added year-round leisure facilities to the hotel. We also acquired the building adjacent to the Cavendish, which was the Bute House Hotel for many years before becoming an Indian restaurant (‘The Pearl of India’). These were great days to be in the tourism business in Torbay and we also ran the Crofton House Hotel in Croft Road at the same time.
1999/2000: The Rothesay Hotel, which was adjacent to the Cavendish on Scarborough Road, became available. We sold the Crofton House and bought the Rothesay, building a new reception area to link the two buildings and renovating extensively. We had at last outgrown the old restaurant and we opened a new dining area at garden level.
Since then we have continued to work hard and improve the hotel in an often difficult economic climate, and the Ryders and Blagdens still run the hotel as a family. We are constantly refurbishing and over the last few years have completely redecorated the ballroom, the bar and even built a fabulous decking area which overlooks our gardens. The Cavendish has a long and rich history and we are very proud to be a part of it.