When former Bishop of Selby Martin Wallace decided to retire to Bridlington, he had no idea that living on the site of the magnificent dining room of the old Alexandra Hotel would take him on such a fascinating adventure into the past.
After spotting a historic aerial photograph of “The Alex” in the Bull and Sun pub on Baylegate, he slowly began to collect pictures, stories and hidden facts about the amazing variety of people associated with that great iconic hotel.
Martin says, “After a while, I began to think that I’d got so much material, maybe there’s a book here? If I don’t record all this properly, it could be lost forever.”
So in 2019 he published “THE ALEX – THE STORY OF THE ALEXANDRA HOTEL BRIDLINGTON.”
Bizarre tales about guests gripped readers, like one from 1934, when John Haigh, the notorious Acid Bath Murderer, went on to rob and kill eight people and drink their blood!
There’s a link to the royal scandal featuring The Prince of Wales, later Edward the Seventh, who was forced to give evidence in court about his part in an illegal gambling party, where accusations of cheating and huge sums of money were involved.
In the 1920s, owner Percy Newbound expanded the hotel and had grandiose plans for even more rooms. However, when his nearby theatre, the Floral Hall, was destroyed by fire he left town having spent his wealthy wife’s money. He is last seen in London inventing a very complicated electric manicure machine.
Stories about the staff included the maid who spat in the food before serving it, the couple who stole from the till and eloped, and the chef who met God and became a Pentecostal minister.
Literally hundreds of people came forward with personal memories of seaside romances, meals, receptions and parties. Many spoke fondly of Johnny the cocktail waiter who won national competitions, the austere receptionist Miss Sharpe, the pop groups and the speedy removal of their noisy “groupies.”
Martin’s book quickly received a warm reception and sold well. He says, “I thought that was the end of it. But a surprise email arrived from members of the Tiffany family who had owned the hotel in the 1960s. They drove over from West Yorkshire and shared a huge amount of material, bringing new and unique anecdotes about the many famous pop groups like The Rolling Stones and leading comedians Morecambe and Wise who stayed there.”
The former owners described to Martin the sheer hard work involved in running such a huge hotel, sometimes with two large wedding receptions at the same time – one in the ballroom and one in the dining room.
Meanwhile, stories about the hotel during the Second World War, and brochures outlining packed programmes of events, all poured in filling in gaps in the story. Even hotel “souvenirs” like silver plated embossed hotel cutlery came his way. Martin explains, “I simply asked no questions!”
So during “lockdown” Martin decided to embark on a much enlarged Second Edition of “THE ALEX,” which now runs to 300 pages and 150 pictures. It is available from Lodge Books in South Back Lane in The Old Town, and online from Lulu Publishers and Amazon etc. It is a delightful romp through the years and as with the First Edition, all proceeds go to the work of Emmanuel Church among the homeless in town.
But then he went even further and produced a wonderfully enjoyable video complete with big band music of the era and sound effects. Available on YouTube it is half an hour of pure joy.
Martin describes the video saying, “As well as introducing us to a magnificent gallery of characters, we explore the fun of guests being able to book bathing machines and watch lifeboats launched from their bedrooms. We see how the hotel came to be designed and built in 1866 right through to the disastrous fire and final demolition in 1976.”
“I hope folk simply enjoy both the book and the video,” Martin concludes. “They are offered as warm tributes to the generous hospitality which makes Bridlington such a fantastic place to be!”
To view an excellent video on The Alex: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=J04DY3zFHl0