You are now sitting in the former reception and lounge of the Rathleigh Hotel,until the late 1960s, Woolacombe’s third largest (after the Woolacombe Bay and
Watersmeet), and still unlicensed for the sale of alcohol, which was not unusual in those far-off days!
The 1939 AA Hotel Handbook tells us that there were then 32 bedrooms some with ‘hot & cold running water’.
A Double Room & Breakfast was 11/- to 16/- (55p – 80p) per day,
Breakfast 2/- to 2/6 (10p -12.5p), Lunch Cold 2/6 (12.5p), Lunch Hot 3/6 (17.5p) and High Tea 2/6 – 3/6 (12.5p -17.5p).
Inclusive weekly terms: £3/3/0 to £6/6/0 (£3.15 - £6.30)!
Then came the Second World War, and the hotel was one of many taken over by evacuees under ‘Operation Piper’.
The Rathleigh became the home for High Trees School from Horley, Surrey, which was moved in ‘lock stock and barrel’ according to Mrs Jo Coley, one of the pupils.
She has produced a charming booklet recounting the story, which is available from Barricane books and features a period photograph of ‘The Rathleigh’ on the front cover.
It tells of ‘Wartime Woolacombe’ – of travelling from Waterloo to Mortehoe Station, and of sleeping on the top floor of the hotel under the charge of the dreaded Miss Young, or ‘Pung’ as she was affectionately (?) known; of daily High Tea of beans (always beans), before ‘listening to Mr Churchill on the wireless, and then bedtime’ and many such tales.
Peacetime came and the hotel was then run by the charming Kelly family – the indomitable Mrs Kelly Senior and her two gentleman sons, Reg (front of house) and Bill (kitchens).
A vintage Holiday Guide advises that for ‘six to eleven guineas per week’, the 1950s holiday maker could enjoy Full Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon Tea & Dinner, with ‘farm produce and Devonshire Cream served daily’. Other enticements were ‘spring interior mattresses, H & C and electric fires in all rooms, and separate (Dining room) tables’.
Reg, who was often described as an ‘Eric Morecombe lookalike’, enjoyed an occasional ‘half’ at the Woolacombe Bay Saloon Bar, but Bill was more robust, putting on the vegetables for lunch and slipping down the back lane to the ‘Bay – Public Bar this time, where he could sink four pints before returning to ‘strain the veg’.
So, life continued peacefully and virtually unchanged throughout the nineteen fifties, sixties and early seventies. Then Reg and Bill retired and the hotel changed hands.
There followed considerable redevelopment, including a new pub – The Woolpack with ‘Cabana’ Discotheque adjoining.
The discotheque, although successful, was short lived, but the pub remained in its next incarnation as ‘The Golden Hind’ and now as The Tides Inn