The Langstone Cliff Hotel has been owned and managed by the Rogers Family
since 1946 these pages are adapted from a small brochure (available
for download here) written by Geoffrey Rogers the senior partner at the
hotel and which was published in 1997 as part of the 50th Year of trading
The Rogers Family and their staff are delighted to have arrived at this very significant landmark and look forward to sharing many memories and some very happy times with you during the course of 1997, our fiftieth anniversary year.
We consider ourselves exceptionally privileged to have been able to offer a service to the local community, to have played host to countless family holidays and to have welcomed so many wonderful guests through the doors, many of whom have become personal friends.
We are exceptionally grateful to you all for your amazing support and loyalty.
"Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire"
In May 1946 this could have been a particularly apt maxim for Stanley and Marjorie Rogers. They were, at the time, running a fish and chip shop in Exeter. Stanley went to Dawlish supposedly to view a furniture auction, for no particular reason. In the event, he had turned up a day too early and the property, rather than the effects was being auctioned. He returned to Marjorie, frying for the lunchtime rush, to tell her he had bought Langstone Cliff House at Dawlish Warren - neither of them had previously heard of or seen the property, neither of them had ever contemplated running a hotel! But perhaps at £4,500.00 he had an eye for a bargain!
Not that this was an insignificant amount in 1946. They returned the next day to attend the furniture auction in the hopes of furnishing their new acquisition. Needless to say, as this had been rather a "grand home" there were some beautiful pieces including carpets, chandeliers and tapestries that had been commissioned for the house. But fate was not on their side on this particular day.
Marjorie slipped as she entered the front door on the mosaic flooring, broke her arm and had to be taken to hospital by Stanley. Hence they missed the auction and became the proud owners of a large threadbare house. This minor catastrophe meant that for many months Stanley scoured local auction houses and private sales, sourcing suitable furniture for the property; new was beyond their financial constraints and in any case not easily available in 1946. Just under a year later, 30th March 1947, the Langstone Cliff Hotel welcomed its first guest. Geoff was seven years old, Gilly just born! It was certainly a baptism of fire for Stanley and Marjorie in those austere times immediately after the Second World War,
- but it did take them out of the frying pan!
And here we are 50 years later! Stanley and Marjorie both died in 1970 but Geoff and Gilly are still partners here at the Langstone, together with Gerry and Mark. For the uninitiated, the curious and the forgetful, the simple Family Tree may be helpful
The deeds of the Langstone Cliff Hotel were lost in the blitz of Exeter during the Second World War and consequently no accurate details of the history are easily available. Nonetheless "snippets" emerge now and then from a variety of sources. It was believed to have been built originally around the late 1700s and there is a painting, at present in the Lincoln Bar, showing the house in the background, dating from about that time. The American styled Verandah was added in the 1900-1910 region we believe, and is virtually as we found it!Prior to the Rogers Family arrival and the conversion to a hotel the house was the home of Mr & Mrs Avant-Washington - she was formerly a Mrs Washington who was related to the family descended from George Washington, first President of America. It is this Lady's portrait that hangs in the Washington Suite foyer and of course the reason the suite was so named. By amazing coincidence rather than design the Washington Ballroom was opened on the 4th July 1976 which was the bicentenary of American Independence, a very appropriate day considering our tenuous American connection.
But let's try some sort of chronological presentation - with the odd deviation perhaps!
APRIL 1946 - Purchase of the Langstone Cliff House by Stanley and Marjorie Rogers.
1947 - Hotel opens with 12 guest bedrooms. Needless to say none of your current hosts can lay claim to being of any assistance whatsoever in those early days. Neither of my parents had any catering experience beyond the fish and chip business, but both had worked for World Stores (a sort of Sainsbury predecessor) during the war years and this proved invaluable for "connections" in obtaining luxury and semi-luxury foods when rationing was still prevalent.
Not that we were serving Beluga Caviar or even smoked salmon - but tinned peaches, ham and even butter were considered luxuries of the time. Indeed tinned fruit salad and Devonshire cream (or Ideal milk!) was the Sunday Lunch sweet for many a year.
Mother was an excellent "family" style cook and Father the front-of-house character with a fund of stories that seemed never ending. There was a round table in the hail - where Reception is now - where he would regularly hold court after dinner into the small hours with his endless jokes - after this the survivors would adjourn to the minute windowless office to play cards until the even smaller hours. But I am beginning to ramble - back to the script.
1958 - Business must have been booming at this time as Sandygate was purchased for use as an annexe. Sandygate was a large family house situated on the corner site of Beach Road and Warren Road, opposite what is now the Welcome Inn.
It was divided into two large flats and was in a somewhat run down condition. However we redecorated throughout, put the absolutely essential "hot and cold running water" in all rooms and let it as annexed accommodation only, all meals taken in the hotel.
Although the five hundred yard walk did not make it ideal, the business continued to thrive and Sandygate was regularly full up during the high season months. At its peak we were offering 10 letting bedrooms and accommodation for one division of the family or another.
APRIL 1962 - Opening of the Lincoln Restaurant on the occasion of my parent's Silver Wedding. That same winter a further 22 bedrooms were added - more than doubling the size of the hotel. By this time Gerry and I had married and were both fully involved in the business with my parents beginning to take a back seat - not that Father was ever going to release the purse strings!
1963 - The 1962 extensions rolled on into 1963 with the addition of the Garden Room (Table Tennis room to most of you!) and the Sun Lounge - later to become the Coffee Shop and now the Poolside Room. The addition of all this extra accommodation significantly reduced the demand for annexed accommodation and Sandygate reverted to staff and family accommodation.
Ah! Sweet Memories!
1963 (or maybe '64!) - The Outdoor Pool and the Tennis Court were added. The Pool in particular proved an enormous attraction for both children and adults. The children enjoyed all the usual water pursuits during the day and the adults enjoyed even more all the less usual water pursuits by night! Midnight swimming after the regular hotel dances became almost compulsory - and certainly legendary.
1970 - Stanley died in January and Marjorie in June. The end of an era - and the beginning of a new one.
There is a selection of additional Images from the early years at the Langstone Cliff Hotel available in our Historic Images Gallery available by Clicking Here