The History of BEST WESTERN Reigate Manor
The Early Years
Reigate Manor Hotel began life as a very substantial family house called The Brokes built, it is thought, in 1780. The house had a large estate fronting the London Road stretching from what is now Beech Road down to what is now Brokes Road, neither of which roads existed in those far off days.
In 1890 the estate was significantly increased by the acquisition of a large parcel of land fronting the south side of upper Beech Road.
When The Brokes was put up for sale by the Woolley family in 1920, the estate was described as having “long and valuable frontages to Reigate Hill and Beech Road, portions of which would be immediately available for the erection of houses of a good class.”
Dame Rebecca Inglis, a wealthy lady living in a large house in Beech Road, did not want “houses of a good class” spoiling her view to the south so in December 1922 she purchased the entire Brokes estate. She hived off for herself the land which fronted Beech Road and then in September 1923 put the house, with its smaller grounds, back on the market. Unlike most local house sales of the time The Brokes was offered with the option that the house could be used as a school, club or hotel.
The years as a hotel
The Brokes was successfully sold and by May 1924 was operating as Brokes Hotel. The hotel placed a small advertisement in the personal columns of the Times on 1st May 1924:
“THE BROKES HOTEL, REIGATE HILL Luncheons, Teas and Dinners Telephone: Reigate 502”
The Second World War
During the Second World War (April 1941) the hotel was requisitioned by the War Department to house troops of the newly formed South East Command. At the time of the requisition the hotel was in good working order with no more than normal wear and tear in evidence and it was agreed that the owner’s personal chattels in the hotel would be moved into the Ball Room which was to be be kept locked at all times.
Reigate Hill Hotel was de-requisitioned in December 1944. By then the building was in very poor condition and the contents were largely missing, damaged or destroyed. Frost, snow and burst pipes had caused the roof of the Ball Room to collapse and the owner’s chattels were beyond repair. The wrangle over compensation went on for months before an offer of £1,794 was made by the War Department. This was considerably less than Major Gordon, the owner, was expecting and it was not paid until January 1946.
South East Command had 5 different commanders during its short existence between February 1941 and November 1944):
February 1941 – November 1941 Lt. General Sir Bernard Paget.
December 1941 – August 1942 Lt. General Sir Bernard Montgomery.
August 1942 – March 1944 Lt. General Sir John Swayne.
March 1944 – September 1944 Lt. General Sir Edmond Schreiber.
September 1944 – November 1944 Lt. General Eric Miles.
Montgomery was the commander of South East Command based in Reigate for only 8 months but because of his subsequent hugely successful and significant campaign at El Alamein in Egypt he became something of a national celebrity. This celebrity was retrospectively applied to his time in Reigate. As a result almost every house that was part of the anti-invasion headquarters on Reigate Hill claimed him as a resident. He and the other 4 commanders were actually based in Underbeeches in Underhill Park Road although he would undoubtedly have dined in the messes of every headquarters house. One of those messes was in the hotel which was almost certainly occupied by troops of 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade.
The Hotel since the Second World War
On May 30th 1946 Major Gordon sold the hotel for £30,000 to Mr. J. Brand. It is thought that the significant purchase price was more to do with the development value of the estate than the value of the hotel. It was during Brand’s short period of ownership that,, in November 1946, the notorious ‘Chalk Pit Murder’ took place. The victim was the hotel’s barman John McMain Mudie, and although the murder had nothing to do with Brand or the hotel it clearly adversely affected the hotel’s post-war recovery.
In 1947 Brand sold the hotel to Miss Margaret Park. She and her sister were great friends with the Campbell family of world speed records fame. Sir Malcolm Campbell, the holder of thirteen land and water speed records, died in Reigate after a series of strokes in 1948 and his son Donald vowed to pick up his father’s mantle. He engaged Leo Villa, his father’s mechanic, to help him mount an attack on the world water speed record and they decided to use his father’s old boat Bluebird K4 which had originally been developed and tested on Tilgate Lake in Crawley. Margaret Park agreed to rent the hotel garage to them and this is where Leo Villa prepared the boat for the record attempt. Donald and his first wife Daphne lived for a time in the hotel during 1949 while preparations got underway.
The record attempt took place on Coniston Water in the Lake District in 1951, but it almost ended in disaster after a structural failure at 170 mph. Despite this inauspicious start, Donald went on to set seven world water speed records between 1955 and 1964. He also broke the world land speed record and was the only man in history to hold both land and water records in the same year. Donald died during another water speed record attempt on Coniston Water in January 1967.
Margaret Park and her sister owned Reigate Hill Hotel until 1972 when they sold it to Wayside Inns Limited who changed the name to Wayside Manor. Two years later Wayside Inns Limited went into receivership.
In 1974 the hotel was sold to John Coyne, who lived at Underbeeches in Underhill Park Road. He changed the name of the hotel to Reigate Manor Hotel. Coyne sold the hotel to Raymond Terence ‘Terry’ Marsh and his company Finbar Limited in 1977 and Graeme Attridge became a director of Reigate Manor Limited.
In 1999 the hotel was sold to its current owner CQK Limited but the name remains Reigate Manor Hotel. Graeme Attridge remained in charge until 17th October 2012, since which time Giles Thomas has taken over the reins of the hotel.