As the Coronavirus outbreak spirals, Best Western Great Britain is proud to be taking steps to support the national effort.
While remaining open for business first and foremost, Best Western Great Britain is exploring the possibility of temporarily using certain sites as dedicated centres for additional bed space, to help those worst affected.
“If we can partner with other companies to provide the right medical equipment and supplies, and we can do it safely, then we would be willing to start having those conversations immediately,” CEO Rob Paterson explained.
Find out how we can help
A history of helping out
While the focus remains on our guests, and we’re very much open for business, our message from now is “whatever we can do to help”.
It might surprise you to know that – while these are unprecedented times – this isn’t actually the first time we’ve made such a gesture.
For a time in their history, several of our hotel sites have been used as hospitals to treat the sick and wounded. From those turned into makeshift hospitals during the world wars, to a king-size guest room that once packed in five hospital beds, each has a surprising story to tell.
One thing they all have in common is bringing communities together in their hour of need. Here, we uncover the fascinating crisis-time histories of five of our hotels…
On the front line
The strategic importance of Portsmouth’s naval base meant it was in the thick of the action during two world wars, deploying troops to the front line and receiving back many of the casualties.
The Royal Beach Mansions Hotel, now Best Western Royal Beach Hotel, did its bit for the cause. In the First World War it was used as a service hospital for officers injured in France. Then, during the Second World War, it leapt into action once again, becoming a Red Cross casualty clearing station and lookout post for the Royal Observer Corps to keep watch for the Luftwaffe. It was later taken over by local government when their Guildhall headquarters were destroyed in a bombing raid.
Amazingly, despite being one of the most prominent buildings in Portsmouth, the hotel managed to escape both wars unscathed.
Volunteer heroes and heroines
Originally a private manor house with museum and gallery, the site on which Best Western Plus Ullesthorpe Court Hotel now stands also became a makeshift hospital in both world wars. A plaque inside the hotel, near Lutterworth, serves as a reminder of its past as a treatment centre during the First World War.
Between 1915 and 1918 the new wing, museum and gallery were converted into wards and an auxiliary hospital was set up to care for 20 sick and wounded soldiers. The owners, the Goodacres, and one nursing sister relied on men and women from the surrounding village to undertake voluntary duties to help them run the hospital.
The building was requisitioned again during the Second World War as a hospital for American servicemen, and hutted military barracks were assembled in the field opposite.
Before becoming a hotel in 1979, Best Western Leigh Park Country House Hotel was Bradford-on-Avon’s district hospital. And it didn’t always feel as spacious as it does now.
The hotel’s general manager Pamela Duckett, who’s lived in the area all her life, recalls a time when there were five hospital beds crammed into the space that is now the king-size Room 36.
“I came here many times,” she says. “I remember visiting my grandmother in 1970 after she’d suffered a stroke. She spent nine months here. Her old ward is now our Room 36. There were five other patients stuffed in beside her. It was pretty cramped.”
Function room with a difference
It’s been a hotel since 1988, but the site in Cheshire on which Best Western Frodsham Forest Hills Hotel stands has been used as a business premises for more than 100 years, including as a coffee shop and entertainment venue.
During the Second World War, business ceased while the building was taken over by the Ministry of Defence. A room that is currently used for functions was transformed into a temporary hospital to treat wounded military personnel. In 1947 the site was returned to the owners who further developed its catering and entertainment facilities, ultimately leading to its status as a hotel today.
Captured on camera
Dating back to the 12th century, Best Western Walworth Castle Hotel near Darlington has a long and rich history. During the Second World War, it was requisitioned by the Durham Light Infantry to use as a military headquarters and prisoner of war camp for 200 men including high-ranking German and Italian officers.
In these photographs, taken in September 1943, you can see members of the 144th Field Ambulance of the Durham Light Infantry sitting outside Walworth Castle.