Blackpool family’s ‘nightmare’ after fearing their hotels would never re-open – but now fortunes have changed

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The Seddons bought their first hotel in the seaside town back in 1969 but lockdown threw their future into doubt

 

Family firm: Nigel Seddon, Irene Seddon and Liz Brown (left to right)
Family firm: Nigel Seddon, Irene Seddon and Liz Brown (left to right) (Image: LancsLive)

A family who have owned hotels in Blackpool for more than half a century have spoken out about the devastating impact of lockdown on their business as they unveiled a £400k investment.

Bookmaker John Seddon and his wife Irene made the move from Manchester to Blackpool at the height of the resort’s hey day back in the late 1960s when they bought the Elgin Hotel in Queen’s Promenade.

Their two children, Liz and Nigel, took on roles in the hotel from an early age, working as a chambermaid and a kitchen porter, with a view to taking over the business.

In an interview back in 2019 Irene revealed the big move had been a risky one.

“With very little hospitality experience, it was a real challenge for the whole family and we were often left wondering whether we’d made the right decision to up sticks and leave our lovely life in Manchester,” she said at the time.

Youngsters: Liz and Nigel Young
Youngsters: Liz and Nigel Young (Image: Submitted)

“When we took over the hotel, there were 55 bedrooms but only two shared bathrooms and 10 toilets. It is strange to imagine this was once ‘the norm’, whereas nowadays, an en-suite bathroom in a hotel is hardly considered a luxury.”

In the early 1980s after completing his Hotel Management studies at Strathclyde University, Nigel joined the business and began to take over the day-to-day running and management of the hotel.

In 2015 the family bought the Sheraton Hotel, also in Queen’s Promenade, which had been in the ownership of the McPhee family for 50 years and this week the Seddons unveiled their latest investment at the Sheraton – a £400,000 new swimming pool and jacuzzi.

To mark the completion of the work, which started at the beginning of lockdown last year, Olympic diver Hugo Ordoñez and Blackpool-born World Record marathon swimmer Dr Julie Bradshaw MBE took part in an unusual publicity event which featured a re-enactment of Peter Kay’s pool bombing advert for John Smith’s.

Professional swimming coach Hamilton Bland from Lancashire, whose voiceover featured in the original John Smith’s advert and who has commentated on every aquatic event over 23 years for the BBC, also attended this week’s opening of the new pool.

During the iconic ad Kay’s character opts for a bomb into the pool after seeing his rivals perform breath-taking dives, with Bland commenting “top bombing” as the judges return perfect scores.

Although she is now retired Irene Seddon attended the event, flanked by her two children, with Liz now the managing director of the Sheraton. Guests from both the Sheraton and the Elgin will be able to use the new facilities with staff having access before 7.30am each day.

Nostalgia: The original team at the Elgin
Nostalgia: The original team at the Elgin (Image: Submitted)

Liz spoke to LancsLive about the history of her family’s hotel enterprise, which now employs around 135 people.

“We moved in 1969 when mum and dad bought the Elgin; dad was a bookmaker in Manchester,” Liz said.

“Right from the start our ethos was that we wanted to be the best family-run hotel in Blackpool.

“We lived in the hotel; it was fun. It taught us all about customer service and we started working in the hotel from the age of about 13.”

Last January the two hotels were forced to close when lockdown was imposed just before work had started on the Sheraton’s new pool.

“On March 19 we asked them to down tools,” Liz said. “We didn’t know if we were ever going to be able to re-open again. It was a nightmare. We were closed for 11 months.

Impressive: The Sheraton Hotel
Impressive: The Sheraton Hotel (Image: Submitted)

“It was costing us so much to be closed because of course we still had to have insurance and everything else in place. We had no idea what was going to happen in the future.”

Fortunately the vast majority – 95 per cent, of guests who had booked future stays agreed to leave their deposits in place for when lockdown was eased, allowing the family to continue the investment.

Their popularity with visitors has also allowed the Elgin and Sheraton to be among the top 10-rated hotels in Blackpool, coming in at number seven and number nine respectively.

“Since lockdown stopped we have had a huge occupancy rate,” Liz added.

“Because people are choosing a staycation over foreign holidays we’ve seen a big increase in bookings. Our guests are very loyal and we really do appreciate their support.”