Upshot of Bagshot sale
Heartbreaking for brothers and former owners
Heartbreaking. That is how former owner of the Bagshot House Hotel, Edward Robinson, 73, has described the decision to sell the 16-bedroom property. Bagshot House, which was initially operated by Robinson’s mother Eileen, was one of the few famous guest houses on the South Coast during the 1950s and 1960s.
It was where Robinson and his brother Allan got their training, prior to taking up full-time jobs within the tourism industry.
And in a recent interview with Barbados TODAY, Robinson spoke of the operations during its early years as he recalled the attachment he had with Bagshot.
“It was pretty heartbreaking for me and my brothers to give it up. We were all sort of born and raised in this area, right at this hotel,” said Robinson. “In its day, Bagshot was a world-famous hotel. It was famous in Britain and parts of Canada. People knew Bagshot and in those days it was one of the few hotels around.
“So it was iconic in the sense that it was a small family operation that grew. My mother Eileen Robinson was the driving force behind it. She was an extraordinary woman. So I don’t know what will happen to it.
“These things happen; properties change hands. This happens all the time,” said Robinson.
It was when his mother passed away in 2002 that Robinson and his brother Allan took over ownership of the hotel. Over the years, other people would also run the operations there when the brothers decided to take up job offers elsewhere.
“Allan and I worked for Hilton International hotels and became general managers of Hilton International hotels in different parts of the world –– probably the only two brothers to become general managers for Hilton International, which was at that time the finest hotel chain in the world.
“Two young Barbadians did that. And that was through my mother’s Eileen’s influence,” said Robinson, who is based in Toronto.
“My bother Allan is based in Caracas, Venezuela. My eldest brother John is also in Toronto. He did not go the hotel route. He went into investment. But it is certainly a wrench to leave that property,” said Robinson.
He said the main reason the brothers decided to sell the property was because none of them lived in Barbados any more and they were all at the age of retirement when their mother died. Additionally, Robinson said, the hotel was falling into disrepair, and it got to the stage “several years ago” where it was too costly to maintain in order to lease it out and make a profit.
During its years of operation, the Bagshot House Hotel would provide jobs for between 15 and 17 “loyal employees”, some of whom, said Robinson, worked there for between 17 and 50 years.
Recalling the days when the hotel was doing very good business, Robinson said his mother would ensure she maintained the highest standards in the industry and she would “extensively” train her staff to ensure those standards were upheld.
Robinson said the name Bagshot was given to the first building erected on the first portion of land purchased.
“We don’t know who gave it the name; but the house itself was about 150 years old. Long story short, my mother took that house and turned it into a guest house, and her first guests were the young men who were sent out from England to man the cable station here, which was in those days in The Gap,” recalled Robinson.
“There was a steady stream of these young British and Scottish young men being sent down here to man that station, and that is where they stayed. The company desperately needed accommodation and three meals a day for these hungry young men. So that is how it started.
“And then in the early 1950s my mother knew she had to expand. She went looking for a bank for finance, but no bank would give her any money. Finally, she met a man from Barclays Bank who was passionate and believed in her and the story that she could take the loan and pay it back. So the old Bagshot was demolished and in its place rose the existing building, which is Bagshot House,” Robinson.
“Bagshot was completed in 1955 just in time for [Hurricane] Janet to come and take the entire roof off and do it tremendous damage. Fortunately, it was insured, and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it was rebuilt. The rest is history.
“My mother ran one of the most successful hotels at that time. She had an extraordinary reputation for hospitality and good food, and many famous people stayed there. One of them was [Lieutenant Commander] Nicholas Monsarrat, the world famous novelist at that time. He would come every year.
“Another author who stayed there many years was Herman Wouk –– and a lot of other authors. So it became a well known place. People sought out her establishment and lined up to get in,” said Robinson.
His mother was also a founding member of the then Barbados Hotel Association. Robinson told Barbados TODAY that at the time “there was little belief in tourism as an industry, simply because sugar was still the king –– and rum”.
“However, as we know today, tourism is probably the only industry Barbados has to rely on,” he said.
Robinson, who is an avid golfer, is married and has four children and five grandchildren. Asked if he was looking for new investments in Barbados, Robinson said “not at the moment”.
“I think we will just come next time and rent a place probably for a month or two, and study the situation. We don’t want to rush into anything now that doesn’t make sense,” he said. “The minute they [the new owners] finish whatever they are doing there, I will try to buy it back. I am only joking,” he added through bouts of laughter.
“We [my wife and I] live in Toronto. My old body can’t stand the cold in winter any more, so we try to get away during the winter and spend a few months here and there.
“We always come here; I love the beach when they clean it. It is a lovely beach. We know the people here and it is within walking distance to restaurants and supermarkets,” added Robinson.