Industrial Heritage Comparison
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Newcastle upon Tyne to attend a wedding. On the day afterwards, we met with friends for lunch at The Bowes Incline Hotel because it is has a prominent location and is associated with the preserved Bowes Railway. I would heartily recommend the restaurant.
The area around the hotel was known for many years on tourist signs as Catherine Cookson Country because of her connections with South Tyneside. This has now been abandoned because her books are thought to portray the North East as a poor area. It is understandable that the local authorities and tourist board would want to promote the most positive image possible of their region.
It would be tempting to think that linking a hotel to industrial archaeology on Tyneside might have a negative effect but it seems that the record of engineering achievement in the area is seen as something to celebrate whatever the current state of the economy. One only has to look at the success of The Beamish Museum to see that this is the case.
Interestingly, the large house where the museum started has become the successful Beamish Hall Hotel.
The present museum is dedicated to conserving the fabric of industrial society in the North East by rescuing machinery, houses, commercial premises and other structures. Many entire buildings have been saved for posterity, being moved brick by brick from surrounding towns and villages into the beautiful parkland in which the museum is set. I see that the museum is now promoting its facilities for hospitality as a means of generating more income.
I think you may guess that, as an engineer, I am rather fond of Beamish. I particularly enjoy being there in the old buildings, experiencing the sounds and smells, imagining life in days gone by which is so easily evoked even in buildings which have been relocated. But at least they have retained their original functions, be it a railway station, a Coop shop or a bandstand.
Getting back to The Bowes Incline Hotel, it is named after one of the most successful rope hauled railways in the country and according to this webpage sponsored by Northumbria University is the "world's only operational preserved standard gauge rope hauled railway". The hotel is not actually part of the railway but it is very close and anyone wanting to see this piece of industrial history would find the establishment to be an ideal place to stay or have a meal afterwards.
However, it was very apparent when our party arrived at the hotel that it is not only frequented by industrial archaeologists but is also a very popular pub and restaurant. Furthermore, as you will see from their website, the hotel offers accommodation. It is, in fact, a proper hotel. And one that trades on its location, being seen by many from the nearby main road, and its history.
So, what conclusions can we draw for Lyme Regis and The Three Cups Hotel? First of all Lyme Regis has no need to be ashamed of its literary history. I can only think that the associations which the town has with Tolkien, Chesterton, Austen, Tennyson, Longfellow etc should be celebrated and promoted to bring visitors to the area. Most of these associations are concentrated in the location and actual fabric of The Three Cups Hotel. Wouldn't it be a great boon to the town and West Dorset if tourists could visit and stay at this fascinating building?
I'm sure that many visitors would be attracted by the history and literary connections and that would make it well known. Reviews and word of mouth recommendations would attract more business once it is re-opened as a going concern. And, of course, it has its prominent location on the main street in the centre of the town. The Three Cups Certainly has a lot of potential AS A HOTEL and a tourist attraction in itself.
It is worth noting that The Bowes Railway is owned by two local authorities but run by a registered charity so that it can be saved for the nation. In the case of The Three Cups Hotel, this would not be necessary because West Dorset District Council could AND SHOULD use its power of compulsory purchase to buy the building and sell it on the same day (at a small profit) to one of the many hoteliers who want to own and run the business.
Just a word of warning. There is a sad chapter in the story of the Bowes Railway. If you read the Wikipedia page, you will see that the railway suffered a great loss in 2008 when thieves broke up and stole one of the stationary engines. From the point of view of engineering history, this ripped the heart out of the railway. The equivalent asset in The Three Cups Hotel would be the interiors, especially the common areas of the foyer, lounges, bar and restaurant. These are places where visitors of the future should be able to sit and imagine so many great personalities of literature relaxing there and drawing inspiration. Many of the bedrooms should be preserved for similar reasons, including the one featured in the film of The French Lieutenant's Woman.
God forbid that vandals should destroy the fabric of our precious literary heritage in The Three Cups HOTEL!