Twenty years ago today the Chancellor of the Exchequer raised interest rates to 15%, after Britain had been forced out of the ERM; VAT had recently been hiked to an all time high of 17.5%, and the rate of corporation tax on small companies’ profits was 25%. Not that there was much chance of making a profit because England was in the middle of one of its worst ever recessions. This wasn’t the time to be embarking on a new business venture. Fortunately, I was completely oblivious to all that and I invested everything I had in buying the Newby Bridge Hotel in the Lake District. The hotel was a bargain, and so it should be, as it just suffered the latest of three bankruptcies. One of the previous owners had shot himself.
I’ve been lucky with the Newby Bridge Hotel; slowly, slowly, by reinvesting the profits each year, we have been able to turn it round and it has grown in 20 years from a pub with rooms to a 46-bedroom hotel. This success is due entirely to the people in this photo. Carol Smith and Cliff Davies visited us during our very first week and have returned every few months since then, 50 times in all, always accompanied by their cocker spaniel – at first Meg – and latterly Gem. Their round trip from the Forest of Dean is 440 miles, so they must mean it. The lady on the right in the pink top is Lorraine, one of my first waitresses, who is now Manageress. Lorraine sums up the ethos of the hotel, always smiling, always welcoming. I’m proud to know them all.