The period between 1930 and 1943 was an eventful one for The Royal Exeter Hotel. “Highlights” included a meeting of the International Football Association and a daring robbery! And the National Register of 1939 gives a fascinating snapshot of the hotel residents just after the outbreak of war.
International Football Association
On the weekend of 14th/15th June 1930, the Board of the International Football Association held its annual meeting at The Royal Exeter Hotel, with participants coming from Great Britain and Ireland; also France and Germany. The Saturday meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, was held in private and presided over by Mr W. Pickford of Bournemouth, senior vice-president of the English F. A. Afterwards, the Football Association entertained delegates to lunch at the hotel and later, they were the guests of Mr and Mrs Pickford for tea at Mount Pleasant, Pokesdown.
The programme for the Sunday was a motor drive through Dorset to Weymouth for lunch and to Shaftesbury for tea. Much of the business was conducted informally, with one of the topics under discussion being the contentious matter of part-time payments to players; another presumably being the upcoming England-Wales match (5-0 to England) that would be hosted, in February 1931, by Bournemouth & Boscombe Football Club at its Dean Court ground.
“The Masquerading Robber”
The Royal Exeter Hotel was in the news again on 8th January 1932, when The Western Gazette carried a story entitled, “The Masquerading Robber” about “four daring robberies” of over £400 worth of jewellery and money from hotels. The robberies were carried out by two men: Harry Creighton-Bird and James Maloney. Harry Bird, the shorter of the two, was masquerading in women’s clothes when he was arrested at The Royal Exeter Hotel on Boxing Day of 1931. He was also charged with attempting to shoot P.C. Lyne with an automatic pistol whilst being questioned at the police station.
In the weeks prior to the incident at The Royal Exeter Hotel, the pair had already carried out robberies at the nearby Vale Royal Hotel, Highcliffe Hotel and The Grand Hotel at Lyndhurst. However, Harry had already attracted too much attention at The Highcliffe Hotel on 13th November, by wearing a red skirt, leopard skin coat and dark red felt hat!
Suspicions were first aroused at The Royal Exeter Hotel on Boxing Day when Harry Bird used the hotel lavatory and Fred Brown, one of the hotel porters, instructed another porter, Ivor Thomas, to discreetly observe the “lady”. As Ivor Thomas passed Room 27 on the second floor, he saw Mr Bird coming out of the room backwards and bidding “Good afternoon” to “some imaginary person in the room”. The thief was holding a case, which was later found to contain nineteen rings and other jewellery, valued at £100, the property of 80-year-old widow, Mrs Hannah Sarah Holyoak of Leicester.
Ivor Thomas showed Harry Bird to the lift and then rushed down the stairs to raise the alarm. The other porter, Fred Brown, challenged the robber when he came out of the lift and he and the hotel manager took him to a private office; detaining him until the police arrived. Bird’s partner in crime, James Maloney, was discovered a little later in an Essex saloon car that was parked 200 yards from the hotel. Inside the car, police found two suitcases of men’s and women’s clothes.
At the police station, Harry Bird said repeatedly, “Freedom is everything to me”and when asked in court why he drew his revolver, he explained that he had intended to shoot himself.
The Cox Family
The proprietor of The Royal Exeter Hotel in 1930 was William Arthur Cox. He had previously worked at The Grand Hotel in Trafalgar Square; where he was Assistant Manager in the 1890s and General Manager by 1901. He and his wife Violet Minnie, had taken over at The Royal Exeter Hotel after Henry Newlyn died in 1912. William was also Chairman & Managing Director of the Exeter Hotel Co. Ltd and proprietor of The Savoy Hotel, Torquay. In 1932, William and Violet were living in a spacious Victorian villa called Marionbaree at 20 Dean Park Road, Bournemouth and William’s 54-year-old son, Hubert Henry was now manager of The Royal Exeter Hotel. William Cox died on 30th September 1932, leaving property with a gross value of £36,267.
A “Snapshot” in September 1939
On September 29th, just after the outbreak of war, a National Enumeration Register was compiled, providing a “snapshot” of The Royal Exeter Hotel and its residents on that date. William Cox’s widow, Violet was listed as Hotel Director, whilst her step-son Hubert was still Hotel Manager and living at the hotel with his wife, Edith. There were at least nineteen members of staff living on the premises, including a receptionist, a cashier, kitchen staff and porters, a lengthsman, a doorkeeper, a housekeeper, five chambermaids and a page boy!
There were twenty-one guests staying at the hotel including:
- Wilkie Calvert of St. James’s, unmarried and aged 58, “Travelling Director Supplies”;
- Clara A. Conradi, spinster aged 75, who inherited £5,000 from her employer in 1930;
- Anne E. Wood, solicitor’s widow aged 83, from Walton-on-Thames;
- Adolphe Tanburn, aged 77, a dealer in precious stones;
- Sisters, Alice and Margaret Dollar, aged 60 and 55, of Private Means; and
- Divorcee, Gabrielle De-Clerck, aged 32.
Hotel Sold in 1943
On 17th September 1943, the Western Gazette reported that The Royal Exeter Hotel had been sold for “an undisclosed figure”. The Cox family had “conducted the hotel” for over 30 years.At the time of the sale, the visitor’s book contained the names of the Empress of Austria, who stayed at the hotel with her daughter in 1888, the Dowager Duchess of Saxony, who visited in 1905 and the singer, Adelina Patti.
Visit The Royal Exeter Hotel to experience a wonderful piece of Bournemouth’s history first-hand.