East Close Hotel – A Wartime Snapshot

1941 In Search of Rest - East Close Hotel Find My Past - Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 14 March 1941

Described in the 1930s and 40s as a “Luxurious Country House Hotel“, the East Close Hotel was thought by hotel reviewer Ashley Courtenay to be “particularly well-furnished and run”. He believed that, “for anyone wanting a restful type of leave, it would be hard to visualise a more peaceful spot”. In 1940, the East Close Hotel was advertised as being “in a particularly beautiful and safe position.” Eighty years on, the building is no longer a hotel; however, it is still a beautiful place and now has a new incarnation as The Retreat.


On 29th September 1939, when the National Register was taken at the start of World War Two, there were five people living at the East Close Hotel.

The first two names on the Register were those of the Proprietor and Proprietress, Frederick B. Fowler, aged 55 and his second wife Evelyn Pleasance Fowler (formerly Oswald), aged 38. Frederick was originally from Sussex and, in his twenties, had worked as a Consulting Engineer. He was a Major in the RAF in World War One.  Frederick married Evelyn in Bath in 1928. In 1929 the couple were living in Winterbourne Monkton and in the early 1930s they lived in Dorchester. In September 1939, Frederick was a Special Constable in the Hampshire Constabulary.

East Close Hotel - Night Time Shot
East Close Hotel – Night Time Shot

Also resident at the East Close Hotel on 29th September 1939 were Miss Lily Agnes Borrow, Mr Eustace O. Hallifax and Mrs Victoria Ethel Grace Colthurst.

Lily Borrow, aged 56, was from Stockton-on-Tees and worked in the hotel as a Bookkeeper-Receptionist. Eustace Hallifax, aged 48  was a guest at the hotel. His occupation was Managing Director in the “Motor Trade”. In 1922, the Hampshire Advertiser named him as the owner the Reliance Motor Garage, St. Cross Road, Winchester. The garage was still in business in 1939 and Mr Hallifax was probably still the owner. Victoria E. G. Colthurst, aged 40, was also staying as a guest at the hotel. Her occupation was “Beauty Specialist”. She and Eustace Hallifax appear, at first glance, to be unattached but they were in fact a couple. They were married in 1945.

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East Close Hotel Bedroom