The History of a Pilchard Palace - repossession by the building society

Reverend Holt had been Vicar of St Thomas Blackburn from 1938-46 and was in the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department as Chaplain to the Forces from 21st June 1939. He was married at All Souls, Bolton on 20th June 1942 to Kathleen Margaret Harper (aged 21), where he was described as ‘Clerk in Holy Orders Batchelor of St Thomas’s Vicarage, Blackburn’, and was then aged 36 13. His address in the conveyance was given as the Vicarage in Mevagissey, so presumably he had just moved from Blackburn. It seems unlikely that he ever ran Bide-A-While as a hotel, as he sold it a few months later on 17th July 1946 to Francis Edwin Brentnall Ritchie for £8,000 8. 65 years on, few good reasons come to my mind to account for a 100% profit in just 5½ months, and we may never know whether it was Mrs Ashton or Mr Ritchie who got the sharp end of the deal.

Bide-A-While in August 1946, Mr Ritchie’s first season
Bide-A-While in August 1946, Mr Ritchie’s first season
Bide-A-While Brochure 1953 cover
Bide-A-While Brochure 1953 cover
Bide-A-While Brochure 1953 inside
Bide-A-While Brochure 1953 inside

The new owner was a former RAF pilot who told local people he had been a Flight Lieutenant. Googling his name came up with The London Gazette supplement for 21st December 1943 showing Francis Edwin Brentnall Ritchie (160927) was made Flight Sergeant on 10th November 1943 15, but nothing about subsequent promotion. Hotel brochures showed he liked to be referred to by the double-barrelled name Brentnall-Ritchie. As would be expected, he had a substantial mortgage of £4,900 with the Co-operative Building Society. He ran the hotel for ten years when his wife apparently left him, the property was abandoned and it was repossessed by the building society. The story I heard, which may have been elaborated with each telling, was that he just walked out of the hotel whilst visitors were in residence. There was no one to take any money, so those wishing to stay got a free self-catering holiday. When new visitors arrived, current guests explained the situation that they could either fend for themselves and have a free holiday, or find another hotel. This apparently went on all summer 16. It was only a decade after the wartime ‘make do and mend’ spirit and seems plausible. A good story anyhow!