Christmas memories from popular hotel

Oakhurst Hotel in the 1960s
Oakhurst Hotel in the 1960s

For those planning a Christmas break in Hastings they could do no better than the Oakhurst Hotel at 401 The Ridge: family run, it offers a warm welcome, traditional fare and old-fashioned entertainment.

The only difficulty is that guests would need to travel back over fifty years to find it. From 1962 the hotel was owned and run by Ted Tilbury; his then teenage son, Roger, recounted fond memories of Christmases living and working in the family business. “The hotel was staffed by local women, on a part-time basis, plus students in the summer. Inevitably Oakhurst had its share of Fawlty Towers incidents; such as when waitress Carol, nervous at serving Mayor Wilshin, tipped his meal into his lap. On another occasion waitress June tripped and threw plates of tomato soup up the wall. Christmas at Oakhurst was always great fun. (We had our own celebrations at New Year, when we were closed for business.) The hotel Christmas Day began at six in the morning; we always had a full kitchen staff but sometimes, despite paying triple wages of twelve shillings an hour (60p), we were a little short-staffed. There was breakfast to prepare and wash-up; morning coffee to be served and lunch to be laid on. Then came the washing up, which staff member Kathy and I always did. We used almost boiling water with a soapy sink and a clean sink. That way everything dried in the racks. Christmas was the one day we served wine; Kathy and I used to finish off the left-over wine as we worked; the washing up got done in record time! We also served afternoon tea and a buffet evening meal. As soon as that was cleared the evening games and dancing had to be organised; tea and biscuits were served at 10.00 pm. We got to bed around two in the morning, with a repeat performance from 6.00 am on Boxing Day. It snowed heavily on 26th December 1962 and several guests were obliged to stay longer than they planned. I tried to get to London to see my girlfriend on the 27th but gave up after four hours of waiting at Tonbridge and got a train back; this took another three hours. Then the 75 bus could only get as far as the Pilot Field and I had to struggle up the rest of Elphinstone Road as best I could.” The hotel had long term guests, one was Colonel Cox, who was in charge of the Army Records Office at Ore Place. Less formally, the now internationally famous Collins sisters lived in a bus in the hotel garden when they were unknown folk-singers. Roger concluded; “Despite the occasional resemblance to a certain fictitious establishment in Torquay, Oakhurst Hotel hardly ever had to advertise. Ninety per cent of guests were returns or recommendations.” In 1968 Oakhurst was sold and houses were built on the site. Further Reading, The Long Road to Lavender Cottage, the story of the Ridge, its people, buildings and institutions, by Victoria Seymour. Available from Waterstones priced £9.99.