THe History of The Yew Lodge Hotel
1956 - 1960
Autumn 1956 - The Laurels, 33 Packington Hill Kegworth purchased by Arthur & Jessie Andrews.
An imposing early 18th century, three storied country house facing north east down Packington Hill, with an uninterrupted view of sprawling fields and countryside as far as the eye could see. Whilst the eastern walls of the house bordered onto Packington Hill, the wide gravel drive to the front door gave way to large raised, lawned gardens, bordered by Yew hedges to the north and west. Running the full length of the rear of the house was a grand conservatory the interior of which was dominated by a huge grape vine, 100 plus years old, extremely healthy and prolific! A painting of the original house still hangs in the hotel. We know little of the early history of the house, but feel we can safely assume from its size; age and character that perhaps it’s earliest inhabitants were Gentry! We know for certain it was occupied in the early part of the 20th century by a Vicar, though of course The Laurels was never a Vicarage / Rectory, perhaps he was retired? Legend and local gossip tells of his unfortunate demise thus. He hanged himself from a meat hook in the commodious wine cellar and his ghostly presence was still to be sensed at certain times of the year subsequent to the purchase of the property by the Andrews and indeed, I can confirm from personal experience, for some years afterwards! Since the Vicar’s demise, The Laurels has served as a small private school and a private home to at least two other families. The occupant immediately prior to the Andrews was a Professor of Entomology and according to Mrs. Andrews, kept certain specimens of his work in one of the three attic rooms of the house. Although said specimens presumably left at the same time as the Professor, like the Vicar, evidence of previous occupants became manifest from time to time! Today, though many alterations over the last 48 years have enveloped the house on three sides, there are areas where the characteristics of the original house are still visible if one knows where to look, these, I hasten to add, do not include ‘Henry’ the ghost nor our entomological friends! Whilst the property was purchased in principle as a private home for the Andrews, it was their intention to open part of the house as tea rooms…..!!.
Spring 1957 - “It will never work!”
“There’s no call for it here!” “That’s really done it this time!” “We’ll give you 6 months!” With such ‘encouraging’ comments from family, friends and local people, Arthur & Jessie Andrews opened to the public at Easter 1957, and so the foundations of what we proudly see today were laid! The Andrews had, by this time, renamed the property Yew Lodge, the garden being bordered on two sides by large Yew hedges, the only other significant tree being a huge Horse Chestnut in a corner of the garden to the right of the front entrance. (more regarding this tree later!) As far as we know, not a Laurel bush in sight! The couple being semi-retired and in their early 50s, proposed opening only weekends and Bank Holidays! Tea consisted of a variety of freshly made sandwiches, bread & butter, selection of jams, home made scones and fruit cake, tea or coffee, the charge? Two shillings and six pence (2/6p), twelve and a half pence as it would be today! Tea was served in what is now, the Laurel Room, then seating approximately 30 people. Mr. Andrews was an excellent cook, his teas and the china on which they were served, beautiful gilt edged Royal Doulton. (Not the ‘Royal Dooolton’ of Hyacinth Bouquet fame,) but mixed, mismatched ‘seconds’ soon became ‘legendry’. An entertaining host with an impish sense of humour, Mr. Andrews’ maxim was ‘Service’. Mrs. Andrews’ role was mainly ‘back of house’ clerical, and driving, to quote her “anything and everything else!” The total takings for the first 12 months of trading were just £1,000.00! (takings, not profit!)
Within the first year of trading, demand was such that the notion of weekend and Bank Holidays only, soon ‘went by the board’! Requests for private parties, and midweek events became increasingly persuasive and the first extension was planned and built. The Laurel room doubled in size, and Yew Lodge began to serve afternoon and ‘high’ teas to a regular clientele, cater for small private tea parties and celebrations, not only at weekends and Bank Holidays, but throughout the week when requested. This of course meant staff to help, and so began 48 years of connection with the local community and families of Kegworth, which over the last 48 years has established Yew Lodge as a true ‘Family business’!
A further extension was required, by now, the humble afternoon tea had given way to Sunday Lunch and Finger Buffet Wedding Receptions! What is now the Orchard restaurant was enlarged (the evidence is there!) and the kitchens were extended. More staff were duly employed and Mrs. Andrews added another ‘hat’ to her collection, that of chauffeurs! Mr. Andrews being a non-driver and evening shift staff needed to be driven home! Besides, Mr. Andrews was engaged elsewhere! As and when dinner dances were held, his commitment in the kitchen fulfilled, he would change into suit and dancing shoes, spending the evening entertaining and dancing with his lady guests playing dance records on the radiogram (Yew Lodge’s first D.J.!)
1961 - 1966
Yew Lodge first licensed. By now, dinner dances had become popular, and a sprung maple dance floor was installed (still in use!) Strange as it may seem now, many evening parties were groups of ladies happy to dance with each other, it was on these evenings that our ‘resident DJ’ doubled as dance host and loved it!
First professional chef engaged. Full restaurant menus were now available for the first time and business increased rapidly! Full time Dining Room and Kitchen staff were employed, Yew Lodge was now open 7 days a week. No advertising had been necessary, increase and changes in the business had evolved by the Andrews’ reputation and ‘word of mouth’ recommendations, a trend, which prevailed for many years! It was about this time that Yew Lodge’s hotel status was established. Requests for overnight accommodation brought about the letting of 4 bedrooms (three in the attic!) All single bedded rooms with washbasin, shared toilet and bathroom on the floor below…charge? One guinea (£1. 05p current value) per night including full English breakfast. From family home to Tea Rooms to Restaurant to Hotel in six short years.
Derek Stark joined the staff as temporary kitchen assistant to help over the Christmas period.
This year was perhaps the most significant yet in the history and success of Yew Lodge. Mr. Andrews asked Derek Stark to stay on after the Christmas period…he did…and was in the course of that year promoted and duly sacked the head chef!!
Mr. And Mrs. Andrews began to suffer ill health. Almost 8 years of hard work, long hours and rare breaks began to take their toll. With great reluctance the decision was taken to sell Yew Lodge. At this time, nephew Derek Pick, having trained in Catering and Hotel Management at Huddersfield Catering College, subsequently serving 3 years in the Army Catering Corps was currently employed with J. Lyons of London.
In the autumn 0f 1964
Mr. Andrews approached his nephew regarding taking over Yew Lodge and so avoiding the sale. After several working visits to the hotel over November / December of that year, he accepted the offer!
1965 March 1st
Mr. And Mrs. Andrews left Yew Lodge for full retirement in Skegness where many years previously he had run a holiday hotel with his sister, Doris, Derek Pick’s mother. (Catering and Hotel Management runs in the blood of this family!) March 2nd Derek Pick, full of enthusiasm and plans for the future, moved into Yew Lodge with wife and 18 month old twin boys. (on a personal note, whilst having considerable experience of working with the public, I had no experience of catering and hotel work…I was soon to realise and 40 years on, still believe that the business is a ‘way of life’ the phrase ‘anti social hours’ became and still is, an anathema to me.) Having ‘inherited’ a dedicated, hard working team from the Andrews, Derek Pick embarked on what was to become 29 years service to the family business. April 1st this year (yes, Aprils fools’ Day) the East Midlands Airport saw it’s inaugural flight. Later that year, the Leicestershire section of the M1 motorway was completed and the Ratcliffe Power Station came on line. The village began to expand and as a result new sources of business and staffing were created.
Time for extensions to the bedroom capacity, and as fate would have it, an extension to the Pick family too! A daughter born in July of that year. A further 12 bedrooms With washbasins were added plus 2 public bathrooms. At this time A.A. rules demanded 1 bathroom to 6 bedrooms as a minimum requirement for membership. With our proximity to the M1 Motorway airport and power station it was deemed that membership of the AA and RAC would be beneficial, and so it proved to be!
1967 - 1994
1967 - 1969
July 20th 1969! A significant date for NASA and Mankind. Neil Armstrong and Buz Aldrin landed on the Moon! Yew Lodge was adding its own memorable piece of history! During these 3 years, alterations, general improvements and a further bedroom wing were ongoing projects. The Conservatory and grapevine gave way to extended Kitchens, stillroom and stores area. By this time, the requirements of the travelling public had changed, whilst rooms without private facilities were still very saleable, ‘en suite’ bedrooms were now in demand for ‘executive’ occupation.
1970 - 1994
Major changes took place in the Kegworth area during these years. Expansion of the East Midlands Airport, completion of the M1 Motorway as far as Leeds, Rise of new and expanding businesses in the Loughborough Derby and Nottingham areas. Business was booming. An exciting and challenging time for Yew Lodge! 8 further extensions and alterations were instigated during these years. En suite bedrooms, new bars, banqueting rooms, 2nd. Dance floor, meeting rooms (now called Conference Suites!) not to mention never ending ‘Forth Bridge’ repairs, replacements, refurbishments, increase in staffing levels. Purchase of additional land for said extensions and additional car parking.
Somewhere in this melee of activity, our handwritten but at the time, ‘State of the Art’ Kalamazoo accounting system gave way to Computerisation! The 1980s gave us a World recession! A dreadful few years of worry, cutbacks, staff redundancies, and fight for business survival! Whilst our ‘product’ was still of high standard and we took pride in our AA RAC 3 star status, we now had competition!!
From the late 70s onwards, new branches of Corporate Hotels were being opened, most of which were 4 star status, all purpose built for the modern market offering excellent facilities for traveller and business alike. Many local small hotels and catering establishments were lost due to the recession. To make matters worse, pubs were now serving meals and had become ‘family’ orientated. Gone were the days of ‘a drink in the pub’ followed by a meal in a hotel / restaurant! As if history was repeating itself, the worry, hard work and change of roles in order for Yew Lodge to survive the recession years once again took their toll on the health of Derek Pick and the prospect of early retirement finally became inevitable in 1994.
The three children of the 3rd generation of the family had long since grown up and fled the nest to pursue their own careers. Once again a decision on the future of the business had to be made, with the possibility of sale being the only solution. Once again, sale averted when the elder of the twin boys offered to abandon a promising career with a corporate hotel chain in order to take over the reins of the family business. A family meeting was held and the result as they say, is history!
1994 - Present Day
1994 - Present Day
It is our pride and our joy to see Yew Lodge being administered and managed by a third generation! During these few short years, under the direction of Jeremy Pick, Yew Lodge has doubled in size. Now a member of the Best Western Group of Hotels, Yew Lodge boasts an award winning fine dining restaurant new modern Conference and Banqueting Suites, Boardrooms, 100 bedrooms offering complete facilities for today’s discerning traveller and business person, a first class fitness and beauty suite with bar Gymnasium, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam rooms, sauna.
I think Mr. & Mrs. Andrews would be proud to see their ‘Tea Rooms’ today. The proverbial ‘cherry on their cake’? The knowledge that ‘The Laurels’ country house purchased in 1956, now some 48 years later, Yew Lodge Hotel & Conference Centre, continues with 3rd generation family at the helm! In 1997 the fourth generation made it’s mark on the family business when at her Baptism celebration lunch, and when just a toddler, Elizabeth ‘signed’ a brick which was subsequently laid into the fabric of the building. John, Jeremy and Jo-Anne having done this many years before….! Oh yes!! The Horse Chestnut tree referred to earlier! Mrs. Andrews being extremely distressed at its inevitable demise, gathered and potted several ‘conkers’ from the final fruiting…only one survived……she planted and nurtured the sapling through the years that she was able….this beautiful tree can be seen in the far right hand corner of the Wedding Garden.
* * * * * * * * (July 2005 G.P.)
Yew Lodge received several accolades, namely:
Best Western GB Hotel of the Year 2005
Best Western Premier Status and 4 star grading 2005
Best Western Venue of the Year 2010
Quite a remarkable feat! On behalf of the family, Thank you and Congratulations to all concerned, magnificent!
Finally, a personal note! The Spring of 2007 marked the 50th year of Yew Lodge. As we looked forward to and planned our celebrations, I found myself indulging in a little nostalgia! Recalling names, faces, events and incidents, looking back over the good times, the difficult times, the sad times, the characters, (guests and staff!) The very early mornings followed by very late nights, weekends, Bank Holidays, Christmases, New Years, all seemingly blended into one. We had a lot of fun too! The one constant, 50 years on is Mr. Andrews’ maxim “SERVICE”.
What does the future hold? Well, who knows?...............as ‘they’ say,
“Watch this Space”?