Belmont - from lodging house to Sidmouth hotel

Two hundred years of history behind Belmont building

HAVE you ever stopped to admire the crenellated wall and arched gateway fronting Sidmouth’s Esplanade from the Belmont Hotel?

It may, writes Julia Creeke in her Life and Times in Sidmouth guide to the blue plaque properties in the town, date back to the time, early in the Napoleonic Wars, when a regiment of militia was garrisoned on the Fortfield.

But what of the building? In 1810 there was certainly a Belmount house, described by the Reverend Edmund Butcher in his book Beauties of Sidmouth, published that year, as: “the lodging houses, including Belmount, which stands upon a level with the Fortfield”…and, writes Miss Creeke, a Sir Joseph Scott, Bart, is renting the dwelling house and shrubbery, comprising just over an acre, for �21 a year in 1813.

Sir Joseph (1752-1828) made many improvements and additions, including making it a double-fronted house with verandas and bow windows.

He was seated at Barr Hall, Staffordshire, and was High Sheriff of Staffs in 1779 and MP for Worcester from 1802-06.

“His association with Sidmouth, where he took an active part in the development of the town as a member of various committees, went back at least to 1812, for in February of that year he chaired a committee meeting at the London Hotel concerning estimates for the building of a harbour,” writes Miss Creeke.

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He gave up Belmont in around 1825 and little is known about the house until 40 years later, when in 1969, a William Hine-Haycock moved in with his wife and family.

Educated in Birmingham, William was a solicitor, practising in London, until ill health forced his premature retirement.

Miss Creeke writes: “He was a member of the MCC for 37 years and finding Sidmouth Cricket Club’s future very uncertain, he and Mr Thornton, who resided at Knowle, set about the rejuvenation of the club.”

East of the gate at Belmont was an old platform, probably part of the foundation of the Armoury associated with the former Fort that was demolished following the Napoleonic wars.

“This platform had been in use as a substantial clothes line, but in August 1866, this construction, laden with washing, collapsed in a gale on top of the unfortunate housekeeper at Belmont, Lucy Scotford, killing her instantly, whilst she was attempting to rescue the washing.”

The inquest, held at the Bedford Hotel, said she had been employed at Belmont for 30 years.

In 1896, Belmont became the home of Mr and Mrs Richard Hatton-Wood. Richard was a very wealthy man and the couple were life-long benefactors to communities where they lived.

In Sidmouth he offered to pay for a new Merryweather steam fire engine after a disastrous fire in New Street in 1902 when the town’s old fire engine proved ineffectual.

After the Lord of the Manor, Mr Wood was the largest property owner in Sidmouth and he bought old thatched properties to prevent them from being demolished and rebuilt.

In 1920 Belmont was bought by the Fitzgerald family and further extended and opened as a hotel in 1921.

Only the first floor balcony with its bowed French windows is the only part of the original Regency house still visible.