Visitor upset at hotel’s fate

A SIDMOUTH visitor with fond memories of the Fortfield Hotel has expressed her upset at the derelict state of the once grand holiday venue.

Joyce Holmes, from Appley Bridge, near Wigan, was a tour operator for 25 years, bringing coach-loads of tourists to the town twice a year. They would always stay at the Fortfield, and were always impressed.

“This wasn’t your typical coach holiday,” said the 76-year-old. “There was no bingo or anything like that. There was a grand piano in the dining room and Andrew (Torjussen), the owner, used to let me run quizzes in the small lounge. He would always get on the coach to welcome us when we arrived and would always get on to bid us goodbye.”

The service was always top quality, she said. “You were a name, not a number and people loved it. The head waiter would make a great fuss of you.”

Mrs Holmes recalls the velvet suites in the lounges, and the silk flower arrangements, as “absolutely first class.” She said the Fortfield was Maypole Coaches’ most popular destination: “We ran other trips, including to Scotland and the Isle of Man, but the Fortfield was the most popular hotel we used.”

“I’m horrified to see what’s happened to it,” she added. “It’s been vandalised and I’m so upset because we have had so many fantastic times there. It’s affected a lot of people from outside the area who enjoy visiting the town.”

As reported in the Herald, children are still finding ways into the derelict building to play, despite fencing put up by Mr Torjussen. The Police, Fire Service and East Devon District Council are now seeking another way of preventing access.

Most Read

Devon & Somerset Fire Brigade’s group manager Mike White said, with doors taken off and windows broken, the building would be “like an enclosed bonfire” if fire broke out.

Mr Torjussen removed floorboards when the building closed six years ago and, while he has not been drawn into discussions over the state of the hotel, is in consultation with the district council over re-developing the site.