Business profile: Tewkesbury Park, Gloucestershire
PUBLISHED: 14:34 25 February 2019
©Thousand Word Media 2019
When property investors Linda McIntosh, son Chris and daughter Claire White saw a run-down hotel, they had no idea what was in store for them... Four years on, Tewkesbury Park is a stunning hotel, golf and leisure club to rival Celtic Manor
It’s a rare January day when I climb the long drive to Tewkesbury Park.
A day of blue skies and green fields and bare oaks, their gnarled branches reaching upwards, waiting patiently for the spring sun.
These mighty oaks are the guardians of this landscape of rolling fairways and manicured tees, shimmering lakes and shady coppices.
But where now golfers drive and guests recharge, the houses of York and Lancaster fought one of the bloodiest battles of the Wars of the Roses - the Battle of Tewkesbury.
Two thousand Lancastrians were killed on that fateful May day in 1471, including Edward, Prince of Wales. It was a battle which was to change the course of English history.
Standing in Tewkesbury Park’s newly-opened Cotswold Suite, a vast, glass-fronted building with 270-degree views across to the Malvern Hills in one direction and the mighty Gloucester Cathedral in the other, it’s hard to imagine anything other than blissful serenity.
But for the McIntosh family, restoring this magnificent hotel to glory has been a four-year battle of their own.
And only now, after an eye-watering £10m investment in everything from the plumbing to luxury suites, a dazzling leisure club and state-of-the-art conference facilities, can they step back and appreciate the fruits of their considerable labours. Linda McIntosh and son Chris had, for decades, been involved in property letting across Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Daughter Claire White had completed an HR-based graduate trainee programme at pub company Mitchells & Butlers.
And all three were looking for a new challenge when, in 2014, they stumbled across Tewkesbury Park - catastrophically tired, run-down, unloved.
“We were looking for a new investment,” laughs Linda, a keen golfer who plays off an impressive 14. “And we took rather a big one. We spent quite some time trying to decide whether or not it was the right thing to do.
“We’re quite a sporty family. We play golf and tennis, so I knew it was a fantastic location which deserved a really good hotel.”
“Our experience was all applicable,” explains Claire, mum to Jack, seven, and nine-year-old Chloe. “Just on a far greater scale than we imagined.”
Astonishingly, the family managed to keep the hotel open throughout the refurbishment - even during a fire in 2016 which threatened to derail the whole project.
“We thought we knew what we’d have to do structurally and to the rooms,” says Linda.
“But we ended up putting in new water tanks, pipework, completely rewiring the place, new radiators, everything.
“We’ve refurbished all of the bedrooms and created nine new suites in the old staff accommodation. And Chris knew that he wanted to put a function room somewhere, but the difficulty was making that decision, because we had to knock down the golfers’ changing rooms and pro shop. That was a very expensive thing to do.”
The result is that arresting panoramic view across the historic landscape, enjoyed by big business corporate clients like Jaguar - which launched its new iPace at the hotel just before Christmas - and professional rugby teams looking for R&R ahead of crunch games to wedding guests bowled over by the hospitality and locally-sourced food.
“Claire and Chris had the vision,” says Linda, justifiably proud of her offspring. “Chris did a lot of the planning and discussing with the architects about exactly what we wanted to do. And Claire had the vision about colour schemes and the way she wanted everything to look.”
Claire’s elegant touch is evident throughout the public rooms and private spaces, on which she worked with ADS Design in Tewkesbury.
Petrel blues and burnished golds inform the light and airy atrium; bold Mulberry ducks fly over sofas in the low-lit Berkely Bar; mismatched chairs in seaside colours bring a pop of colour to the breezy Mint restaurant and calming bedrooms with enormous Hypnos beds luxuriate in neutral tones with flashes of tweed or a sumptuous velvet slub.
And the views, from every room, are heart-stopping - particularly from the family-friendly suites, named after key figures from the Battle of Tewkesbury, including Margaret d’Anjou and Lord Wenlock.
The result is spaces which flow effortlessly into one another, creating an air of quiet luxury - so much so it’s the proud recipient of several top hospitality awards, including from Conde Nast.
It’s distinctly un-hotelly, an observation which pleases Claire and Linda.
“If we wanted a place which suited our vision, we realised quickly it had to be done through us,” says Linda, who quickly dispensed with various management companies who didn’t share the family’s dream.
Central to their vision is their food. General Manager Patrick Jones talks enthusiastically about the “huge talent” that is Head Chef Anju Thakur.
Conferences for corporate clients are focused on the task in hand, but also on the food experience, says Patrick.
To that end, there’s a vast terrace with a huge wood-fired pizza oven and two oil drum barbecues for conferences and relaxed weddings.
There are feasting menus and curry lunches - something different, says Patrick. Something that encourages conference guests to return for weekend stays and golf and leisure breaks.
A new, decadent Sunday brunch is about to be launched, locals are encouraged to come for dinner and Champagne afternoon tea is growing in popularity.
As Claire reels off an impressive list of local suppliers - Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil; DJ Perks fruit and vegetables; Chase Distillery sprits; Dunkertons Cider; Cotteswold Dairy milk and cream; lamb from one of the school dads’ farms over at Grafton - Linda talks about the 700-plus golf and leisure club members they’re keen to grow.
There’s no time for the family or the staff to rest on their laurels.
“This is such a big, multi-faceted business,” Claire adds. “And there’s still such potential here that there’s no room to sit back and do nothing. We always have to move forward.”
So what’s next? Is another hotel project on the horizon?
“We’ve absolutely poured our heart and soul into this place,” says Claire, pausing slightly.
“And I don’t think we’ll embark on another. But never say never.”
To find out more, visit the Tewkesbury Park website.