Beautifully restored in 2019, this room is named after Reginald, a progeny in the world of aeronautics. At just 22 he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works as Chief Designer. By 24, he was Chief Engineer; at 31 Techinical Director. In the ’30s Mitchell used Burgh Island as a retreat during his battle with cancer. It is said that his Spitfire was inspired by a seagull’s flight.
Surely one of the sexiest hotel rooms in the UK. The Beach House was first built in the ’30s as a writer’s retreat for Agatha Christie. Here, Mrs Christie wrote her two novels set on the Island (‘Evil Under the Sun’ and ‘And Then There Were None’). The Beach House is now a sophisticated and modern beach retreat perfect for luxury romantic getaways or unforgettable Family adventures.
Nancy Cunard’s mother was a friend of Wallis Simpson and through her, Nancy might have discovered peace at Burgh Island that her life in Paris and London could not offer. A ’20s wild child with truly intellectual leanings, Nancy had numerous bohemian affairs: she was muse to every left-leaning poet, writer or artist to throng around cafés or postwar Paris.
Carefully yet lavishly updated in 2019, this room is named after ‘W.O.’, who in 1920 designed and built a high-tech four-cylinder engine and stylish chassis – his Bentley 3 Litre. The car was a breakthrough for the Fast Set, matching durability with pizzazz when it won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1924. Archie Nettlefold owned three and garaged one always on Burgh Island.
‘The Queen of Crime’ needs no background synopsis. Agatha met Archie Nettlefold through his financial backing of a number of London stage productions. The original Beach House (re-imagine in 2008) was built for Agatha to write in, and her home, Greenway, is just a short day trip from Burgh Island.
The world of Victorian music hall was a competitive place and this may explain George Chirgwin’s bizarre guise as a black-faced minstrel. Billing himself as ‘the white-eyed kaffir’ Chirgwin had worked his routine since childhood, in an act that mixed sentimental songs, wisecracking comedy, costume and make-up.
TONY AND BEATRICE PORTER
In the 1960’s this was the games room of the hotel. It was piled high with a jukebox, table football, cigarette machine and pool table. It’s come a long way – now the largest suite in the hotel with a large private garden, and renovated in 2004 to a classic art deco style.
Looking towards nearby Hope Cove, with memories of the lights of shore at the end of a long sea voyage. Hope Cove is a local beauty spot for sailors and walkers alike. After the Spanish Armada was defeated their ships battled through stormy seas past the cove with one ship being blown onto the rocks.
Lovingly and sumptuously updated in 2019, the Nettlefold Suite is named after ‘Uncle’ Archie Nettlefold who was the first owner of the hotel in its present form. He is a man of mystery, with few images remaining and less still known about his private life. It is to him that we owe our iconic modern vision on the seaside. From a successful industrialist family, Archie’s ‘proper’ job was to dabble in the financing of plays, horror films and even expeditions to Everest.
Nicknamed ‘The Master’ because of his wit and deft writing some of the most successful songs and plays of the period, Noël began performing at the age of seven, adoring songs, music and his mother. Noël was invited to Burgh Island for the weekend by Archie Nettlefold in the late ’20s and reputedly loved it so much he stayed for three weeks… who knows whether Room with a View was written here?
Over a 40 year career, George Formby appeared in 21 hit films, made 230 records, hundreds of stage performances, two Royal Command Performances and entertained an estimated 3 million Allied servicemen and women during WWII. Burgh Island guests didn’t know what to make of the cheeky Northern chappie who proudly picnicked on Bigbury Beach.
‘I am not what you’d call wonderfully talented, but I am light on my feet and I do make the best of things.’ So said Gertrud Alexandra Dagmar Klasen with cute understatement. At tehn Gertie met a boy named Noël Coward, who wrote, ‘she gave me an orange and told me a few mildly dirty stories, and I loved her from then onwards.’
Another of the beautiful, self-made celebrities who designed our corridors, A gamine, graceful dancer, with a warbling voice, and waif-like sex appeal – the embodiment of ’30s style. She looked as good in a chiffon tea dress as a DJ, dressed as a boy. Jessie worked at elocution lessons to create her trademark plummy accent.
Oscar Deutsche, the chain’s founder, claimed that ‘Odeon’ was an acronym for ‘Oscar Deutsche Entertains Our Nation’. Tapping into the Art Deco zeitgeist, by 1937 there were 250 Odeon cinemas in Britain. Just before the outbreak of WWII, Oscar, his wife Lily and their companion, WW1 fighter ace Sol Joseph, travelled to Burgh Island in Sol’s Ford V8 Pilot.
A smart, good-looking cookie, Amy moved to London after graduation from the University of Sheffield. She began flying in 1928. At first titillated by the thought of a woman aviator, the public soon took her seriously when, after just two years’ training, Amy became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia.
The chorus girl took the swiftest route she could from her basic beginnings, dancing and performing vaudeville, to New York City and thence Paris. She was gorgeous; Hemingway called her ‘the most sensational woman anyone ever saw’, and she was soon the lead and the star of the show, billed as the ‘highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville’.
MAJOR EDWARD METCALFE
How did Major Edward Dudley (‘Fruity’) Metcalfe acquire his moniker? The aide-de-camp to Edward, Prince of Wales, ‘Fruity’ was a brick. Escorting the Prince through Europe and on frequent trips to Burgh Island, Fruity was constantly touched for the odd fiver, or to ease the Prince’s travels by greasing the hand of an official, a husband (or two).
Pushing his vehicles to their limits, Campbell is best remembered for his records: in 1924, at Pendine Sands, he achieved the record for the two-way kilometre at 146.16 mph; in 1925 it rose to 150.766 mph, with Campbell becoming the first driver to exceed 150 mph.
LORD LOUIS MOUNTBATTEN
Louis Mountbatten of Burma accompanied Edward then Prince of Wales, on a 1922 royal tour of India, and the pair emerged as great chums, although relations with Wallis Simpson were frosty and their friendship hit a low during the abdication crisis in 1936.
Position 50°10’47.99”N 04°15’53.99”W; height 49 metres; range 31km; intensity 26,200 candela. Subsidiary fixed red light covers a 17° arc marking the ‘Hands Deep’ reef. The original lighthouse was established in 1703 and its Victorian progeny stands 14 miles out from Plymouth Breakwater. It is visible from the island tonight.
THE AVON RIVER
Generically ‘the river’, our particular Avon flows through the nearby village of Bantham into the sea just opposite the island. The beach is one of the top surfing destinations in the UK and dolphins are attracted to its shallow, warm waters. We popped a picture of Clarissa, Countess of Avon and widow of Anthony Eden, on the door just because she’s rather lovely.