Words: Michelle Beck
Being a massive Beatles fan, I was more than enthused to get the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of the night the boys stayed at Regent Hotel, what I wasn’t perhaps expecting was how this legend intertwined with the rich family history of the Longworth’s and their perseverance and dedication with the rise and rebirth of the Regent Hotel.
The inspiration for the Abbey Road Bar is the Beatles memorabilia collected from one of their infamous gigs in Donny. On the 5th February 1963, The Beatles performed at Doncaster’s Gaumont cinema, they stayed at the Regent Hotel after that very performance – the Abbey Road bar displays a copy of the sign-in registrar (the original is in a safe) and the drum kit Ringo played on that night. Simon Longworth, the owner of the Regent Hotel remembers his Grandma telling him about the night The Beatles stayed, she said the street outside was swarming with girls and that she was shooing them off at the front door as they tried to come into the hotel. Simon’s dad, then just a whipper snapper swapped his morning paper round so that he could make breakfast in bed for the lads from Liverpool (which in those days was a piece of toast and a mug of tea) as he went into their room John Lennon and Paul McCartney were sat on the bed strumming a guitar and writing songs. A little under two months later and The Beatles had their first number one record with “From Me To You”, “Please Please Me” had reached number two in the January 1963 before the Donny gig in February.
The Regent Hotel began its life in 1935 when Simon’s great-grandma Nellie rented the building; Number 1 Regent Square from the doctor next door. Simon’s great-grandparents began the Longworth’s entrepreneurship, realising they were situated alongside which was then the old A1. As they began to make money they installed a bathroom on every floor where guests could share the bathroom facilities, bearing in mind in those days most people’s bathroom were outhouses in the back yard. It soon became a busy and successful guest house. Simon explained:
“Grandpa Colin and Nanna Peggy took over in the 1950’s, Grandpa Colin then bought Number 2 from the doctor. He then acquired Number 3 and added sinks in every bedroom at which point it became a hotel but they still shared a bathroom on the end of each floor”.
By the 1970’s the hotel was hugely successful but Simon’s Grandpa was looking to retire so there was a family meeting to discuss if they were going to keep it in the family or if they would sell it. Grandpa’s three sons were all asked. Michael (Simon’s dad) nominated himself and quit his job as an insurance broker to take on the fourteen hour long, gruelling days as the hotel manager. Michael opened the Parade bar in (1976) which is the main bar now and opened – what we now know as the Abbey Road bar (2002), its predecessor O’Grady’s (1990) then called; The Archives or Cellar bar (1981).
During the 1980’s Simon’s dad Michael and mum Sharon ran the Regent Hotel, which was then two very busy bars and a restaurant with bedrooms above. Simon had started helping out at the weekend in the kitchen age 9, scrubbing potatoes and washing pots. His eyes light up as he remembers;
“It was great fun”.
This experience as a youngster set him on his journey through college studying Hotel Management. In 1986 he went to France to work as a chef, in 1987 he worked in Hong Kong, later moving to Switzerland in 1989. In 1990 Simon came back for what he thought was a brief visit home to Donny before he would venture back off to Canada. In November 1991 Simon’s dad called him and asked if he’d help out at the Regent over the busy Christmas period. Simon rekindled the same love for the Regent he’d experienced as a young boy and has been there ever since. His dad retired in 2010 and Simon has managed the Regent with the help and guidance of his mum Sharon, keeping him focused through the difficult times and changes, he expands;
“We’ve worked through some very hard times, the recession of 2008-2009, when no one had any money. We had to rethink our business plan. We changed the traditional À la carte menu to the Bar and Grill approach. We have had to adapt and regenerate. My mum helped me any way she could from making seat covers to curtains for the rooms, she was always there.”
The future of the Regent is safe in the Longworth family hands, Simon’s wife Eileen and three children Connor (19), Mary (17), and Shane (15) have all worked at and continue to work at the Regent Hotel.
“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
Is the closing line from the song ‘The End’ from The Beatles album Abbey Road. Its significance is steeped in the Longworth family history and the heart of their family is the Regent Hotel.
To find out more about the The Regent click HERE
Follow writer and poet Michele Beck on Twitter HERE
Words: Michelle Beck