Just like at the end of the Titanic, when the movie flashes back to the golden good times of the glorious ship, my mind often flashes back to the days when my Grandparents owned a wonderful pub and B&B on the seafront in Cromer, Norfolk. Just like the way Rose’s memory takes us along the decks of the ship with the friendly faces of the staff greeting her, I think back to the bar, kitchen, halls and bedrooms of The Bath House, along with the various bar staff, waiters and waitresses and of course my Grandparent’s welcoming faces.
Their free house pub was on Cromer’s sunny promenade, so in the summer they would have lots of tables outside so people could sit, drink and eat overlooking the beach, pier and out to the North Sea. My Grandad Bert was proud of his range of beer and ale and was the perfect landlord welcoming tourists and locals alike with a jolly attitude. They welcomed children over 14 in the bar, but any younger would need to stay outside – those local fisherman propped up at the bar were a rowdy bunch! My Grandma was the chief in the kitchen and they served up proper hand-made pub grub, along with local specialities based around the famous Cromer Crab! Some of the most popular dishes were Mariner’s Fish Bake, Scampi and Chips, Steak and Guinness Pie (with Grandma’s delicious wholemeal pastry lid), Beef Lasagne, Cromer Crab Salad and my favourite was the Turkey Curry. The baker they used made the most amazing French bread – I can still remember the taste of it thickly spread with salty butter and mango chutney!
Until I was 11 I lived in Essex, and every Summer my sister and I would have a week-long holiday at The Bath House, staying in one of the lovely rooms complete with tea making facilities (such a novelty at that age!). We would go down to breakfast like any other guest every morning. A pot of tea for two and a rack of white toast – my Grandma would use Mighty White bread for the toast as she thought it gave it an extra crunch. There would be little silver bowls of triangular sliced butter and one of marmalade, along with individual portions of other jams and honey. A little table was laid out with jugs of orange, grapefruit and apple juice alongside a small selection of cereal and milk. A mistake would be to fill up too much on this – the full breakfast was amazing! Sausages from the local butcher, crispy bacon, eggs how you like them, fried bread (I would spread mine with ketchup), black pudding if you wanted it, mushrooms and tomatoes. If you didn’t want this you could have any type of egg cooked to your liking or local kippers.
My Grandparents, Bert and Barbara Wheston owned the pub from 1982 – 1995, and left due to the ill-health of my Grandad Bert. He soon recovered after selling up, and I often think they regret leaving when they did – I know I wish they had kept it long enough for me to take over! They have so many stories of lock-ins, celebrity guests and lovely guests. I truly believe that it added a huge amount to the town of Cromer as a tourist destination. It was taken over by brothers in 1995, and their big ideas for change and improvement, which really weren’t needed, left them struggling and unable to make the pub work as a business. In 1998 it was bought by a couple with apparent grand plans to turn it into an upmarket, boutique B&B, serving meals around the £35 per head mark. This never materialised, and the property is now used as a private house. I’m not sure whether the council has ever authorised this and it upsets me every time I see it – almost like looking at images of the sunken titanic (but obviously on a much smaller scale!!).
Perhaps my new project should be to bring back The Bath House Hotel to its former glory! If anyone has any stories, memories or ideas to bring back The Bath House please get in touch!