HOLBECK HALL 20 YEARS ON: Recalling the disaster of the hotel that collapsed into the sea

June 1993 ... the Holbeck Hall and its gardens fall victim to landslips
June 1993 ... the Holbeck Hall and its gardens fall victim to landslips

On Thursday, June 3 1993, the staff and guests at the Holbeck Hall – and the rest of Scarborough – were blissfully unaware that the historic hotel would be at the centre of a major event that would put the town on the world map.

In a matter of hours Scarborough was mobbed by the nation’s media as the town’s only four-star hotel began to fall over the cliff.

Walkers had noticed cracks and bulges in land surrounding the hotel on the Thursday night, and some said they had reported some minor cliff movements.

But hotel staff were not informed and guests carried on as normal.

Early the following day the first of three more major slips occurred, taking with it most of the hotel’s gardens and causing cracks in the hotel’s walls.

Residents waking up opened their curtains to find that the rose garden and most of the front lawn had dropped over the cliff.

Eighty staff and guests were evacuated in a hurry, leaving behind many belongings. Some guests had to be rescued from their rooms after doors became stuck because of the movement from the landslip. Others were reluctant to go. When all the guests were out, staff began to remove valuable items from the hotel but were soon stopped as it was deemed to be unsafe.

It is believed that some expensive paintings attached to the hotel walls were lost.

Speaking to the Scarborough Evening News on the 10th anniversary of the disaster, Joan Turner, owner of the Holbeck Hall Hotel, recalled the shock and despair of seeing her beloved hotel collapse.

She said: “I still remember the shock. It was our first hotel and was very special to us and to Scarborough.

“I didn’t realise just how many other people loved the hotel until we received over 400 letters and cards from people saying how sad they were at what had happened.”

Mr and Mrs Turner bought the Holbeck Hall in 1979 and it became the first in their English Rose chain of hotels, which later included the Royal, run by themselves and their two sons, David and Mark.

Mrs Turner said: “It was always our dream to have the Holbeck and the Royal. There aren’t many people who get two wishes come true.”

Her husband, Barry, died in 2003, aged 66, three months before the 10th anniversary of the disaster.

She said: “Thinking of the Holbeck will always make me think of him. We used to walk past the hotel and look up at it and Barry would always say ‘If I ever buy a hotel I want to buy the Holbeck’. And he did. I think he bought it for me as much as himself.”

Mrs Turner recalled the day she heard what had happened.

She said: “The manager called early in the morning and said he had evacuated all the guests because the garden had disappeared and cracks were appearing in walls. We couldn’t believe it and rushed round to see for ourselves. It was awful. As soon as I saw it I knew we wouldn’t trade again. We rescued what we could but resigned ourselves to losing so much. The real blessing of the whole disaster was that no-one was hurt. Then it would have been a real tragedy.”