The Borrowdale Hotel, near Keswick, has been taking guests since 1866 and was one of the first coaching inns built in the Borrowdale valley, remaining a favourite for returning guests ever since.
In 1973 The Borrowdale Hotel was bought by Jean and Günter Fidrmuc, and was run by their son until 2008 when the hotel was bought by the Lake District Hotels Ltd, a family owned group of 6 hotels. In the last couple of years the hotel has been modernised and refurbished but still retains its old world charm.
Peter Fidrmuc, previous owner of the Borrowdale Hotel, reflected on his time with the hotel and said “When we took over, there were no phones in the bedrooms and no central heating. One of the first projects was the extension to the bar lounge area, closely followed by improving the dining room. More recently the conservatory was added, and soon became a favourite location for lunchtime guests - especially in the spring.”
The hotel still has copies of adverts from the hotels first 20 years in which they proudly advertise “hot, cold and shower baths and collection by Omnibus from Keswick station!”
We have pictures throughout the hotels 140 year history and some original invoices too. One of the earliest adverts for the hotel can be found in an 1879 publication “Gates Ewe Shepherds Guide for Cumberland and Westmorland and Lancashire”.
“The establishment is the only Hotel situated immediately at the head of Derwentwater…, and commands the grandest views of lakes, mountains and valleys of this most romantic part of the Lake District”…. “The omnibus meets all the trains at Keswick Station”.
It is the history of the hotel that is fascinating. In its early days the hotel was patronised by “H.R.H. Prince Arthur, The Prince of Wales and other leading nobility of Great Britain”.
The Borrowdale Hotel has passed through several owners. The first were the Italian Cesari family who moved to the Lake District from Inverness, Scotland. The hotel includes an article from 1908 which discusses a fire which did £60 of damage! The Askew family ran the hotel and a coaching company that took guests to and from the station, and the original coaching timetable is part of the hotels collection. The Coward family and the Goodfellow’s have also been proprietors – some old photographs of the hotel highlight the name changes.
During the early part of the 20th century two well known sisters were in charge - Mabel Leyland and Elsie Whittaker who ran the hotel during the Second World War. Elsie’s son Peter Whittaker (a previous owner of Treeby and Bolton, Keswick) took over before passing it to his brother Michael. It was Michael who then sold it to Jean and Gunter Fidrmuc at 5pm on 19th April 1973.
During the 2nd world war the hotel was popular with honeymoon couples - forces couples who married during the war had half their honeymoon paid for by the RAF and there are still copies of the invoices within the hotel. It is now 60 years since the wartime weddings and several guests returned to celebrate their diamond anniversary.
In 2006, a couple who honeymooned at the Borrowdale Hotel, came ten years ago for their golden wedding and their daughter also booked them in for their diamond anniversary. Many of the hotel’s guests have been coming for years - they are like part of the family and it’s important to make sure their favourite things are available such as their favourite tipples at the bar!
The Borrowdale Hotel is one of the few Lake District hotels to welcome dogs, a tradition carried from the very first week of opening, when “dog meals and kennels were also provided alongside accommodation for the servants”!!
The gardens were created at the same time as the hotel and the Cherry and Magnolia trees, planted the same year, can still be seen today. “Rarely do they both flower at the same time but it seems that the Magnolia tree has quite a following” said Kit Graves, Director. “In April and May we have quite a few lunchtime visitors who come specially to see the Magnolia in bloom. While it never flowers for long, it is a beautiful sight while it does!”.
Lake District Hotels Ltd. Owned and run by the Graves family. Complete ground floor refurbishment including restaurant, lounges, reception and bar. All bedrooms refurbished. Self catering cottage transformed into 4 brand new bedrooms.
Peter Fidrmuc took over running of the hotel from parents
Gunter and Jean Fidrmuc bought it at 5pm 19th April 1973
Extended bar/lounge 1974/75
Extended dining room 1976/77
Improvements to panelling 1992
Conservatory added 1997
Dismantled the veranda and put back on like it had been
Stopped selling petrol
Michael and Francis Whitaker
The ladies toilet was their office - moved it to put reception where it is now, was previously the cocktail bar as seen in the old colour brochure Installed electric in 60’s which is when they had to cut through the bell cabling Monkey Puzzle tree was pulled down and he remembers it took 15 years for the roots to rot
Took over the hotel for a short while before managers went in until the other side of the Whitaker family took over
Mabel Leyland and Elsie Whitaker
Post-war changes to the hotel. Over mantle taken down from hall fireplace and burned on bonfire for Nov 5th, replaced with brick one - same story in main lounge Wooden picture rails were built by Frank Scott from Millburn’s Joiners Large oval table in lounge was called the condor table and was from London, brought by a Mayor of London Some of the furniture pictured is still in Michael Whitaker’s family today Corner chair made by Herbert Leyland (Mabel’s husband killed in WW1)
In the early 1940’s suffield scheme Second World War - RAF paid half honeymoon.ß During the war self evacuee’s and people visiting friends evacuated The garden passage had shutters to act as a dug out in case of bombing
Traditionally only open Easter, summer holidays and latterly Christmas where Auntie (Mabel) made a large portion of mincemeat and all the guests stirred it in the hall. Christmas pudding servings included a silver thre’ penny bit wrapped in greaseproof paper to make sure it didn’t get swallowed! In earlier times, people came for 2 weeks, in the beginning some would come for month’s - during the war the richer self evacuee’s stayed at the hotel.
History and notes of interest about Mabel and Elsie:
Born in the George Hotel in Keswick. First pupils at Keswick School when it opened - along with Percy Hope. Attended Miss Jefferson’s School and often late as they could not catch the ponies. Elsie and her husband (with 2 year old Michael and his elder 2 brothers) took over when Thomas Bownass died. Mabel planted the Magnolia tree in the hotel gardens.
Thomas Bownass with Mabel Leyland (nee Bownass)
(Peter & Michael Whitaker’s grandfather)
Retired from the hotel business and moved to a house near the hospital, but came out of retirement when he drove his pony and cart past the Borrowdale hotel which had been empty for 4 years. Thomas bought it in 1925/6, called his daughter Mabel back to help run it
Mabel was in Blackpool running the Imperial, and had only been there a year or so when she was called back. Her husband had been killed in WW1
Local council widened the road using some of the field he owned.
Installed petrol pump and sold petrol to guests – a smelly job! The first pump was a wind up pump.
Plastered the end gable of the hotel to stop water coming in.
People came for a fortnight at a time in those days.
Had an aviary for budgerigars next to veranda!
History of the Thomas Bownass family
They had been involved in the hotel business for generations, Michael Whitaker is Thomas Bownass’s grandson, and recalls connections with hotels in Keswick; the George, Queen’s and the Royal, plus training and service at the Derwentwater, the Lodore, The Old England in Windermere and The Ullswater Hotel. Thomas bought a steamer running on Windermere, whilst at the Old England. He took the steamer over Kirkstone pass using 30 horses - put it on Ullswater, first winter it froze on the lake, cracked and sank. Was salvaged in 1970’s and taken to the Boat museum back on Windermere.
The Borrowdale hotel was closed
History unknown. We are always interested in the history of our hotels so if you know something please do let us know, email us email@example.com