As Recalled by
1st Generation: Due to the fact that Mr Briggs could visualize the future, the hotel consisted of 37 bedrooms and 5 of the rooms had its own private bathroom! It was said the first hotel on the East Coast to have private bathrooms. Although Mr & Mrs Briggs kept a close eye on everything, the daily running of the hotel was in the hands of their son Paul and daughter Gwynneth. The summers of 1937 and 1938 ran more or less according to plan but the summer of 1939 was disrupted by the start of the 2nd World War. In the September of that year the annual Trades Union Congress had just commenced. The hotel bedrooms were all booked by the top Union officials including to name only a few, Sir Walter and Lady Citrine and Mr & Mrs Ernest Bevin and many others. Most of the guests had arrived a few days earlier but when war was declared on the 3rd September Congress was adjourned immediately and everyone left. The hotel was immediately requisitioned and was occupied by various branches of the forces for the duration of the war. When the hotel was handed back to Mr & Mrs Briggs the amount of work which had to be done was tremendous. Mr Briggs assumed the hotel would be used to accommodate officers and left all the carpets in the dinning room and lounges thinking of the comfort of those who would be billeted in the hotel. To his dismay the hotel was used by all ranks and both sexes. When it was handed back he was very upset by the amount of damage that had been done. Among other things every wash basin had to be replaced and it had to be decorated throughout. Rationing was very much in force and he had great difficulty replacing carpets and furniture. The compensation received was only a small fraction of the cost of repairs and replacements. To enable the hotel to reopen during the summer of 1948, (its kind of hard to understand that the hotel was closed for 9 years and only traded for two years from opening) carpets and chairs had to be replaced. There was no choice. All furniture was known as utility furniture. The dining room lacked its former glory but was functional.
Before I begin Arthur's story I've managed to piece together through local knowledge events before the Expanse was built. As you will notice in the image a ride called the Switchback to the right of the Switchback is a Cottage known as Sands Cottage which was part of the Sands Estate which today is North Marine Drive, I was informed that Mr Briggs purchased the cottage and rented it out until he demolished and started to build the biggest hotel on the East Coast.
This is the earliest information I can find until I came across Arthur Seymour's story around Christmas 2017.
I'm aware that the family had asked Arthur to finish recalling a lot of his stories and memories and I'm now going to share this hidden treasure. To make it more interesting I've also pieced together Images that follows Arthur's story I hope you enjoy this as I have enjoyed piecing together 80 years.
Mr E.C. Briggs better known as Cooper Briggs, lived in Horsforth near Leeds with his wife and family of 9 children. Each year they spent their holidays in Bridlington. Mr Briggs was a builder and public works contractor. He built bridges and houses in various parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He loved Bridlington. In the early 1930's whilst on Holiday he had this vision and decided that it would be good for Bridlington to have a nice new modern hotel. Furthermore he decided he would build it himself - this was at a time when the whole country was suffering in the great depression of the 30's.
He went to see the then Town Clerk and told him what he wanted to do. When he had explained the details, the Town Clerk said to him "Get on with it and get it up". There was no question of planning permission in those days. Mr Briggs drew his own plans and went ahead, but not with out difficulties. From the beginning he intended building the hotel and also self contained luxury residential flats. Not holiday flats but flats which would be permanently occupied and so generate income throughout the year. Building commenced and when he got as far as the third floor the bank he was with withdrew their support and work had to stop.
Of course Mr Briggs a builder and banks were for lending money. After lengthy negotiations Martins Bank, which now no longer exits came to the rescue and the building was completed. Whilst work was going on a considerable amount of interest was created and the public were encouraged to come and view this modern building . Interest was so great that Mr Briggs had a baby's cot placed by the entrance so that the people coming to view could make a donation to charity.
Quite a substantial amount of money was collected and handed to the Lloyd Hospital. On one occasion when a group had completed the tour were standing on the front steps chatting to Mr Briggs one of the members of the group asked what he was going to call the hotel. On the spur of the moment he threw out his arms and said
"The Expanse of course, what else could it be"
The name stuck and has never changed.
The most modern and luxurious hotel on the East Coast, and maybe the North of England, was officially opened on Thursday 18th March 1937 which we celebrated 80 years on the 18th March 2017.
The building was now ready to recieve guests but to Mr & Mrs Briggs' dismay Paul, who had been a prisoner of war didn't want anything to do with the hotel and Gwynneth who had married during the war lived away. Mr & Mrs Briggs were now faced with a dilemma. They really had no choice. They opened the hotel and with all new staff ran the business very successfully.
Paul who before the war, in addition to the hotel work, did all his father's accounts and all book-keeping. Running the hotel was not easy. Food was very strictly rationed and one never knew when a food inspector would pounce to check that no joints of meat or rationed food of any sort was hidden away. Life was very difficult for Mr & Mrs Briggs so they decided to sell the whole business, the hotel and flats. Mr & Mrs Briggs were both very active members of the Methodist Church and staunch total abstainers. A purchaser came forward who was willing to buy. A day and time was fixed for the handing over of the cheque in settlement. Whilst Mr & Mrs Briggs were sat discussing the final items the directors of the firm purchasing were looking around the lounge and one said to the other
"We will have a Bar in this corner"
Mr Briggs overheard the remark and said "What did you say" he repeated what he had said and Mrs Briggs immediately replied "You are not having a Bar in this building". (We now have three Bars, Hotel Bar, Function Bar and the Marine Bar) The deal collapsed and the directors went away. Mr & Mrs Briggs were in a quandary. As usual they carried on.
Mr & Mrs Briggs had another daughter, Winifred, who was a State Registered Nurse. In 1947 she decided to take up Midwifery and did the first part of the course very successfully. Before starting the second part of the course she and a friend went to Scotland for a holiday. 2nd Generation: This was when Winifred met her future husband, a young man called Arthur Seymour from County Durham. The romance did not disrupt Winifred's ambition, she continued with the course and soon became a qualified Midwife. After some time had passed they decided to get married. This meant looking for a house in the Consett area of County Durham where Arthur worked. Winifred made a number of visits and they found a house which they thought would be suitable. Winifred's father decided he must make a visit to inspect the property. With Mrs Briggs he booked into a hotel in Durham City for the weekend. On the Sunday it was arranged that they would all visit our proposed new house. The visit went very well and everything was satisfactory and agreed. The man selling the house produced documents and asked me to sign them. At this point Mr Briggs interrupted and objected strongly to Arthur signing the documents on a Sunday.
Needless to say the transaction never materialized and it was definitely off which did not suit the seller.
Mr & Mrs Briggs returned to Bridlington and left Winifred behind so Arthur and Mr Briggs could discuss there future. A few days later Arthur and Winifred received a letter from Mr Briggs describing his difficulties now that Paul wasn't interested in the business and how he had no one to rely on to do all his office work and correspondence in addition to his bookkeeping for the building business to say nothing of the hotel side of things. As he knew Arthur had office and bookkeeping experience he wondered if I would consider coming to live and work in Bridlington after Arthur and Winifred were married. This was absolutely unexpected. Mr Briggs went on to describe what a beautiful place Bridlington was and described the good schools which would be excellent for the children. They discussed this at length. To cut a long story short and without any further details they decided to accept his offer. Mr & Mrs Seymour were married on the 7th May 1949 and had two weeks honeymoon. Two weeks later Arthur was plunged into the hotel business. The days of working 9 till 5 with every weekend off were finished for good!
Mr Briggs immediately returned to his building work and started various alterations, one being the extension of the Burlington Suite.
Mr Briggs is the gentleman on the left of the image above. (doing what he loved!)
Towards the end of 1949 Mr Briggs felt the hotel had too many bedrooms. As housing was in great demand he decided to make 5 of the ground floor bedrooms into Bachelor Flats. They were very popular with young single business ladies and were in great demand. The Bachelor flats remained in use until times changed again and in 1980 they were changed back to bedrooms for the use of the hotel guests. today those Bachelor Flats are now Rm 1,2,3,4 and part of a room in the new Secret Garden Apartment.
and were in great demand. The bachelor flats remained in use until times changed again and in 1980 they were changed back to bedrooms for use of hotel guests.
What is now the Cooper Lounge was until 1959 one of the best flats in the building. Mr Briggs was very much aware of the fact that we were short of lounge space. When a suitable flat became vacant he arranged for the tenant to move up one floor and converted the flat into a lounge. He always liked to be called Cooper Briggs, and it is called the Cooper Lounge in his memory. In those days Mr Briggs would never have visualized it as a venue for Civil Wedding Ceremonies and receptions for which it is frequently used. It is also well used for meetings of various kinds. He loved building and was very happy making alterations and adding to the hotel altering the shape of the building completely.
Where there was a flat roof originally intended for sun bathing he built bedrooms such as Rm 33, 34, & 35 then immediately above are 45, 46 and 47. During 1972 a further flat on the third floor was converted into bedrooms. Although bedrooms 27, 28, 29 the hotel started off with 37 bedrooms and 5 private bathrooms. Although bedrooms have been added to comply with modern requirements a number have been made into private bathrooms. The hotel now has 48 bedrooms each with its own bathroom.
All these additions and alterations were carried out without any hesitation or argument. In 1960 things began to change. The Government at the time decided to change and slightly relax the licensing laws. As it was becoming more and more common for the Guest Houses to obtain a Licence to enable them to serve drinks with a meal Arthur was dashing off to the Off Licence shops to buy bottles of wine when guests requested a favorite wine with their meal. The situation was discussed at length because more and more guests expected to be able to have the wine of their choice with their meal. As Arthur said previously both Mr & Mrs Briggs were staunch Methodists and very strict teetotalers. Mrs Briggs would enter the discussions about obtaining a licence and made her feelings known. Mr Briggs was a business man and as always could see into the future.
No one knew the many hours of torment he must have had with his conscience, knowing what was right for the business, but against his convictions and all he had worked for all his life. After many hours of discussion it was agreed that if the Expanse was to continue functioning as a hotel we had very little choice. Looking back there is no doubt whatever that right decision was made. The next problem was who would apply for a licence. It was felt that it would be rather discourteous to expect Mr Briggs to go before the Magistrates and make an application for a licence to sell intoxicating liquor in his hotel. There was no one else but Arthur to do it. Arthur had no knowledge of the licensing trade at all.
In fact at that time Arthur had never socially visited a public house! To cut a long story short Arthur applied for what was then known as a Residential Licence. This allowed wine and spirits etc to be delivered and served to residents and guests having a meal. This carried on quite smoothly for about a year. All this time many people were constantly asking why Arthur did not apply for a full licence. It was not too long before Arthur was persuaded and he had further.....further discussions with Mr & Mrs Briggs. Mrs Briggs would not enter the discussion under any circumstances. Arthur said to Mr Briggs that if he agreed to him applying for a full licence Arthur would have to find a manager who would take on the full responsibility because Arthur had neither the knowledge or experience to manage a public bar. After a while Mr Briggs agreed to him applying for a full licence on condition that if it was granted he would do the building work, he would change what was his workshop into a public bar. Arthur applied and went before the Magistrates and a licence was granted. It so happened that Mr Briggs on his 80th Birthday started work on what is now the Marine Bar.
Work was completed and in spring of 1964 the Marine Bar Lounge (as it was called back then or nearly Neptune's Bar) was opened and functioning.
Winifred and Arthur realized that years were passing very quickly they were both creeping on in years. Winifred and Arthur couldn't help wonder about what would happen to the Expanse should anything unexpectedly happen to them. Not only was the hotel involved but there were all the residents in the flats. It could have been a real headache for someone.
It was during the late 1970's that Neil and Irene expressed a real desire to become involved in the hotel business. Arthur tried to explain the hazards and frustrations involved and asked them to think about it seriously. They did and decided to give up their life in Leeds and come to Bridlington. Neil moved cautiously into the business and as time went on became more and more involved.
In 1982 a flat on the 4th floor became vacant and it was decided to convert it into a beautiful suite. This was done very successfully and is known as the Burlington Suite.
It has a delightful sun lounge with panoramic views. The name Burlington was the original name for Bridlington in days gone by. The suite was so popular that in 1986 a flat on the first floor with similar views and facilities became vacant. This was also converted into a second suite which is known as the Belvedere Suite and is just as popular.
Business carried on more or less as planned and during 1987 we celebrated 50 years with a special function with dancing to 1930's music with an elaborate fireworks display put on by Standard Fireworks.
3rd Generation: In 1999 Winifred and Arthur celebrated there Golden Wedding with a very enjoyable function with a meal and dancing. This was on a Saturday night. The following Monday morning Winifred, Irene, Neil and Arthur sat down and seriously talked. They all realized that for some years we were loosing a lot of business because they had no special function room. Weddings are quite good business and usually want to have an evening function. This they could never do because the dining room was needed for hotel residents. Immediately after the 2nd world war Mr Briggs again looking into the future bought the house next to the Expanse with the intention of incorporating it and enlarging the hotel. Instead of doing that, owing to the acute shortage of houses at the time he turned the building into flats which were used as such until the middle of 1987. They were demolished in due course and the land was used for car parking. On that Monday morning a momentous decision was made. Neil, Irene, Arthur and Winifred made the firm decision that they would celebrate the millennium in there own grand new function room.
Neil immediately went into action and the work started and was completed so that we could celebrate dawn of the year 2000 in style. It is now 2005 and the project has proved to be very successful. Irene and Neil decided it should be called the Seymours and asked if Winifred and Arthur had any objection. they agreed and felt quite honored.
It was soon found that the actual bar facilities were inadequate and towards the end of 2004 work started to make an extension on another wall. This is expected to be ready for Easter 2005 if not before.
Its sad to say that this is as far as Mr Seymour got with his stories of times gone by, I'm not sure if he was able to see the project finished but its now 2018 and I can honestly report that the Bar extension has been a great success.
I feel I need to continue where Mr Seymour left off, Neil and Irene carried on moving with the times introducing residential flats that came vacant and converting into self catering apartments in keeping with the memories of those who once lived here at the Expanse such as The Mayor's Parlour, The Counting House, The Directors Box and The Lookout Post which was used during the war to guide fighter planes to the nearest base to Lissett where 158 Squadron were stationed.
A few miles inland from the Expanse was Carnaby runway, it was never a base, it was instead a very long runway, built for planes, both fighters and bombers, to emergency land if they were in difficulty. The Carnaby emergency runway lays due west of the Expanse, the distinctive off-white Expanse building was left as a beacon to guide these planes in.
Who would have thought the Expanse played such an important role during the war, Myself and Eleanor moved into the Lookout Post when we moved from Leeds back to Bridlington I guess our story is almost as long as the rest.
Whilst Neil still plays an important role in the business advising, instructing and guiding for myself, Eleanor and Natasha to take more of an active role and to carry on the business by implementing change in the current climate, our mission is not to lose the charms that the Expanse as always demonstrated but to change when change is needed.
One change we experience only 6 months ago was the installation of a brand new echo friendly boiler system which really but us to the test but we stood by it, watched it been installed, tested as many rooms and bled many radiators and I certainly can report its almost 100%
Irene has been very busy as you will notice in a lot of the images throughout this website in the elegant designs of her rooms and public areas, last year one room on the forth floor was converted into a junior suite which to me reflects something of the standard in the Ritz The Bennett Suite named after myself and Eleanor Bennett, this room makes us feel a big part of the history of the hotel it makes us proud and proves going forward to carry on with such style and standard but keeping it family.
4th Generation: Myself and Eleanor married on the 8th May 2004, four years after the Seymour's function room was completed and decided it was only right to have our Wedding reception at the Expanse, at the time Eleanor worked in HR for Leeds Council and had a very big input in consultations for the great bin strike in Leeds.
I was working for a well known company Scottish & Newcastle Pub chains The Rat & Parrot Leeds City Center where I worked as a Assistant Bar Manager and after then many other Pubs and Bars as well as Leeds Hilton Hotel.
The rat race was normal to us it was part of every day life jumping on the number 3 Bus commuting to and from Chapel Allerton, we would often visit family in Bridlington at the weekends and one weekend sticks with me as that's when it all began, at the top of Neil and Irene's garden is a Japanese style Sun Hut equipt with chairs, table and radio and such gardening spades, plant pots etc, we where invited in and chatted about the hotel and the future and our future, it was then we left Bridlington to return to the bright lights of Leeds.
To begin with we only spoke about it at home and then with close friends and family the weeks went by and if i'm correct it was a few months later we decided ok lets go ahead.
With that we moved back to Bridlington the flat we were moving into wasn't ready but we where lucky enough to be there in time for the Lookout Post Apartment this had been converted and was made ready for our return our home for the next 6 months.
I was given the keys and off I went, the move was uncomfortable for Eleanor as we where expecting our first child Olivia Grace Bennett and since then we now have our 2nd child Emelia Rose Bennett both can be heard around the hotel when there attending an event with myself and Eleanor but not often or we would have no guests.
I was asked by Neil to take over the Marine Bar as the experience was already there and Mac was retiring, Eleanor settled in to her role shadowing Neil like she had always been there, but more recently I have taken a more active role along side Eleanor in the hotel so that we both can concentrate on taking the business forward, I'm sure I can speak on behalf of Eleanor there's never a dull day everyday there's something that will test us but its rewarding when we can get through it.
On the 23rd March 2020 as the world became the victim of COVID-19 we closed our doors for the very first time since 1939 a time when the whole country had no idea on what would happen next, I'm sure we can share all our experiences of the last three years but as a family business we was glad to be reopen and glad to be welcoming you all back! to those we have lost, you will be forever in our hearts.
Mr Briggs saw the future of the Expanse I wonder if he saw four generations running his grand hotel? The last 3 years has really tested us as a family our staff our managers we cannot praise them enough for the support and hard work to rebuild and open our family business after a global shut down.
But we did it! the hotel Expanse has sat proud over 85 years through World War 2, 4 Recessions, Brexit and now a Pandemic our family business has been built up over many years by the owners, staff and managers, my vision is that our repeat guest and new customers will choose the Expanse for many different reasons, one being the Expanse retains its unique selling point of Sea Facing Rooms, its family run "and when I say family that also includes our employees, they are our family" and its one on one approach that many chain hotels do not provide.
Our 85 years reputation lives on.
Better Days Are Coming!
We welcome our guests by name you leave as our friend.
In the words of Arthur Seymour
"May you live as long as you want, but never want as long as you live"