Brian Jenkins, Concierge at The Midland in Morecambe, is always in demand for his interesting and insightful tours of the hotel.
Guests from all over the world with an interest in architecture and history visit The Midland and Brian is happy to be in a position to enhance the guest’s experience by furnishing them with details of the original design and architect, Oliver Hill, the restoration, artwork by Eric Gill, Marion Dorn and Eric Ravilious as well as anecdotes of life in the hotel past and present.
How did you came to work at The Midland?
Prior to 2008 I worked as an Area Manager for a facility maintenance company. My wife and I would visit The Midland for weekends away and it became our little bolt hole. At times it became a busman’s holiday as I would drop in to the Manager’s office and recommend specialist cleaning products necessary for the original art deco fabric of the building.
In May 2008 we moved into the area and I started work part time as KP – in the kitchen where the food I had come to love was produced. Six weeks later when a vacancy arose, I took up a position front of house.
What inspired you to start tours around the hotel?
It all happened very naturally. Guests would ask questions about the building and its history. The front of house team had some knowledge but we struggled with the more specialist questions. This prompted me to speak to The Manager who supplied me with a large pile of relevant books, and there began a fascinating journey into all aspects of the hotel. Furnished with this knowledge, I was ready when the guests started to ask to be shown around. Over time, I developed the route and extended my knowledge, helped by anecdotes shared by several guests and locals who knew and visited the hotel shortly after it opened.
Give us a taste of what you cover in the tour?
We start with the history of Morecambe and the original LMS concept and costings of the hotel. I include the two Eric Gill artworks downstairs, Odysseus and the map of the North West before looking at the original doors and photos of the original dining tables.
Upstairs we cover The Medallion, another of Eric Gill’s pieces, the Crittal window, the magnificent staircase and handrail and the extension on the top floor. We also take a peek outside at the iconic Portland stone seahorses. Downstairs again, we talk about the Marion Dorn rugs and the story of the seahorse design, sold by Marion Dorn to Eric Gill for just £20.
The tour takes about 45 minutes and in 2013 I did 120 tours, speaking to 916 people in total. It is open to any of our guests and visitors whether residential or dinner guests.
Any memorable moments?
It was great talking to one of our guests whose great-great grandfather was the harbour master on Morecambe Harbour prior to the operation moving to the new Heysham Harbour in 1904.
Two of the characters from the book that we sell at Reception, ‘The Midland Hotel, Morecambe’s White Hope’ came to life for me. There is a photograph of two ‘elegant ladies’ standing outside the hotel (p99). The lady on the left is holding an umbrella and we were contacted by her daughter in Canada asking if she might have a copy of the photograph for her mother.
An elderly gentleman introduced himself to me as the boy in the photograph (from the same book, p116), standing beside two donkeys. The day the photograph was taken was a memorable day for him as it was the day after the doctors removed the calipers that he had to wear due to polio that he suffered as a very young child.
And I hear you have even managed to get yourself broadcast on television?
Yes indeed! It was a privilege to be filmed with Phil Tuffnell when he covered the history of The Midland for The One Show. We were also featured on BBC News last year when they reported on the painting of the mural in the Rotunda bar in homage to the original painting by Eric Ravilious.
- Written by +Tina Taylor