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News > Haileybury Memories > A phoenix from the ashes - an Allenby old boy's restoration story

A phoenix from the ashes - an Allenby old boy's restoration story

Martin Skan (A 48) tells the story of how two OHs turned Chewton Glen, a "dilapidated country house" in Hampshire into a top class luxury hotel...

From derelict wreck to magnificent hotel - the story of a phoenix from the ashes
From derelict wreck to magnificent hotel - the story of a phoenix from the ashes

When we see glorious buildings in the landscape, it is so easy to appreciate them for what they are without necessarily thinking about how they came to be. Such a case is Chewton Glen in Hampshire, once a crumbling country house and now a magnificent hotel - a revival due in no small part to the efforts of Allenby old boy Martin Skan (A 48). Here, he tells the story of how it came to be...

Prompted by the Haileybury Society's request for stories about their lives post-Haileybury, I thought I would write in with my own story, which I thought would be of interest to my contemporaries from 1948-53.

I have been very lucky throughout my life; at Haileybury itself, I was in Allenby House and loved every moment of it. Our House Master was Mr R.L. Ashcroft (limited quantities of RL Ashcroft's memories of Haileybury are still available from our online shop - ed.) and he encouraged us to win at every sport which in fact we did, and this sense of competitiveness equipped us well for our futures.   

I was lucky enough to gain a scholarship for a year to Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles which was a wonderful experience, and I then returned to do my National Service in the Dorchester Regiment.

After that I spent five years in my father’s family business and, in 1966, I purchased a dilapidated old country house on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire called Chewton Glen.  

Together with my brother, Trevor, who is also an OH, we set about totally refurbishing the entire property. I did not have any hotel training and it was a wonderful learning curve which I would gladly do all over again with my wife and also my PA who both worked with me at the hotel for over 40 years, together with a team of 250 staff.      

Over the years we built up a hotel that became recognised as one of the best in Britain, in fact when the AA Red Star system started Chewton Glen was the only hotel in England, outside of London, to be awarded Five Red Stars. We were lucky enough to look after a great number of celebrities, royalty and captains of industry which helped to make life extremely interesting – certainly no day was ever the same!

 

An inspirational story indeed, and proof if any were needed that hard work delivers great results even if, as in this case, you are new to your industry! If you have similar stories which you would like to share with your fellow OHs, please do drop us a line. We would love to publish them. Contact us at our normal email address here.

Image of Chewton Glen courtesy of the Chewton Glen website.

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