Heywood Spa Hotel has been known by a variety of names in its 200 year history - Heywood House, Hill House, Hill Cottage and Heywood Lodge, just to name a few! Historically, it was often referred to by several names at the same time.
Heywood was a prominent Country House when it was built, and home to some significant Tenby residents. The wonderfully named Edward Rawdon Bingham Power lived here until 1887. He was a Surrey lawyer who had made his fortune as a Civil Servant, helping to run British Ceylon (modern Day Sri-Lanka). Once he had retired to Tenby he was a regular contributor to Tenby Cottage Hospital, donating large weekly sums to help keep the hospital up and running. He was also Treasurer and Chairman of Tenby Charity Organisation Society, which donated money and food to the town's poor in an age where there was no state help for those living in poverty.
Yet it wasn't always so peaceful at Heywood. In 1871, the house hit the news when a friendly shooting match between Heywood and Broadmead resulted in Sergeant Major Butterworth of Broadmead being killed, when one of the Heywood team accidentally shot him in the head on the rifle range.
The Story of Allen, Wilcox and Lewis Carrol
Heywood really came to prominence in 1888, when a man named Charles Francis Edgerton Allen took up residence here. He too had been in the legal civil service in British India, serving as a judge in Calcutta in 1873 and in Burma in 1877. He went on to become a Liberal MP for Pembroke Borough. In 1891, Allen married Elizabeth Georgina Wilcox - it was probable that they were cousins, and that it was an arranged marriage. (Here's a spooky coincidence - the current owner's maiden name is Wilcox too! Could they be distant relatives?).
In Heywood, Allen and Wilcox entertained local celebrities of their day, including Lady Phillips of Picton Castle (who in return regularly invited them to garden parties, dinners and balls). They also entertained their mutual cousin, a man named Charles Dodgson - better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland. Wilcox was also an author, and her novel 'The Lost Plum Cake - A Tale for Tiny Boys' was published with a preface by Lewis Carroll. This was the only time he wrote for another author, and was the last words that he ever sent to print.
Allen was a champion of the Working Class. In 1892 there were fears among the dock workers in Pembroke Dock that the port would be closed and jobs would be lost. Allen collared the Prime Minister at the time, Gladstone, and was able to extract a promise that the port would remain open. He announced the news in Tenby town hall to "thunderous applause and cheering". He was also a supporter of Home Rule for Ireland and for the de-establishment of the Church in Wales, and argued strongly for Election reforms. In the 1890's, the only people who could vote were property owners, or those who paid an annual rent of £10 (an enormous sum for the time). Allen challenged this, arguing that there should be "no taxation without representation".
But his devotion to the working class was to get him into trouble. He twice sued the local Liberal party for financial mismanagement, and it was this that caused his electoral defeat in 1895. In 1896 he became the only Liberal magistrate for Tenby, where he ruffled more feathers. He accused the treasurer of bad management, and called for the council to stop spending from accounts that were already in debt. He was recorded as being so angry at these meetings that he used "colourful and strong language", but he was largely ignored by the council.
He then went on to save the local Music Hall. Music halls' were incredibly popular in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, mostly with the Working Class. They were a combination of theatre, comedy club and nightclub, and almost always had a lot of risque humour, which shocked the 'respectable' Middle Classes. The County Council attempted to close Tenby's Music Hall by revoking their license, however Allen pointed out that it was not their authority to do so, and as magistrate only he could make that decision. He returned the Music Hall license and was endeared by the Working Class as a result.
By 1905 he had annoyed his political party too much, and they ensured his defeat at the council elections that year, much to the surprise of the local townsfolk. Such was his popularity that local residents collected a purse of £5 to present to him as a thanks for his contributions to the town. He went into semi-retirement, leaving Heywood in 1909 to be closer to his extended family. Allen died in 1927.
The world of Allen, Wilcox and Carroll is still with us, preserved and restored by its current owners, Claire and Peter Nutty.
The reception area has always been the main lobby for the house, although in 1853 it was occasionally used as a breakfast room. Room 301 was the original dining room, and we can still look out over the lawns through the windows - a familiar sight to what Allen, Wilcox and Carroll would have seen every morning. Our lounge area was the "pretty drawing room which includes a small conservatory", and the salon was the morning room (a smaller version of the lounge that would, because of its small size, warm up quicker in the days when open fires were the only way of heating the home. What is now the bar area was originally thought to be old stables, however it has recently been discovered that the stables were actually located on what is now the leisure suite. The bar area has now been identified as the Victorian kitchens, Scullery, Servants Hall and bedrooms for the higher ranking servants.
Restoring Heywood's elegance and luxury in the modern day is Claire and Peter Nutty. As Pembrokeshire locals who recently moved back to the area from Doha, Qatar, their ambition was to create a friendly yet upmarket space for the tourists of Tenby to enjoy. Heywood Spa Hotel has had the pleasure of welcoming some well-known faces, including Ed Sheeran and Davina McCall.
Although a major refurbishment has taking place in the last four years, the original Grade-II listed building remains untouched, and a mirror image of its former self.