Staff and lifelong friends came together on Thursday 21 March at The Headland to mark the 40th anniversary since John and Carolyn Armstrong first took the keys to the hotel.
To mark the occasion, a cake designed and developed by husband and wife team Christine and Phil Jensen of Peboryon, was unveiled.
The cake, a replica of the hotel itself, stood at one foot tall, three feet long and one and a half feet wide. To serve 300 people, it included 130 eggs, seven kilos of flour and sugar, 12 kilos of butter, 15 kilos of fondant icing and involved three days of hard work by Penzance-based Peboryon, which regularly features on Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers.
It was a complete surprise for the Armstrongs and the design of the cake had been kept a closely guarded secret.
Phil Jensen of Peboryon commented: “Making this cake for the Armstrongs has been an absolute pleasure. Given the labour of love that the hotel has been, we really wanted to do it justice. That meant getting the details exactly right; every door, every window, the roofs, everything. The cake was a 1:70 replica of the hotel in Victoria sponge, with strawberry jam and a vanilla bean buttercream. The outside was decorated with fondant icing which we hand-painted to capture all of the many windows. We hope everyone enjoyed eating it as much as we enjoyed making it.”
Darryl Reburn, managing director of the hotel, commented: “John and Carolyn have invested more than £30 million into improving the hotel. At the time they purchased it, it had been through a period of decline and was in need of extensive restoration and refurbishment. It has been a lifelong project and while the Armstrongs tend to be reticent about their achievements, this is an opportunity for staff and lifelong friends of the hotel to recognise their accomplishments and share in their success.”
In March 1979, John and Carolyn stepped over the threshold of the hotel as its owners. At that time, John was 29 and Carolyn 23. John Armstrong said: “We had the resilience of youth on our side and the enthusiasm to keep going. Forty years later, we are still striving to make the hotel the best in Cornwall.”
When they took on the hotel, the roof was leaking and water had soaked in to the second floor. The boilers had been installed at the time of the First World War and converted to run on heavy ships oil. The rear goods lift had been converted to electricity in 1923 and was still running, but only just.
Within the forty years of tenure, the whole hotel has received a makeover, from new plumbing and heating, to electrics, the roof, the exterior walls and refurbishment across the entire hotel.
Today, The Headland has an iconic reputation, positioned on a picturesque peninsula overlooking Fistral Beach. It has 95 bedrooms, 39 self-catering cottages and employs approximately 180 people.
Facilities include a fully equipped gym and spa, as well as fine dining in its Samphire restaurant and informal dining in The Terrace overlooking the sea.
Fortunately, the hotel is held in high regard within the local area, but this was not always the case. It was the cause of the Newquay Riots in the 19th century; the hotel was not a welcome addition to the area as it was being built. Local fishermen claimed that the site was common land where they had dried their nets for generations. Heated arguments ensued, workmen were threatened, and on one fateful night, an angry mob trashed the foundation walls and scaffolding before tipping the foreman’s hut into the Atlantic.
The hotel continues to develop and is currently undergoing an ambitious building project to provide a multi-million pound swimming pool and leisure complex due for completion in spring 2020. It is expected to be as popular with the local community as it will be for hotel guests and visitors.
For more information, visit The Headland Hotel’s website.