Palace Hotel memories go back to wedding half a century ago

Barney Bettesworth and his bride Liz Gee

Barney Bettesworth and his bride Liz Gee - Credit: Archant

It was 50 years ago that estate agent BARNEY BETTESWORTH married Liz Gee. They held their wedding reception at Torquay's former Palace Hotel and here he recounts his memories of the iconic venue:

The wedding invitation

The wedding invitation - Credit: Archant

I met Liz at Sladnor Park Country Club in Maidencombe.

Liz had moved to Torquay in her early teens and was educated at Torquay Girls' Grammar School before completing a course in hotel management at South Devon College.

After her studies, she worked abroad for some years in the hotel industry.

She worked in the Bahamas and the USA, spent time in Montreux, Switzerland followed by a stint in Davos before spending two years in South Africa.  It was on a trip home to Torquay to see her parents, Albert and Rene Gee, that Liz and I met.

Our first formal date was when Liz accompanied my parents and I, Bernard and Maureen Bettesworth, to the annual dinner dance of the Devon and Exeter Law Society at the Palace Hotel in Torquay in 1968.

Liz decided to stay in Torquay and was appointed as a lecturer teaching culinary French and housekeeping.

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I had qualified as a chartered surveyor and had become a partner with my parents in Bettesworths, a firm of local estate and hotel agents.

Easter 1970, Liz and I became engaged and the date was set for our wedding on Wednesday, July 1, 1970.

Wednesday was chosen as I was then playing cricket for Torquay and many of our cricketing friends would have found Saturday difficult as the team would have been weakened by absentees.

It also suited Liz's parents, who operated a holiday flat business in Torquay and Saturday was changeover day.

Fr Matt McGauran conducted our Nuptual Mass accompanied by Stoodley Knowle Convent Choir led by Sister Vianny at the church of Our Lady Help of Christians in St Marychurch.

This was followed by our reception at The Palace Hotel.

Vernon Duker, the owner, had strong connections with the catering college.

He generously allowed Liz's students from the college to prepare the buffet and serve it to guests in the sun lounge which opened onto the extensive terrace and the delightful landscaped grounds of the hotel.

The toast to the bride and groom was proposed by owner of the Toorak Hotel, Major Gordon Edmonds, who was well known to both of us.

We had a wonderful day, the students performed admirably and the Palace Hotel was a great setting especially for wedding photos in the beautiful gardens.

Fifty years on, our family has expanded and includes our four children and their spouses plus 11 grandchildren ranging from 18 down to three.

The Palace Hotel continued to feature in our lives and we attended many prestigious and fun events at the hotel over many years.

There were many Holly Balls run by Godfrey Grant and Torquay Rowing Club.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Torquay Round Table held The Torbay Arts Balls.

There were international dinners held there during two national Round Table conferences.

In 1975, I particularly remember, because I helped to organised it, Torquay Athletic RFC's most successful Centenary Ball with Humphrey Lyttleton and his jazz band with a West Indian Steel Band was held at the Palace.

There were numerous other dinners in including Torquay Beefeaters, professional functions and many conferences.

Paul Uphill, who was managing director for so many years, was always a very willing and helpful host encouraging business to come to Torbay.

In retrospect, the Palace was a great hotel which in its time was very, very special.

Times move on and, sadly, demand changes.

The huge Victorian building just became uneconomic and the running costs and upkeep meant that the business was unsustainable in the long term.

So we now look to the future and hope that the proposed new 248-bedroomed, five-star hotel, when completed, will provide new modern facilities in keeping with the times and attract much-needed new business into the town.