From Augusta to the Met ballroom
Ex-professional golfer and his partner tell the Gazette why they've taken on the project.
Standing imposingly atop Whitby’s West Cliff lies a building dating back over 100 years.
The Metropole hotel has stood in Whitby since the late 1800s and was reportedly the first building in the town to have electric powered light.
Now its bar and ballroom areas have been re-launched by the former professional golfer Iain Pyman and his partner Jane Thornton, under the name: The Met Lounge & Ballroom.
Iain is originally from Whitby and grew up on North Promenade, a street which is located just feet from the Metropole Hotel.
Around the age of five, he moved away from the town and later became a professional golfer visiting many countries around the world in the process, including playing at the US Masters with Arnold Palmer.
He also set the record for the lowest score by an amateur at the Open Championship, which stood for over 20 years.
His journey has now come full circle as he returns to Whitby, turning his attention towards making a success out of the newly refurbished lounge and ballroom areas of the Victorian building.
The Metropole hotel has a long-standing history in Whitby, not least for its involvement in the Second World War when the hotel was used as a military training base for soldiers.
In a war memoir published by the BBC in 2003, Ron Goldstein recounts visiting the building when it housed an army training camp: “After breakfast we marched to an imposing ex-hotel on the cliff top, the Metropole, which was to be our training college for the next three months.
“Here we were to learn the rudiments of both radio transmission and driving, in almost equal measure.”
In September, 1942, an enemy air raid descended on Whitby, killing the sentry guard on duty outside the Metropole hotel - Gunner Robert Watmore who was aged 19.
The blast was so strong that it destroyed over thirty vehicles in the Metropole car park.
Gunner Watmore was from near Edinburgh and serving with the 52nd A.A. Training Regiment, Royal Artillery, based at The Metropole hotel, and was the only British soldier to be killed in Whitby by enemy action.
During the building’s time as a war base, the hotel also housed a cocktail bar next to the lounge area.
An advert in a 1947 guide to Whitby sold the hotel as offering “dancing every night during the season in one of the finest ballrooms on the East coast”.
Those wishing to stay were advised to “write to the manager for particulars of very reasonable tariff”. The guide also added: “every bedroom with a glorious sea or moor view,” in “an unrivalled position on West Cliff close to the beach, golf, tennis and spa”.
At present, Iain and Jane are confident they can make a success of the project.
The work to refurbish the lounge and ballroom has required significant dedication from the pair. Iain explained: “We took over in mid-October and put in around 16, 20 hour days to get the place open for Goth Weekend.
“The ballroom was the real challenge. You think ‘oh I’ll just go up there and clean that cobweb’, but it’s not as simple as that with the ceiling being so high.”
Opening the windows proved no easier either, with the pair believing they hadn’t been opened for around 30 years. Jane added: “We have used the original lights we found in the cellar in the bar and lounge area to make it more Victorian.”
With a background in event management at First Direct in Leeds, Jane feels she is well equipped to manage the new project. She said: “Having worked for eight or nine years in event management, this should stand us in good stead.
“I think the building deserves passion and enthusiasm and if we can’t make it work, no-one can.
“It’s a big change for us but it’s very exciting to get this new venture.”
The work isn’t finished yet either, with plans to improve the acoustics in the ballroom by installing fabric to make live music performances sound better in the ballroom which has stood since 1897.
There will be no respite for the pair either, as they prepare to get married in Leeds in January, as coincidence would have it, at the Leeds Metropole Hotel.
Iain’s family lineage connecting to Whitby stretches back years. Both his parents came from the town, while a photograph of Iain’s grandfather on horseback outside the Metropole Hotel in 1950 hangs proudly on the wall in the current bar area.
In 1822 his family built the Pyman Institute in Sandsend. His mother’s maiden name is also Lyth and he is a distant relative of the famous Yorkshire and England cricketer, Adam Lyth who recently turned on Whitby’s Christmas lights.
The couple are now turning their attention towards their Christmas offering.