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Meet the Owner – Fishmore Hall, Ludlow

Sarah-Jane Lampe 6 June 2013
Meet the Owner – Fishmore Hall, Ludlow

Laura PenmanHB talks to Laura Penman, owner of Fishmore Hall, a fine Georgian property with views overlooking the delightful town of Ludlow

Tell me the story of your hotel
Fishmore Hall was originally built as a private house in 1810. It was designed with a big kitchen and large reception rooms, perfect for entertaining.

During the Second World War the house was let to a school looking to evacuate its children from the south. The headmaster loved the area so much that he stayed after the war was over and the building remained a highly respected school. This was until the 1980s, when it became a home for what the locals referred to as ‘naughty’ boys.

Treated terribly by the children, the building became too expensive to keep in good repair and so it was sold to a property development company. Unfortunately that company had some bad luck of its own and left the building derelict for five years.

During this period the vacant property was further vandalised, with much of the wiring and the roof lead and slates removed, letting in the weather. By 2006 the property was back on the market and seeing the potential that the property had through the boarded up windows, we put together a business plan, totally refurbished the property, and opened for business in 2007 taking back the original name, Fishmore Hall.

What challenges have you faced since opening?
As everyone knows now, the latter part of 2007 saw the first signs of the economy sliding into recession – not a great time to be opening a new hotel. The renovations had also gone over budget and we’d had to borrow more money than we had anticipated. Inevitably, we spent a long time playing catch up in a very tough economy.

Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
Marketing, PR and salaries. To keep our staff here and happy, we need to have a regular stream of customers coming through the doors.

Effective marketing is key to attracting new customers; it’s important to get it right, but it’s not easy and you have to learn quickly by your mistakes. But, I’m delighted to say, our guests give us fantastic feedback, and many return again and again, often bringing friends and family with them. Delighted customers means staff that are proud of what they do and really enjoy their work.

What are your future plans?
In an effort to expand in a controlled manner and to ensure the hotel retains its levels of customer service and quality, this year we are just working on a new kitchen garden and plans for a garden mini spa. The hotel itself still has lots of planning permission available – 12 more bedrooms and some external buildings on the site.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
A landscape gardener or an architect.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Determined, particular, passionate

If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?
Perhaps its a bit clichéd, but I can’t really picture myself doing anything else.

Average room rate: £125
Average food spend per head: £49
Average weekly occupancy: 85%
Staff members: 30