80 years: Life at The Expanse

The management team: Neil and Irene Wilks with daughters Natasha and Ellie and son-in-law Paul (PA1710-11p/q)
The management team: Neil and Irene Wilks with daughters Natasha and Ellie and son-in-law Paul (PA1710-11p/q)

Bridlington’s biggest hotel The Expanse has stood proudly on the seafront for 80 years.

With almost 50 rooms, and up to 50 staff working there during the summer months, it has welcomed all sorts of guests through its distinctive revolving doors during its history.

The Expanse Hotel

The Expanse Hotel

Irene and Neil Wilks run The Expanse, which was built by her grandfather Edmund Cooper Briggs in 1933 and opened in 1937.

“Every day is different,” said Irene. “You never know what is going to happen. Sometimes we get to the end of the day and you start telling people and you begin with ‘you are never going to believe this but....”

The Who, Status Quo, Morecambe and Wise, Cliff Richard and Tom Jones have all checked in during Bridlington’s heyday, and more recently the Kaiser Chiefs, Fatboy Slim, Jessie J and Jools Holland have stayed.

They are treated with the same warm welcome and levels of care as the regular guests who arrive for a break two or three times a year.

Ellie gets the room ready for the next guests

Ellie gets the room ready for the next guests

People like Mr and Mrs Moffatt who have been coming from Edinburgh for decades, or Mrs Stansfield, who at 93 is thought to be the oldest guest who keeps returning year after year.

The staff know their names, their faces and what they want from their holiday.

“People feel secure here. They know people will remember them,” said Irene, whose daughters Ellie and Natasha are part of the Expanse team.

“Some of them have been coming since they were children and now they are bringing their grandchildren for a holiday. The biggest challenge is keeping up with their expectations.”

Paul inspects work on one of the room upgrades.

Paul inspects work on one of the room upgrades.

The art-deco surroundings are a huge draw for many guests, but The Expanse also has to change with the times, and find a way of blending the modern, such as wifi and contactless payments, with the traditional.

And this year, there is a new challenge with the prospect of national chain hotels opening up in Bridlington.

“We cater for a totally different market,” says operations manager Paul Bennett, Irene and Neil’s son-in-law. “Ours is mainly the over 50s but we have seen more families coming here in recent years, especially with our self-catering accommodation.

“The new hotels have prompted us to get on with the upgrade of some of our rooms but our main selling point is the view, and second is our reputation. We’ve been here for 80 years.”

An old shot of the Expanse from the air

An old shot of the Expanse from the air

Its history means it also has something which new-builds can’t offer - the legend of the hotel ghost.

“I believe there is one,” said Paul. “I have never seen it but I may have heard it.

“People say she is an old chambermaid who died years ago. Apparently she has been seen on the fourth floor and downstairs in the lounge.”

The Expanse has plenty of celebrations planned to mark its milestone anniversary, although it is more used to hosting other people’s celebrations.

It is one of the town’s most popular venues for wedding receptions and family functions and its 80th years looks set to be one of its busiest.

But staff will have to wait and see if any household names are booked in to mingle with the other guests.

The official opening in 1937

The official opening in 1937

“Often we don’t know the celebrities are coming until they arrive at reception,” said Irene.