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 October 9

by Carolina

The Britannia Hotel stands at its spot today with the unenviable reputation of being one of the worst places to stay in Nottingham.

Its predecessor couldn’t have been more different. The Albany Hotel was considered one of the city’s smartest establishments, with the Four Seasons Restaurant, a carvery, Mint Bar and Forum Bar, frequented by Nottingham Forest players, celebrities – and even a lion cub.

But before the £1.4m hotel opened disaster struck in 1969 when 150 tonnes of scaffolding came crashing down. The horrific incident was dubbed “the miracle on Maid Marian Way” as incredibly all but one of the workers lived to tell the tale.

Reports suggested that a workman’s lorry had collided with the base of the scaffolding, bringing iron tubing and planks crashing down into St James’s Street and taking several construction workers with it.

One of those was Stan Froggatt, who was operating on a hoist on the third floor level, and was trapped by his legs, dangling upside down for half an hour as scaffolding continued to fall around him.

He was rescued by city lighting engineers John Gee and Tommy Briggs, who stopped their lorry, and rushed to help. One of six workmen treated in hospital, Mr Froggatt told Nottinghamshire Live some years later that it had been a miracle he survived.

“On the opposite corner was a Mothercare shop. If it had not been raining heavily, there would almost certainly have been mums and children in the area. It could have been a disaster,” he said.

The topping out ceremony at the Albany Hotel

The topping out ceremony at the Albany Hotel

Janet Lorraine Varney remembers the incident well, as she was working on the tenth floor of Walton House opposite. She recalled: “I saw the scaffolding collapse – it was truly shocking. We didn’t know how many people were injured and some of my colleagues went down to see if they could help including the office tea trolley supplying hot drinks.”

Nick Sanders, whose dad Syd was working there that fateful day, said his father had a lucky escape. “He was the works manager there from 1968 till 1980. He was actually standing on the scaffolding as it collapsed. He dived through the window opening to save himself.”

His dad regaled him with lots of other tales too. “The wardrobes for the bedrooms were fully built, floor to ceiling height, before they were fitted. They were taken into the rooms, but of course you couldn’t stand them up, so they had to be dismantled and rebuilt in every room,” said Nick.

When Nottinghamshire Live asked members of the Facebook group Old Nottingham Pictures for their memories about the Albany Hotel, the stories flooded in.

Anthony Potts, who worked there as a porter in the late 70s, said: “It was a really great hotel and by far the best in the city. The Forum Bar was the place on a weekend and many, many Forest players were regulars – football players used to drink and smoke in those days.

“Poor old Justin Fashanu actually lived there when he first came to Forest. Tony Woodcock and John Robertson I remember well. They used to drink in the Mint Bar too. It was a Trust House Forte hotel for a long time and we had really high standards.

“Our boss, Mr Kirman, was very exacting about dress, manners and professionalism. So many good times. Can’t believe what a horror show it has become.”

Former chef Maurice Jackson said he had some great memories of working in the carvery. He recalled serving Roxy Music – and a more unusual visitor in 1974.

“Lord Gretton of Stapleford Park brought a lion cub in and I’ve got a photo of me carving a raw rib of beef for it,” he said.

The cub, called Tanya, was better behaved than her brother Angus, who was sent home without his lunch after getting “a little unruly”.

The party were seated away from other diners “in the interests of hygiene” rather than public safety.

Maurice Jackson cutting meat for Tanya, the lion cub, at the Albany Hotel

Maurice Jackson cutting meat for Tanya, the lion cub, at the Albany Hotel

Andy Youngson, a former contractor working at the hotel in the early 80s, had a tale to share about the carvery where customers were able to carve their own meat.

“We were chatting with the maintenance manager about the carvery and asked how they made it pay with the multiple helpings. He said that they were out of pocket on it once after the Nottingham rugby team had dined there, with the big strapping lads repeatedly going back up for just meat.

“They had to alter the policy and self-carving after the loss-making. I’m a ripe old 67 and I still love tucking into a good carvery and my love for them started at the Albany.”

Graham Gough also worked in the carvery and remembers that the Nottingham Forest team often had a pre-match lunch there.

Chris Tarrant and the Tiswas team were once spotted in the Mint Bar, where a good night out was guaranteed.

Wendy Fellows said: “Happy hour at the weekend, 50p a pint. In the mid-80s it was packed…or at least until happy hour was over.”

David Sims and Jennie Walton, of the Albany Hotel, won the waiters and waitresses' race at the 1980 Nottingham Festival.

David Sims and Jennie Walton, of the Albany Hotel, won the waiters and waitresses’ race at the 1980 Nottingham Festival.

John Howard had his wedding reception at the Albany Hotel in 1990. As part of his silver wedding celebrations he returned for a drink, by which time it had changed hands.

He said: “I can honestly say it was exactly the same 25 years later. Absolutely nothing had been modernised or updated.”

Radio presenter Craig Strong remembers being whisked away in a blacked-out limo when he met soul singer Alexander O’Neil there for an interview.

He said: “I was to meet him in the reception area for an interview, it was arranged for 2pm. Come 3pm with no sign of him, I was ready to go back to the studios at Radio Trent, when all of a sudden, Alex, along with a minder and chauffeur came out of the lift, and I was bundled into the back of his waiting blacked-out limousine.”

Former chef Adrian Nathan had an amusing encounter with a crowd of girls waiting to catch a glimpse of their 80s heroes Spandau Ballet.

He said: “Spandau Ballet were staying in the hotel and when I turned up for work that evening there was a crowd of girls standing on the hotel entrance steps.

“Back then I had hair and it was in the ‘modern romantic’ style of the time. As I approached they got very excited, thinking I was part of the band’s entourage.

“I explained I was just a chef but a couple of them still wanted autographs.”

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Original posted at www.nottinghampost.com

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