Front of House

Front of House: Langdale Chase Hotel

Langdale Chase is a lakeland hotel with stunning views across Lake Windermere and the Lake District mountains. TOM DAVIS sat down with managing director Thomas Noblett to find out more.

Tell us a little bit about your history and how you came to own Langdale Chase

When I was going to leave school I was destined to be a policeman, but when it came to joining the police cadets, the lure of the glamour and the glitz of working at The Savoy drew me away from working with the police. I joined The Savoy, on a part-time basis at first and then I got onto a management training scheme. I worked in the banqueting department before progressing into junior management and working in the world-famous Thames Foyer and the restaurant. It was a steep learning curve, I saw all of the good and the great of the film world, the TV world and of royalty, there wasn’t anybody that I didn’t see from Frank Sinatra to the Queen, who I served four times. I spent 10 happy years at The Savoy before I reluctantly left, due to the lure of overseas work. After that, I worked as assistant food and beverage director at the Southampton Princess Hotel in Bermuda, which was probably the best hotel on the island. It’s a large resort hotel with 600 bedrooms and 14 restaurants, and I spent five great years there with my wife, who became a nurse on the island.

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Thomas Noblett
Thomas Noblett

I then went to Dubai and worked for Hyatt Hotels Corporation for 14 months. This was again a great experience. It was brand new with a revolving restaurant and 1,000 staff, and I worked there as executive manager in charge of food and beverage. We then left to come back to England to regroup and look for another job abroad, but we saw an advert for a couple to come and manage a hotel. We applied to Langdale Chase and I was general manager for four years. After that we left to buy our own hotel in Cornwall, which we sold on quite quickly, but the two directors at Langdale Chase were leaving and I was offered the chance to come back to the hotel, which I did in 1999, as managing director, and I have now been here 16 years.

Langdale Chase

Tell us about the design of the hotel

The design of the rooms conforms to lakeland rules, the building itself looks like it has been there for hundreds of years because it’s all lakeland stone, but internally its refurbished to the highest quality. It has underfloor heating, some rooms have small balconies that open out onto the lake, the bathrooms are large with roll top baths and massive shower rooms. We tried to incorporate most of our rooms with a shower and bath, whereas a lot of five-star hotels that you go into now are either-or.

What changes have you made over the years?


Previously it was a classic country house hotel, quite a famous hotel up here in the lakes, but it was just bobbing along, so we implemented some subtle changes. Before the hotel had rooms with a division in them, they had a partition so when you laid in bed you could see that it was a room in half. So I put all the rooms back to their original splendor. We created rooms and we got rid of rooms, and we went from 30 down to 25.

We also had a bungalow containing six rooms. I wouldn’t say it was tacky but it was very 1970s. Just before the the recession kicked in I had a brainwave that we would build a whole new attachment that was perched on a ridge overlooking the lake. Then the recession kicked in in 2008, after we had started building it, we struggled because it took two years to build. We persevered and we wouldn’t do without out it now because it’s just like a showpiece.

What does being located in the Lake District add to the hotel?

Hotel lobby

There is no better position in the whole of the north of England, we are right on lake Windermere, we are overlooking the mountains, it is situated probably in the best place between Windermere and Ambleside, and all you can see are mountains, lake and greenery. There are only two rooms in the hotel that don’t have a lake view. The location is easily a very strong 50% of our battle being won. The location is our most important and most fantastic asset. I would say the next 25% is the building itself, and then all we have to do, which our staff do very well, is the final touch which is service.

What types of guests does the hotel attract?

We have a lot of competitors around, although none of them are situated in a position as nice as ours. When people are coming up here for the first time they often don’t know the Lake District well so they pick a hotel based on price. We had to put ourselves outside of that market, so I entered into a wedding market where people can come and get married here because of the beautiful location.

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That’s what kept the hotel alive really through the petrol strikes, the banking crisis and foot-and-mouth which we suffered with really badly here in the Lake District in the 2000s. A lot of hotels went under because of these things, but we weathered that storm. With the weddings we went from doing just afternoon weddings to about 130 to 140 weddings per year, with anything from 200-220 people, then in August we could be doing five weddings each week. However, we don’t mix big weddings with the normal public, because that doesn’t work. You don’t want the uncle you didn’t want to invite wandering around the hotel with his tie on his head, interrupting other guests. In turn, you don’t want other guests wandering into private family and friend parties. So if we are doing a wedding, then it’s for the wedding and it’s exclusive, and we never do two weddings in one day which a lot of hotels do here. We have a lot of English and Japanese guests who come and we also get a few American visitors, but I would say it’s 70% home trade.

You appeared on ITV1’s ‘The Lakes’. Has this boosted the hotel’s reputation?

View over Windermere

It has, the programme was drawing in 5 million viewers each week, it even went to Australia and Canada. The effect of that is we got a lot of people coming to look at the hotel and to look at the staff, including myself, that starred in it. A lot of people stayed because of it, but also a lot of people came in for a coffee or just to walk around. The consumers want to see what they saw on TV and even now, my general manager Andrew is always posing for pictures.

We covered the story recently that Langdale Chase is to develop a £1m property to house staff, could you tell us a little more about the rationale?

The region is a small-population area, yet one of the largest counties, and in the hamlets and villages a lot of new hotels have sprung up. The local workers, a lot of whom are in farming, shops or office jobs, are quite hard to employ and very few want to come into the hotel trade, because it’s different hours, different shifts and maybe it’s not for them.

We have a few local people that work for us here now, but to employ them is the hardest thing ever, there are so many hotels which are all looking for local staff because if you don’t then you have to draw staff from a big city and you have to house them. We have an old converted stable block, which has been just enough to get us through, sometimes we struggled so we had to stick the odd mobile home in the courtyard.

Langdale chase -Rm51 Bed

At one point we had a great retention of staff, the average was six years which is unheard of. One of our major assets is our staff, so I bit the bullet and we are now creating a £1m state-of-the-art block to house 27 staff. In there they will have their own bathroom and shower, their own room, two-thirds of them have lakeviews as good as the hotel, a common room with Wi-Fi. Hopefully we will attract better quality employees, who want to stay and be in a happy environment.

If you could choose one room to stay in, which would be your favourite?

The Boathouse. A lot of people don’t like this room because it’s situated on top of the lake, they complain that they can hear the noise of the water, boats jinking by, and it’s a little away from the hotel. But it’s a fabulous and unique room, it has all the facilities of the other hotel rooms, it has windows on three sides and when you open the doors to look out, all you can see is down to the bottom of the lake, up to the top of and across the lake. It’s fabulous.

What does the future hold for Langdale Chase?

With the technology trends coming through, people now are travelling up the motorway with a handheld device and booking as they are going along, we just have to go along with the market. We have to keep our uniqueness and we want people to come away from the stress of the cities, and just step back in time and relax. The main thing is to maintain the property and preserve the ethos of high customer service. After we have finished the new staff block we will be polishing up the rest of the property to a better standard.

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