Chronicles: Hillside Hotel  Part 2 – the Mitchells and later ownership

George Henry Mitchell and his wife Mary ran the Hillside boarding house in the 1880s, but by the 1891 census George Mitchell was there with his second wife Georgina (George and his second wife are shown below). Some of the attractions at Hillside Private Boarding Establishment were described by the Mitchells:

The house is a three-storey building of very attractive external appearance, and has a charming situation on the most desirable part of the Undercliff. It stands in its own prettily laid-out grounds,and is within five minutes’ walk from the railway station. There are upwards of fifteen bedroom in the house, in addition to the dining, drawing, sitting, and smoking rooms.  The requirements of indoor amusement are met by an excellent piano forte and a first-rate bagatelle board, while outside there are splendid croquet lawns, tennis courts, greenhouses, conservatories, etc.

Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell do not confine their attention to promoting the comfort of their guests within the house only. They study their convenience and entertainment in various other ways, and at one o’clock each day they send a private conveyance down to the Esplanade, so that any of their patrons who may  prefer driving up the hill to walking, may do so, free of charge. The cuisine and attendance at Hillside are excellent, and a liberal table is provided, many delicacies being served in season. ln short, Hillside may be strongly recommended as a first-class boarding establishment, where every home comfort awaits the visitor.

The Mitchells were active in the local Congregational church and the local paper reported a church fete that was held at Hillside in 1908:

In the evening the grounds were very prettily illuminated by fairy lights and Japanese lanterns, the effect of the lights among the foliage being particularly beautiful. The very excellent band of the Ventnor Battery of the 2nd Wessex (Howitzer) R.F.A., under Bandmaster J. Hess, played selections in the grounds from seven o’clock to ten. By the kind thoughtfulness of Mr. Mitchell, a large electric arc lamp was temporarily erected in the charming avenue in the grounds, under which the band gave its performance.

George Mitchell’s half-brother, Percy Mitchell and his wife took over Hillside from 1921. The 1933 electoral register shows Percy Mitchell as resident together with Beatrice Annie Mitchell and Florina Georgina Mitchell.

The Dickenson family came in Spring 1934 and although Dick Dickenson died in September, his wife continued until 1940 when she had to relinquish the lease because the Government declared the Isle of Wight a ‘Defence Area’ during WW2 and visitors to  the Island were prohibited. The hotel was requisitioned for use by military personnel.

After the war Mr. & Mrs. Martin Plumridge bought Hillside for £2,000 in 1946. An auction sale of Hillside Private Hotel in 1951 failed and they stayed until the sale of 1968 for £14,000.  Martin Plumridge also purchased the Dower House, just across the road from Hillside, as an annexe for staff quarters and overflow guests.

Donald and Marie Read came to Hillside with their son and six daughters in 1968. John and Shirley May purchased Hillside in 1979 and remained there until it was sold to Peter and Brenda Hart in partnership with Peter’s sister and her husband. Peter and Brenda later took over the hotel as sole proprietors. Peter died in 2005 and Brenda sold Hillside in December 2008. It was then purchased by the present owner Gert Bach who undertook a major refurbishment.

Richard Downing, Ventnor & District Local History Society. Sources: This history owes much to an unpublished account by the late Alan Champion and the present Hillside proprietor Gert Bach 2009.  Sources: Various Ventnor census reports;  Ventnor street directories; Property sale documents and Hillside Hotel brochures in Ventnor Heritage Centre; I remember, I remember Alan. Champion 1989; Interview with Robert Plumridge March 2014.