Realising the dream - how one couple began the transformation of the Globe Inn in Wells

PUBLISHED: 11:35 30 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:35 30 May 2014

The Globe Inn Wells

The Globe Inn Wells


Tourism in Norfolk has a bright future. That is the view of husband-and-wife team Stephen and Antonia Bournes, whose confidence in the sector has seen them pump £400,000 into the first phase of the refurbishment of The Globe Inn at Wells-next-the-Sea, with further expansion planned at the four-star hotel.

The Globe Inn Wells next the Sea The Globe Inn Wells next the Sea

That cash injection has seen the inn’s front bar extended, a makeover to the conservatory-style restaurant, and the seven bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms re-decorated in an original and contemporary Georgian maritime style.

And by September 2015, a further £400,000 will have been spent on the next phase of the new-look Globe Inn, which is being transformed by the couple who carved a reputation for reinvigorating Southwold Pier.

The outlook from The Globe Inn is quintessentially English.

Facing the green expanse of The Buttlands and its Georgian buildings, with the quay a stone’s throw away and the beach within easy reach, its themes, colours and flavours reflect a connection to the coast.

Antonia and Stephen Bournes with Jenna Richard (centre) at the Globe Inn Wells next the Sea Antonia and Stephen Bournes with Jenna Richard (centre) at the Globe Inn Wells next the Sea

The Bournes took over The Globe Inn last June, buying it from the Holkham estate which had tenanted it to Adnams since 2008.

“Since the beginning of this year we have put £400,000 into it; we have basically upgraded it and created a better use of space,” explained Mr Bournes.

“We are aiming at walkers, birders, cyclists and families coming up to North Norfolk, which is essentially what the coast is about and we aim to reflect what the coast is about.”

Following the completion of the first phase, celebrated at the hotel with a reception last Wednesday evening, the further development at the 200-year-old inn will see the historic stables overlooking the 19th century courtyard converted into a further 11 rooms and bathrooms by September 2015, bringing the number of rooms to 18 in total.

A galleried walkway around the circumference of the new bedrooms on two floors will add to the theatrical atmosphere of the hotel, which was famously used by auctioneer, farmer, entrepreneur and “proprietor of The Globe Inn” Robert Spicer to put on entertainment in the late 1850s.

That will also see further expansion of the restaurant and provide sun terraces for some of the rooms.

“I love architecture and the architecture of The Globe is wonderful and we hope to create a relaxed environment within it that reflects what this building is all about,” said Mr Bournes, who sold Southwold Pier to Gough Hotels last year.

The Bournes acquired Southwold Pier in 2005 and developed it into a leisure attraction which attracted 500,000 visitors a year with a £3m turnover.

Planning permission was secured in 2010 for the redevelopment of the main building at the shore end of the pier – built in 1900 - as a luxury Art Deco-style 30-bedroom hotel.

“People said piers were dying, that people had enough and were not interested in them but that was because they were not maintained or invested in,” he said.

However, the couple decided not to proceed with the plan, leaving it to the new owners as they turned their attention to North Norfolk.

“We had been there eight years and it was a fantastic project,” he said. “But with the banks crashing as we got planning permission for the hotel project, making it more difficult to progress, we decided to sell and focus on North Norfolk which is a part of the country we have always visited.

“We saw The Globe Inn, which is a beautiful building and in Wells, which is really the gateway to the North Norfolk coast with so many other attractions on the doorstep.

“North Norfolk is ready to happen in a big way, particularly in Wells with the quay being refurbished, and investment in the town as its popularity this year shows a dramatic increase.”

Mr and Mrs Bournes, who have two sons – William, 19, and Benedict, 17 – have wide experience in the hotel and hospitality industry. Alongside creating local jobs – The Globe has 25 staff – and using local companies in the refurbishment, they are also working with schools to offer pupils the opportunity to experience life in the hospitality industry.

The Bournes also own Mill House, a Victorian bed and breakfast in Wells with eight rooms in three-quarters of an acre of land, which they will use to grow vegetables and herbs for the kitchen at The Globe Inn, which they believe will be a success with its new-found individuality.

“We believe people are looking for places with character and high-quality service and The Globe Inn offers that,” said Mr Bournes.

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