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The Cloud Hotel in Brockenhurst has commanded an enviable position opposite the open forest since being built as separate cottages around 1900. The surrounding new forest has changed little over the last 100 years with ponies, cattle and wildlife continuing to add to the unique scenery found in this area.
A Short History
The Cloud Hotel has a wonderfully rich history dating back to 1900 when the original building was constructed consisting of four cottages. The buildings were eventually converted into one house and named St. Cloud and has retained some of that name ever since.
The inspiration for the name was rumoured to be inspired from the funding for the conversion which was the winnings from a horse which ran at at the St Cloud races in France.
In 1915 the local parish council resolved to name the road, on which the Cloud Hotel now stands, Meerut Road. This was to commemorate the path taken by King George V in 1914 when visiting wounded soldiers of the 7th Meerut Division of Indian Army who were being treated in locally converted hospitals.
In the 1920's St Cloud was believed to have been developed into tea rooms with bed and breakfast accommodation. By the late 1920's a Colonel Vinter owned St Cloud and Broceste Villas and with financial help from a colleague, he converted the properties into a hotel.
The first guests were recorded in the visitors' book on 30th September 1932. One of the first signatures of the book is that of Lady Reid of 16 Hyde Park Gardens. At this stage it was just a two storey building with no electricity, only gas. Six years later a third storey was added to the centre of the building.
The visitors' books can still be found at the hotel and present a wonderful record of previous guests. many visitors enjoy looking up parents, grandparents or even their own names from previous trips in years gone by.
After the War, at the age of 89, Colonel Vintner decided to retire and Mr and Mrs Kay took over but only stayed 2 years. The hotel then had various owners until 1968. The the Owton family took ownership of the Cloud and the present proprietor Avril Owton has been running it since 1991 after the sudden death of her husband.
History in the making
Avril faced a monumental challenge when she took over the running of the hotel as she had no experience of the financial or managerial side of running a business. Her previous career had been as a dancer with the Tiller Girls in the 1960's so she suddenly found herself with four children, no life or mortgage insurance and an ailing business to run.
Fortunately her determination to succeed kept her going and she refurbished the hotel, began to make a significant profit and soon had increased her business turnover by 800%.
Over the past 30 years the Cloud Hotel has won numerous accolades and most recently was awarded 2 red AA stars (the AA's supreme Inspectors' Choice used to recognise hotels that stand out as the very best) before being upgraded again to 3 AA Stars in 2013.
Avril has always been keen to share her experience and knowledge with other women and dedicates considerable time to mentoring others. She set up the Wessex Womens Network, has written a book and is an international speaker.
Avril's other great commitment has been to raise money for charity. The hotel has become a focal point for the community fundraising events and so far over £30,000 has been raised for the Macmillan Cancer Support Charity.
In recognition of her business acumen and fundraising efforts Avril has won numerous awards including:
1995 - Hampshire Business Woman of the Year
To find out more about Avril Owton please visit her website at www.avrilowton.co.uk