Hotel slide show entertains: Sightseers queue to catch the last hours of crumbling landmark

THE PRAGMATIC policeman stationed near Scarborough's crumbling clifftop must have been the only person in the country yesterday hoping for heavy rain.

'That way the whole lot would be washed away in one go,' he said - not making a clear distinction between the collapsing Holbeck Hall Hotel and the hundreds of sightseers who had turned out to see its demise.

People converged on the roads leading to the stricken hotel on the south shore cliff with a rare enthusiasm to witness the final hours of the old hotel.

They arrived, much to the displeasure of the police, in their droves with video cameras, picnics and binoculars.

One sightseer at the front of the queue said curiously: 'What's he want to get involved for,' as she spotted the Labour MP David Blunkett being guided towards the hotel. He was in the area for the Nupe conference in Scarborough and has his own fond memories of the hotel.

The more enterprising spectators flew overhead in light aircraft, hang gliders or by microlight machines hanging vulture-like over the clifftop.

It is perfectly possible, however to have a genuine affection for old buildings - particularly rather grand hotels. Many people there yesterday had spent happy days and nights in the Holbeck Hall and simply wanted to turn up and see the place again before it disappeared for ever.

Bert Morse, who celebrated his wife's 80th birthday there last year said simply: 'It's a very sad day. It was a marvellous hotel and we have very fond memories of the place.'

An elderly couple who had honeymooned there stood adrift from the crowds, lost in their own thoughts, and one woman said tearfully: 'I've had many happy birthdays and treats there. It's just awful. A real tragedy.'

The owners of the hotel, Barry and Joan Turner, stood with other members of their family a safe distance from the hotel as it cracked and groaned and the old stone walls gave way.

They had many of their own personal items in the hotel and know they will be unable to retrieve them.

David Turner, one of their two sons, who run the chain of eight local hotels the family owns, said: 'All the fine pieces of furniture, the antiques and paintings were in the public rooms in the east wing and they have all gone. Obviously the hotel has gone forever. We are not going to be able to reclaim the land and it looks as if the whole building will be

swallowed.'

(Photograph omitted)

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