The hotel was officially opened in June 1894 with a celebration luncheon. One of those present, local farmer Thomas Hendy, wrote in his diary: “Housel Bay Hotel opened by the shareholders with a cold luncheon. About forty sat down to a very good spread.”
The West Briton on the 7th June 1894 reported that the hotel would reflect credit on the county as well as those responsible for its erection. The paper continued; “To celebrate the opening a large company were entertained by the Directors in the dining room.” Among the toasts proposed were ones to the architect, the contractors, the furnishers, the hotel itself (on several occasions) the clergy, the Queen of course and, showing that even a hundred years ago the value of publicity was recognised, the press. The first manageress was a Mrs. Surrell who provided the food at the opening. This was much praised by the directors who hoped it would set the standard for the fare at the hotel.
Some of the early days of the Housel Bay are mentioned in a diary kept by Frances Jenkin who lived in Lizard village at the time and whose father and uncle were both shareholders in the hotel. On August the 2nd 1894 she writes: “The fleet passed down and stood out south. There were twenty of them. Two battle ships, the Royal Sovereign flagship, The Resolution and eighteen cruisers and gunboats.” On August 6th of the same year she says, “Races were held in the village. The Lizard is full of trippers of a very second rate description. There was a concert in the Housel Bay reading room in the evening”.
The first mention of a dissatisfied guest is also to be found in the diary. “On August the 12th Captain George left the hotel in a huff after threatening to fight Mr. Ayres and shoot himself because the former disturbed him the night before by walking about above him.”
The weather then could be just as beautiful as today – or just as severe: “October 23rd. I sheltered from the rain in the Housel Bay Hotel. Alfred and I had a game of billiards. The wind increased to gale force and we sat in the drawing room and watched the sea. The wind was so strong that the large panes of glass were bending.”
A letter around this time, from Miss Jenkin’s aunt who was from Plymouth but who also knew the Lizard area well, makes entertaining reading: “I, like yourself am also amused by the furore over the hotel. I hope it may answer their (the shareholders) most sanguine expectations. It will be a fresh source of interest to watch all the arrivals and departures and if it brings more of the upper ten your mother will be in her element…perhaps I shall find my nephews and nieces marrying lords and ladies…”
“However beautiful this place may become because of its external beauties, it will not be sustained unless some homelike comforts are introduced and sustained (applause). The place will become really popular or otherwise just as the manager or manageress is famed for making it like a home away from home (applause).”
“We have been fortunate, I think, in having carved out of this lovely coast one of the most eligible and, in some respects, most beautiful sites for such a building as this.”
“…Where the land was unproductive, the tourist traffic prospered, and was a splendid means of support to those who inhabited such parts. He did not see why they should not utilise this coast there in the same way (applause) and with equally satisfactory results.”
“He hoped it would be conducive to strength and stability, and that the hotel would remain there as an emblem of it for many a year (applause).”
“For beauty of situation, for salubrity of climate, and for general convenience, they thought they could challenge comparison with any site in the whole of England.”
On January 23rd, 1901, a distinguished group of sponsors and enthusiasts gathered at Housel Bay to celebrate the centenary of the first wireless transmission “over the horizon”. In a Press Release dated January 9th, 2001, the National Trust describe this historic event as one of the greatest achievements in communications history. At a small hut some two hundred metres from Housel Bay Hotel, Marconi received a wireless signal from the Isle of Wight, a distance of 196 miles. Some nine months after Marconi’s triumph at Housel Bay, he sent the first transatlantic signal from nearby Poldhu to Newfoundland in Canada.