Living Edge Interiors -The Alexandra Court Hotel
PUBLISHED: 12:44 29 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:29 20 February 2013
How Hale couple Lesley and Frank Slinger transformed a run-down vicarage into an award-winning boutique hotel
Retirement? What retirement? As Lesley and Frank Slinger demonstrate, age is just a number. Rather than slowing down theyve entered a new phase in their lives after becoming smitten by a run-down Cheshire vicarage.
Over six years of painstaking renovations and improvements have transformed the old 1846 building into a 15-bedroom bijou hotel and restaurant that has just scooped the Cheshire small hotel of the year award from Visit Chester and Cheshire.
The Alexandra Court Hotel in Congleton had already won Chamber of Commerce awards since 2008 but this latest came as a surprise especially with fierce opposition from some of the most prestigious hotels in the county.
It all started in 1982 when builder Frank bought a block of flats on Alexandra Road, Whalley Range. The couple rented them out to student from the RNCM for 24 years and only decided to sell up in 2004, when they thought theyd be no longer in demand.
Then six years ago they fell in love with the old St James Church vicarage in Congleton.
It had been a bed and breakfast which didnt open on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. The owner thought shed sold it to a developer to pull down and build flats but when the sale fell though she put it back on the market, which is when we bought it, explains Lesley, 63, a Hale resident all her life
So it was lovely that we saved such an old building but at the same time the business had disappeared so it was something we had to start again from scratch.
Son Mark, 32 with hotel experience from the Midland Manchester and the Radisson at Manchester Airport stepped in to manage the hotel and its reinvention got underway.
Lesley admits that she loves the vicarages old Victorian style and the decor very much reflect the taste of her own home a 1903 semi-detached property on Cecil Lane, where shes lived with 66-year-old Frank for more than 30 years.
Although there are contemporary touches, the idea is for people to feel they are visiting the old vicarage, she says.
It is very much about the personal touch.
The interior retains an air of Victoriana with a contemporary finish. Everything in the rooms is in keeping with the individuality of the decor, so headboards are ornate, desks are old-style bureaus rather than just a basic table and the latest rooms have pale turquoise striped wallpaper and light furniture that makes the space fresh yet classic.
The hotel also caters for small weddings - weve even had one as small as seven people says Lesley. It means that those who dont want a lavish affair can still have a country house wedding.
The conservatory where the ceremonies take place is light and airy but once again theres the sense of the vicarage with the addition of Lloyd Loom chairs.
Everything about the hotel is thought out down to the last detail.
Of course it wasnt always like this. Franks skills as a builder have proved invaluable.
We started on the hotel six years ago and weve still not finished, exclaims Lesley.
After 24 years looking after the flats in Whalley Range we thought wed retire but you get used to working. The one thing you dont realise about running a hotel is its 24/7. Still we do get to relax when we get back to Hale. Places like the Amber room and the American bar open late, so we can catch up with our friends on Sunday nights.
The advantages of running a hotel are that you get to meet such lovely people. We had a group of Germans in the other day and they told me they loved the hotel.
"It is just like being at home" they told me.
It seems the Slingers wouldnt have it any other way.
The Alexandra Court Hotel, www.alexandracourthotel.com
Tel: 01260 297 871