The Mountbattens Story Page 3
The Lounge enters the age of the multi-leisure complex and the discotheque
by Wes Walker


Arriving at the new identity of 'Mountbattens' was the simplest aspect. Since a boy, Brian Walker had admired the Last Viceroy immensely. After his assassination shocked the world in 1979 – during these preparations – a crestfallen Brian was immediately certain that it was to be his way of doffing a topper to the brave last Viceroy. The Earl had fought in the world wars besides presence in other conflicts, and had similar appetite for hard work, but the decision was particularly for his anti-communist stance (fully revealed by Freedom of Information in 2007) when the Earl and assembled heads had mobilised private armies as a show of force against Harold Wilson’s premiership (suspected of Soviet links) in 1976, and of retaliation against decline of law and order. The Earl was still immensely popular and remembered across the lands, even by the time the Walkers were immersed in trying to develop some of the former British defences on Malta in 1991.

It didn’t want to be a shrine or museum, but it had to be a worthy tribute with utmost accuracy. Anything they needed to know could be checked with Broadlands, the family’s stately home headquarters. (Each piece that would be sent up from their archives was marked with a ‘Broadlands Archives’ oval). Any flavour required for the colonial elements was at hand; Elizabeth Walker’s maternal side had been born and raised in India in the shadow of Lord Willingdon’s Viceroyalty.

Many of the adornments were overtly expensive: Broadlands sanctioned for prints to be made from Carlos Sancha’s full-length depiction, and of Bern Schwartz’s magnificent photographic portrait of the Earl’s front-lit right profile. Since the Earl was no longer around and since Brian wasn’t deluded enough to imagine he’d have posed for an impression to be taken had he been, these pictures became invaluable in Walkers Tussauds creating a bust, of which two casts were made. (One was given to Broadlands; heaven knows what happened to the other. Further wax representations of Earl Mountbatten, with costume accuracy, were also derived from these sources for display in a variety of attractions over the ensuing years.)

The Royal Mountbatten Coat of Arms could never have been sanctioned for independent commercial use under any circumstances, so a new ‘Mountbattens’ crest was commissioned.

On top of more obvious accoutrements as glasses, printed napkins, carriers and posters, the emblem would also be employed in the special casting of the chair-backs, the enamelling of china, and in the weave of thousands of square feet of carpet. Postcards were marked, “You write the message and address – we will stamp and post.”

A second commissioned (in-keeping) motif was of an enthroned Boadicea, employed for stone/plaster Acroterion at points through the building, and also again as component to the marketing.

All of this would afford the surrounds a wonderful, breezy Romanesque air, then deemed out of fashion though continuing to be reintroduced afresh. (Romanesque was the first thing the Noble brothers adopted in the subsequent era; they went about reinstalling all the trappings, and are to be commended for it.) It would allow for secondary themes, that would normally clash with any alternation, to be comfortably accommodated. However, the lowering of ceilings across the ground level, to attain an ambience of intimacy, obscured much of the opulence and décor finery. Though lowered (as they were also being in adjacent Joyland), they were still substantially high: 12ft at their lowest point but creating a cavity to install a heavy air-conditioning system.

In progress from 1980, the scheme had been deemed manageable if conducted in phases, and although he drew no remuneration from aiding his father’s businesses, Brian Walker was still dividing his time between his own enterprises and some of the care and course of the amusements.

His brothers had worked under their father, but since Brian had first gone into embryonic business in 1967, the five-years-older Kenneth had started efforts to make up time. In the late seventies the latter had bought the Ocean Club on the coastal headland at Sea Farm (which attracted some star turns in its time), and another called Sandancers, which apparently had eastern elements to its flavour. The combination here was of a large club, long bar and eatery.

From these emanated a new proposal, culminating in the 1981 launch of The Mascotte House Country Club further down the coast at a Mere, another example of diversification within the show-business, opened to offer a more sedate atmosphere. But for their lifetime the two brothers were of diametrically opposed natures. The premature death of their mother Joan Walker on the launch date of The Palladium Cellars in 1980 had singularly provided the first opportunity for the two to close distances and to try and form a marriage of the ways.

From the fall of 1981 two of Brian’s brothers came in, to operate the bars, discotheque and restaurants. In his turn of gesture, Brian Walker had already supported Mascotte House’s formative period by producing events there.

It wasn’t until the New Year of 1982, during early preparation for the season’s set start of April, that the new identity was first fully unveiled as The ‘Mountbattens Nightclub & Restaurant’ complex, upon which time (the first of February) Walker’s two brothers, Kenneth & Charles (the latter of a later generation), were named as licensees. Charles, whose 21st birthday celebration was the event used to introduce the place to the legions in the show industry, became a member of the resident band. (Appropriately in the very same mid-March week of 1982, the Nobles advanced to subsume Joyland). Kenneth arranged remaining finances from lenders, such as the requirement of underwriting a large loan from leading breweries.

Though it now employed around 20, Elizabeth Walker was on hand at the opening night to personally tend to the intense turn-out, waiting hand-and-foot on the diners, for the expensive new oven ranges throughout the stainless steel kitchens that had been installed on both ground and first floors failed to function properly, inadvertently Christening the endeavour in the expected fashion.

A newspaper piece on Thursday 15th April reported that, “…extensive alterations have been carried out before they opened in their new format”:


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New Photograph: Charles Walker's invitation to his son's 21st birthday celebrations kick-started the showmen fraternity's use of the Mountbattens venue.  Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Invitation card to a 'Gentlemen's Evening' in 1981, an example of targeting a certain audience. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Mountbattens inaugural schedule for spring 1982, aimed at general holiday makers. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Brian Walker's accoutrements from various venues which had influenced him in his attractions (London and USA, 1974-7). Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: 1980s VIP card for Mountbattens. Many showmen held these.  Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Opening invitation to the Mascotte House Country Club (1981). Photograph: Wes Walker

Published by:
Skelter Publishing LLP
© 2006

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