The Mountbattens Story Page 6
The Lounge enters the age of the multi-leisure complex and the discotheque
by Wes Walker

As if to keep apace, Mountbattens itself was modified by Walker’s brothers, sacrificing its spacious reception area and split-level front bar (the former Palm Court in the premises’ previous working life). The public house frontage, with separate entrances and a newly-revealed third front staircase, was made into Snoopy’s Bar, which against Brian Walker’s original view of considerate reinvention, contributed further to aesthetically eradicating the original opulent décor.

Licensing a known character (Snoopy, from King Features Syndicate Ltd on Hanover Square) added another unwarranted extra expense as there were many at hand in the public domain that could have instantly been brought into play.

Towards the latter days (into the second half of the eighties) another company appeared to be brought in to concern itself with the managing of its leisure and membership side. Mountbattens engaged Hessle Promotions Ltd, behind whose ownership was Scotia [3] (Benmar-Scotia-Barber), an experienced group which itself possessed the Knightsbridge Palace Casino Ltd and Knightsbridge Sporting Club Ltd.

Whether the association could have opened a new world for Mountbattens is now academic, but at least it kept the film links of the old Lounge: the Benmar side of Scotia involved British and American businessmen and had placed its capital into such pursuits from the money it had made from making “Custer of the West” and several British westerns.

But despite all the success that was apparent to the world at large, Brian and Elizabeth could not have appreciated what was being conducted behind the scenes on and off the balance sheet.  Aside from any Machiavellian manoeuvres, a culture of petty thievery on the floor and embezzlement at the door accounted for much of the vast deficit between a consistently massive audience intake and the final weekly takings.  (This became a common story with many of the far bigger leisure operators, even Playboy-England at the time, when the recorded takings did not remotely reflect the phenomenal business being done).

The heavy burdens placed upon Mountbattens placed Brian and Elizabeth – together with the future of Walkers Tussauds – in an insurmountable position. The bank was obliged to make a formal demand on each of the guarantors. While the brothers declared themselves bankrupt by filing individual petitions on the 21st November 1986, it was Brian and Elizabeth who alone elected to pay off the debts themselves and to stay solvent under rigidly inflexible, severe conditions. (So zealously insistent had the bank been that they had attempted to consume the savings of their seven year-old son in the process).

Brian and Elizabeth Walker were left with crippling financial obligations, while the brothers were eventually extricated from liability after a mere few years. The claim against Brian and Elizabeth was then officially adjusted to £103,035.50 plus interest at 2% above base rate, from Friday 28th February 1986 onwards. Later, a document from attorneys Philip Jones & Co dated 19th June 1986 revealed that Kenneth had corralled the Casino Royale into contributing £55,109.87 on the 22nd June, 1985; Charlie Walker’s intervention had simply exacerbated the situation. A previous document from Jones & Co (dated 22nd May 1986) went on to state that even the bank had made certain manoeuvres they themselves had not legally been entitled to make.

The result from the fabulously successful Mountbattens was that Brian, Elizabeth and their own family were unable to live remotely to the comfortable standard people expected them to, given the scope for apparent wealth. (They maintained that the only things ever gained from the entire episode were the private family dinners held at Mountbattens on Christmas Days). The couple finally cleared Mountbattens/Buckhalt indebtedness as of embarking upon the ‘brass-tacks’ restoration of the ten-acre Fort Paull many years later in 1997, though the shadow cast over all of their successive activities lingered until the very end.


Though the shreds of remaining paperwork prove difficult to navigate through, the manoeuvre of vending the property, to counter the combination of financial factors, may have been achieved by a separate company, since one by the moniker of Mountbatten Properties Limited was formed at precisely that moment, doubtless to attract a vendor and for Buckhalt Ltd to pass over. A statement issued by accountants Arthur Andersen & Co during 1985 reports that the property, or a large proportion of it, was being prepared to be sold for £245,000. Though the property alone was an asset of considerable potency, had the whole centre not been presented as a going concern, at that moment it would have been quite likely for suitors to convene with the idea of creating another open-plan walk-through amusement centre, perhaps with the aim to take over from the Joyland, itself in process of downsizing.

Permission to use the ‘Mountbatten’ surname was extended only to the Walker concern and could not be sold as component of a package, and so eventually the ‘branding’ was allowed to lapse. Subsequent modifications to the nightclub part would not fully exploit the original floorspace.

Elizabeth Walker was singularly encharged with salvaging what remained of their private concerns, and Brian was around the cities and in Blackpool trying to bring in as much money as possible.

Immediately, they were obliged to press ahead with the ‘Walkers Tussauds Waxworks City of York’ project that had faltered since 1979 and proceeded again in 1984, and was now desperately seeking to secure permanent premises in order to compete with a rapid influx of newcomers to the scene headed by the Jorvik trust. But there was a price already paid, in that elements of the waxworks side had been allowed to suffer: one of his only regrets was that Brian Walker had been unable to pursue an invitation extended personally from Günther Von Hagens, in his days before perfecting the anatomical process of Plastination, something which could have taken the former into a different sphere that would have relieved him from the old entrepreneurial responsibilities.


After a hectic five years, the epoch that the advent of the Mountbattens complex capitalised upon ended: 1986 culminated in the beginnings of the dramatic socio-economic decline that lasts to this day for the tourism-show business in Britain. But it did provide the groundwork for many of the showmen to then embark on a multitude of their own similar projects, the archetype which is applied today.

Scotia inherited the management of its membership. Aberdeen House, on the corner, became occupied by a new and modern jewellers. By the end of the eighties, with a economic tourniquet tied around the flow of American visitors (an element which Walkers Tussauds the waxworks relied upon), Britain discarded what remained of its social finesse and gave way to a new generation disinterested in the calibre of a drinking environment. (Brian attributed much of it to the increased importation and inclusion of lager, which dramatically altered the mentality and eventually the nature of the clientele after the seventies.) Mountbattens gave way to a much smaller and indecorous nightclub of low ambitions, indistinguishable from thousands of others. The Mascotte Gardens in which Mascotte House once stood today bears no evidence of the country club ever being there.

Yet while Britain limited its outlook, Son Amar became acknowledged as ‘Europe’s Best Night Out’ in the early 2000s. Following a renaissance embraced by heightened personal spending of the consumer, the nearest inheritor to the provision of a nightspot tailored to niche requirements is Loop, which aptly occupies a portion of the Lounge/Mountbattens land adopted by Lings in the 1980s; this harks back to a stylistic some forty years old (late sixties onwards) just as Mounbattens did when adopting elements of a nightvenue intrinsically structuring itself on the thirties heyday. (As of writing, one of the Scarborough/St. Nicholas Cliff developments echoed a return to times past when in April 2008 a nightclub in that conurbation announced its insistence on a jacket, trousers and tie code).

As some of the subsequent newspaper announcements imply, Brian Walker remained keen on drawing the legions of people to his region way after it was a fait accompli, before being compelled to venture overseas with projects becoming ever more ambitious to allure the interest of a joint commitment necessary for the weakened Walkers Tussauds to secure.

Wes Walker
Bridlington, May 2008

Click here for a gallery of miscellaneous Walker-related images, showing the extent of Brian Walker's other tourism interests.

Click here to buy Pennies by the Sea

New Photograph: Snoopy's Bar 1984 handbill reflected the changes brought about to Mountbattens by Brian Walker's brothers. Wes Walker comments: "Things like Snoopy's reworked the Promenade-side frontage, but the handbill (which we hated) is atrociously eighties and, to me, displays a bad attitude".  Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: A personal picture of .Robert A Lenthall, and Brian Walker, holding baby Wes in his arms, at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The family were in town in 1979 to see progress on the Movie & Television Hall of Fame (later Movie & TV World of Wax). Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Mountbatten's portrait hanging in the entrance to the North Bastion in 2001, nearly 20 years on from Bridlington's Mountbattens.  Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: A newspaper column on the Ocean World development, showing Walkers' continued stance on generating a multitude of different attractions, still palpably held as late as 1991. Photograph: Wes Walker

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© 2006

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