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Iceni Magazine | September 22, 2017

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The Watts Family Return to Celebrate Maids Head Hotel Feature Rooms Project

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Jenny Sadler and her mother Dorothy Watts and 10 other members of the Watts family and friends, joined the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor David Fullman at the Maids Head Hotel on Friday, July 14 to celebrate the £230,000 refurbishment of seven feature rooms in the hotel.

The majority of the rooms are in the Palace Street wing, acquired by the hotel in the 1980s and converted into bedrooms and function rooms. The Watts family ran businesses there until the middle of the 1960s. 

Jenny Sadler was born in 1962 in part of what is now the Cathedral Suite, but back then it was her Mum, Dorothy and Dad, John Watts’ bedroom. 

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Left to right: The Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor David Fullman, Jenny Sadler and Dorothy Watts pictured in the refurbished Cathedral Suite, Maids Head Hotel

Christine Malcolm, General Manager the Maids Head Hotel said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Watts family to the hotel to celebrate the renovation of our feature rooms, including those in the Palace Street wing. We have really enjoyed learning about Jenny Sadler and her family’s Palace Street story, which now takes its rightful place in the Maids Head’s history.” 

“The hotel has been privately owned by the Chaplin family since December 2012. Our owners have embarked on a range of sympathetic refurbishment and renovation projects, to ensure that our historic building meets the expectations of 21st century visitors. So far they have invested nearly £2 million in the Maids Head. Our aim is to be recognised as Norfolk’s finest for hospitality and we believe that the quality of our feature rooms project strongly supports our ambition, and will enhance Norwich’s reputation as one of the UK’s top city destinations.”       

Jenny Sadler added: “Thank you to Christine Malcolm and her team for inviting my Mum and me to open the newly refurbished wing: my first home. The history of this building means so much to me. My Grandparents owned this part of the hotel and had 14 children, who were born here. My Dad, John Watts was the youngest, born in 1933. Dad married my Mum, Dorothy in 1957 and lived here for a number of years. Eventually I was born in 1962, making me the last person to be born in what is now this beautifully refurbished, Cathedral Suite.”   

The Watts Family

The Watts family had a bakery and shop in the Palace Street wing from at least the late 19th century. Arthur Watts (Grandfather) met Mary Anne Wardell, when she was 16. They married and had 14 children. 

There were eight brothers, most of whom ran Watts Brothers Building Contractors, with an office on the corner of Pigg Lane. 

Grandfather Arthur died in 1936 and the bakery closed soon after that, however Grandmother Mary Anne (d.1977) was very entrepreneurial and changed direction. She opened a grocer’s shop in the old bakery shop and converted the bakery into a function room known as The Bake Office. 

Jenny Sadler’s dad, John, the youngest of the Watts brothers, eventually ran the shop for his mother until 1965, while she concentrated on The Bake Office. Two of his sisters, Margaret and Queenie and niece Dorothy also worked with him. Another sister, Rita Watts, ran a clothes and hat shop in the Palace Street range. Rita emigrated to the USA in the late 1950s.      

The Bake Office was very popular for local parties and weddings. People also used to go there after the Samson and Hercules closed and Grandmother Mary Anne served up egg and chips all round. During World War II she provided accommodation in the function room for American airmen. 

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John and Dorothy Watts wedding reception in 1957

Jenny has a photograph of her Mum and Dad’s wedding reception in April 1957, which was held in The Bake Office. It also features Mary Anne up on her feet about to toast the new bride and groom.

There were around 100 guests at their wedding reception, with all the catering done by family members. Mum Dorothy remembers Grandmother Mary Anne as very much the matriarch of the family; anyone who had a problem went to her.     

Jenny’s Mum and Dad left Palace Street in 1965. They wanted their own house, and moved to a new property on Dereham Road built by Watts Brothers. Grandmother Mary Anne sold up and moved to a bungalow in Sprowston. Jenny’s Dad worked in grocery shops to start with and then teamed up with his brothers in the building business until he retired.

John Watts died in 2013 and Jenny’s Mum, Dorothy, is now the last surviving person from her generation.

For more information about the Maids Head Hotel see www.maidsheadhotel.co.uk 

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John Watts outside the grocery, now part of the Maids Head Hotel


 

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