The Mountbattens Story (Page 1)
The Lounge enters the age of the multi-leisure complex and the discotheque
by Wes Walker

Throughout each of its incarnations from the 1890s, The Lounge had embodied all the luxurious, winning elements that constituted all the great resorts for every strata of society.

Although the show business of holiday destinations resolutely bucked the trend of national decline since the advent of Harold Wilson, the trajectory taken by The Lounge’s own fortunes had been one of prosaic descent. From his grand conception of the complex, to be eventually christened ‘Mountbattens’, towards the close of the 1970s, Brian Walker sought to restore its once glorious fortunes in a new way; in terms of re-gaining a widespread public popularity, his plan – if only part-realised for an ephemeral period – succeeded beyond anyone’s expectation.


Though the nature of the development would be for the new seventies era of leisure and the advent of the audio/visual complex, the importance was in retaining its strong consanguinity with the old showmanship. For many more years yet to come, it wasn’t a question of the need for survival, but the knowledge that in order to pre-empt that day, they needed to diversify on a large scale.

Unless placed into hiatus by a quagmire of authority planning decisions, most of Walkers Tussauds’ projects took a matter of weeks to formulate and put into action to be ready to trade for their inaugural season; although Mountbattens was similarly readied within a compact span of time, its gestation spanned several years prior to the period of operation that is best recollected by the public.

Behind The Lounge’s metamorphosis into its new guise of Mountbattens was a marriage of elements in Brian Walker’s notion of an ‘Entertainment Coast’: a sufficient variety of attractions could be instituted as a network, established at regular intervals punctuating the 20-mile route leading from the peak of Scarborough down to the lower reaches of Bridlington’s resort, enough to create a year-round income of overwhelming summertimes, bookended by bustling out-of-season weekends. A self-sufficient economy of equilibrium.

The bare bones of intention were not dissimilar to the purpose which neighbouring Joyland had seemingly performed since time immemorial: interpreted as a unique concentration of entertainment value covering all corners, for all classes, within a discerning leisureseeker’s limitless eyeline, all harmoniously amalgamated into a single complex. (From every walk of life, these customers now had more holidaymaking time at their disposal than ever before.) The only difficult brief presented was that although they demanded ever-new experiences, by the same token they became easily disorientated without a volume of familiarity existing in an offering.

Such eagerness to draw millions more across to the coastal regions by offering largesse, hypothetically lent itself to aiming the marketing farther afield, in these years before the advent of the internet age.

Bridlington was still a wealthy place of old business money enough to possess a lucrative high order of regular clientele. Accommodating Underfields (the former Allens & Co) as one of the resort’s two city-style department stores, the very block in which The Lounge centrally nestled stood testament to this economic status.


Having dallied with America in the mid-seventies (possessing half an intention to relocate there with an enterprise, at one point being ensconced in California from ‘Apt#212, 333 Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs’), Brian Walker had been smitten with the level and style of courtesy the cross-American set-ups extended to their patrons. Providing the key influences toward his future prototype, he realised that this was the approach needed to salvage the severely ailing British scene, to restore the courtesy that he saw Great Britain as having dramatically haemorrhaged during the seventies.

In a day when they still had ball gowns and dinner suits (soon to permanently fade out), the entertainment complex and nightvenue extended a certain volume of dignity to its customers and those places experienced when Brian and Elizabeth Walker were courting were derived as inspiration if not the template; they wanted at least to preserve some measure of refinement sans the exclusion and snobbery but imbuing the quality feelgood factor that can unite a crowd in a shared situation.

In the then still-roaring age of clubland, Brian and Elizabeth Walker had very briefly operated The Fraternity Club in Leeds under ‘Charles H. Walker Presents’. This had represented the very last vestige of the old guard on its tarnished surface – often once refined places displaying a certain faded gentility across different levels. Heavy, concerted competition from the bigger players in the business such as The Rank Organisation had sealed its fate. A definition was set – knowing what to dispense with and what to recreate.

There was a definite art to it, and a by-product of glamour; a self-authored feasibility study was ventured into by the couple. The particular example was set by The Bailey Organisation: their Baileys city complex of Scene One–Scene Two–Scene Three (at Kingston-Upon-Hull) was a divergent quartet of ‘studio settings’; cabaret in one, cowboy saloon in another, Egyptian/Grecian splendour in another, and a contemporary setting in the other. Half of these scenic capabilities had already been achieved in-house at Walkers Tussauds, through only in the realms of wax museums. It was, according to them, quite unlike anything on offer today and a far superior ‘world’ in which to wind down, or wind-up. Other instances of successful reworking to take their cue from were the constantly adapting London hotels which they both sampled at the ends of the season, like the MayFair-InterContinental. On their Honeymoon they’d also visited Mallorca’s Son Amar where the assembled diners were seated facing a fantastic floorshow of crashing horses and other diversions.

In the approach toward participating in The Palladium Cellars, Walkers Tussauds had created certain pieces for the West End stageshow “Barnum”, and while Brian and Elizabeth were sampling London’s theatreland they completed their vision of a ‘House of Entertainment’, except that neither possessed any experience of producing a live show.


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Click on all images accompanying this article for a larger version.

New Photograph: 1964 OS Map showing the location of The Lounge. Joyland is the collection of buildings immediately to the north of The Lounge. The highlighted building to the north eastern corner of the map is the location of Walkers Tussauds Waxworks, and the highlighted buildings to the south of the map are other Walker family interests in Bridlington. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Bound Walkers Tussauds projects, most of which came to fruition. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Brian Walker during early USA exploratory talks, November 1974. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Project cover for Mountbattens, 1981. Photograph: Wes Walker

Published by:
Skelter Publishing LLP
© 2006

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