With convenient bus and taxi services, plenty of free parking within the grounds, a superb position and lovely surroundings, Frognel Hall is an ideal base from which to explore Devon and Cornwall. It is particularly attractive to those who like to be near the central area, but not actually in it.
Frognel Hall is warm and friendly, with a rich history. It was built in the Tudor Gothic style in about 1840, in the early phase of Torquay’s development as a resort, and the building is the best example of its type in Torquay. It is grade 2 listed.
The first person known to have lived here was Sir Culling Eardley, who as a Christian campaigner for religious freedom financed the building of Furrough Cross Free Church, Babbacombe, in 1852. Noteworthy visitors were the Prussian Minister and the Countess Bernstorff. When Sir Culling Eardley put Frognel on the market in 1860, the advertisement described it as “beautifully situated, about half-way between the seashore and top of the surrounding hills, thus making it a very sheltered situation for invalids, and commanding most extensive and varied land and sea views.” The growth of Frognel’s and other properties’ shrubs and trees over the years has reduced the extent of the sea views from the ground floor but protected the country feeling of the property.
In the following years Frognel Hall was occupied by a series of tenants , wealthy aristocratic people who were attracted to Torquay by its mild winter climate. One of these was Sir Lawrence Palk, who was a very important figure locally and influential in the continuing development of Torquay.
During the 1880s Frognel was bought by the Rev John Bridgeman, whose wife continued to live here after his death until she died in 1930. The Rev Bridgeman was the third son of the second Earl of Bedford, his wife a descendant of Clive of India, and their son, William Clive Bridgeman, First Viscount Bridgeman, was Home Secretary from 1922-1924 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1924-1929. Frognel Hall’s Visitors Book of that time contains many interesting entries, and there are many letters written by and to these people at Frognel Hall, which give a fascinating view into life at the time. In addition, the catalogue for the auction of items to be sold on Mrs Bridgeman’s death gives an idea of the layout of the rooms and what they contained. We still have architects’ plans commissioned by the Bridgemans for an extension which would have housed a billiard room and library if it had been built.
A Mr and Mrs Plum owned Frognel from the 1930s; Mrs Plum was still here in 1975! How lovely to think that people sharing the name of a Cleudo character lived for so long in Frognel Hall, where murder mysteries are so popular today. It almost compensates for our inability to find any evidence of Agatha Christie staying here, although in her autobiography she does mention walking past Hatley St George, a house just down the road from us, on her way to Meadfoot beach!
Frognel Hall was first advertised as a hotel in 1940, but during the war was a college hostel, reopening as a hotel on 18th May 1946. Only weeks later, on 30th June, a couple (sadly anonymous) stayed the night at Frognel Hall, “an old country house standing in its own grounds. We had chicken for dinner followed by pȇche melba and then we were a little puzzled by anchovy on toast for the last course” (!) An advert of 1948 describes Frognel as “Occupying one of Torquay’s finest positions…Charming lounge and garden….Excellent food; pleasant efficient service. A carefree friendly atmosphere where one feels instantly at home. The new proprietors give personal attention.” The same is true today, but without anchovies!
According to Mr A R Foreman, who was here in the early 1950s, Frognel Hall was one of the first hotels in Torquay to create a holiday let flat on the its premises, increasing its occupancy rate by doing so. It may have been during this time that the balcony was added to the west front of the building.
By the early 1980s Frognel Hall had become dilapidated and some of its land had been sold, but its fortunes changed when the Hookings bought it, refurbished it and increased its capacity in an era when the coach holiday flourished in Torquay. Over subsequent years Frognel Hall has been owned by Richard and Shirley Cropper, then Steven and Helen Marks, and now by Stephen and Amanda Brookman. In 2003,during the Croppers' tenure, His Excellency Dr George Bonello du Puis, the Maltese High Commissioner, stayed here during the stay of the George Cross Island Association.
Frognel Hall retains many physical features and reminders of its history, but, equally importantly, that friendly and homely atmosphere described in 1948! It has 16 bedrooms, and guests can opt for bed and breakfast or bed and breakfast with dinner.