Ramsgate resident Davey Stone is a former bestselling author for Disney in America and Hodder in the UK.
He recently wrote a book about growing up in Ramsgate called Too Much Information, which nobody bought so he now uses the copies as doorstops in his house or occasionally as toilet paper.
He lives in Thanet coffee shops and has no friends.
(Davey is actually a successful fantasy author best known for his series of books The Illmoor Chronicles. He runs independent publishing house Kingsbrook with wife Chiara)
It’s hard to imagine now when you look at the sheer size and magnificence of the Granville Hotel…but for most of my childhood half of it was quite literally a pile of old rubble. When I say rubble, I’m talking about the sort of mess you get in a Marvel movie when the Hulk goes rampaging through downtown New York. I guess there’s a good chance it was war damage but as kids we just thought it was an awesome play area.
To those of us who grew up in the 80s, the older half of what is now the Granville Hotel will always be a towering fortress that dominated the Ramsgate skyline, rising into the clouds and sticking one massive middle finger up at the gods. We LOVED it…and back in the 80s we spread rumours about the place constantly.
Everyone knew there were things in the basement at the Granville Hotel that would drag you – kicking and screaming – into the sewers and wicked old ladies in the tower who would offer you tea and biscuits before hitting you over the head with a bag full of frozen crumpets.
Kids talk a lot…and we talked for HOURS.
‘Billy was chased around the lobby by this thing that was the spitting image of his own late MOTHER. When he came out, he was never the same. Now he drinks all the time, even when he’s driving the ambulance.’
‘There’s something massive that wanders through the corridors at night. My mates said it ate three of the Ramsgate Casuals and also that bloke who used to manage the Halifax…but they reckon it spat HIM out.’
‘My sister snogged a pair of identical twins in the Granville and she said as soon as she saw them outside they looked COMPLETELY different.’
…and my personal favourite:
‘My dad lost his virginity in the basement…and he was on his OWN.’
Like most kids, I’d heard all the rumours…but I actually DID have an auntie who lived on the third floor. Well, I say auntie but in the 80s your auntie was basically whoever your nan last went drinking with. I had an uncle Len who helped my nan out of a taxi once and apparently that was the only time they’d ever met.
My earliest conversation about the Granville Hotel was with an Irishman called McVey. He wore a trilby hat and was missing an ear but this wasn’t unusual on the local pub circuit; there were so many men with missing body parts in Ramsgate that I always believed there must be an entire guy wandering around somewhere made out of the bits all the other blokes had lost.
‘I’ll tell you something amazing about the Granville Hotel,’ he’d said, one rainy afternoon in the Camden Arms, winking at me and tapping the side of his nose. ‘But you have to keep it to yourself.’
‘I will! I swear!’
‘Big Jane lives there. You know Big Jane?’
‘Yeah! She’s mates with my nan.’
‘Right. Well….don’t tell anyone I told you. I don’t want it getting around.’
That was IT. He literally turned back to the bar as if he’d passed on the secret of eternal youth and he hadn’t told me ANYTHING. It was over a week later before I came to the conclusion that he must have been completely hammered.
As I wander through the streets of Ramsgate, these days, I miss the wild rumours and the atmosphere in the pubs. Health concerns and the smoking bans have conspired to stop people drinking with the wild enthusiasm they used to muster…and, boy, did they ever like to drink. I was in The Horse and Groom on the night a guy called Rudy lost an eye in a darts match, and he was practically DRAGGED away by the ambulance crew because he’d had to leave a full pint.
Growing up on Bellevue Road in Ramsgate during the 80s was a complete education because the street still had that old-school mentality where you could leave your front door wide open (as long you didn’t mind being burgled). Everybody knew everybody else, even if they hated them. It was that sort of place.
My favourite hangout was the abandoned coach depot at the bottom of Albion Road, where we used to hide in the bushes across from the seedy motel and watch the occasional punter secretly meeting his secretary for a wild weekend (or, at least, for a wild twenty minutes).
My best mates were twins called Peter and Paul: their parents owned the Sycamore Hotel, a rambling behemoth of a building on Albion Road that constantly looked in danger of collapsing. Rumours abounded of demented ghosts dashing frantically through the corridors (probably trying to get out of the place before they were charged for a double room) and rotting corpses occupying a crashed train in the basement from the days when the old rail line ran down to Ramsgate beach.
Amid all the rumours and stories were things of genuine concern, like the fact that you could pull bricks out of the wall at the Sycamore and just slot them back as if the entire place was made out of Lego. When the decision was finally made to bring the building down, I don’t think the demolition crew needed a wrecking ball: I’m pretty sure one guy leaned on the front door and the entire place went over before they’d even had a chance to unload the van.
Nowadays, the Sycamore and the seedy motel are both gone, replaced by an entire street of residential houses. The old waste ground is now Poldark Court and the Granville Hotel has a shiny new half that somehow still spectacularly fails to make it look like one complete building. Personally, I preferred the rubble….but – like the Murphys – I’m not bitter.