Premises in Oxford Street & Wigmore Street
William Beale and his shop in Highgate Hill
Beale's Restaurant in Holloway
The Banqueting Rooms
The Beale family were recorded living in the Royston area of Hertfordshire since the sixteenth century as farmers, millers, bakers and innkeepers. In 1769 John Beale, a master baker, moved to London and opened a shop at 75 Oxford Street. The second Beale, also called John, moved round the corner in 1802 and opened a baker’s shop at 2a Wigmore Street, where his nephew Edward was recorded as being in charge in 1823. Six years later Edward moved to 45 Popham Street, Islington, and taught the baking trade to his nephew William, the great-great-grandfather of the present MD of the company, Andrew Beale.
William Beale, the fourth Beale in the story, came from humble beginnings in Hertfordshire (his father was a bricklayer) to seek his fortune in London. After his apprenticeship to his uncle, William saved up £50 and opened his own shop on Highgate Hill in 1861. The shop had a covered yard at the rear into which a horse and cart could be brought, and once the day’s baking was over William used the residual heat from the ovens to cook dinners and send them out (the first involvement of the family in catering). A man of enormous energy and drive, he developed the business so fast that he was able in 1889 to open Beale’s Restaurant, a large five storey building in Holloway containing a restaurant, grill room, banqueting suites, baker and departments selling a complete range of groceries and provisions, rather like a suburban Fortnum and Mason. William died in 1904, a pillar of local society and an alderman of Islington Council.
The fifth generation of Beales were William’s sons Thomas, William and Archibald. Thomas was a skilled craftsman, training at the Jockey Club in Paris (where Marcel Proust was a member), and winning many confectionery prizes. The firm was incorporated as Beale’s Ltd in 1895, and after their father’s death the three brothers kept the business going till the mid 1930s, handing over to Thomas’s son Edward (Ted) and his brother John, the sixth generation. By the second world ward the grocery, meat and provisions departments had been closed as being uneconomical, but the bakery business developed under John Beale, becoming the largest independent bakers in North London with 12 shops, while the restaurant and banqueting side continued to be busy until 1969, when the Holloway premises were sold and the bakery side closed down after exactly 200 years.
Edward Beale had bought West Lodge Park hotel in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire, in 1945 and moved there to live. It was then a quiet unlicensed hotel occupied mainly by permanent residents. In 1958 Edward changed the style of the hotel, adding central heating and private bathrooms, taking wedding receptions, upgrading the restaurant and opening a bar. A further expansion took place when in 1960 he bought Firs Hall (later called The Firs) in Winchmore Hill, which became the busiest centre for banqueting and conferences in North London for over 40 years until it was sold in 2000.
In 1964 the firm acquired a hotel in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, which had 26 small bedrooms. Under Edward’s son Trevor, the seventh generation, the hotel was renamed Hatfield Lodge and work started on improvements to the bedrooms and the banqueting side, building the Hexagon reception room in 1968 and the Buckland Suite in 1980. West Lodge Park also received a large injection of funds, and in 1970 Trevor planned a major rebuilding, adding 26 new bedrooms, and a new restaurant and kitchens. West Lodge Park was awarded 4 stars by the AA in 1964, while Edward Beale, in his retirement, planted hundreds of trees and shrubs in the hotel grounds to form the Beale Arboretum. Trevor’s managing director Grevile Bridge in 1997 added 17 new bedrooms to Hatfield Lodge, and in 2001 added a third hotel to the company by the purchase of a 70 bedroom hotel with an indoor pool and gymnasium in Buckingham, which was renamed Buckingham Beales Hotel.
Andrew Beale, son of Trevor, joined the firm in 1992 after studying at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne and gaining hotel experience in Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and in the UK. After some seven years managing West Lodge Park he supervised the rebuilding of Hatfield Lodge hotel, which was transformed into Beales Hotel, Hatfield, reopening in 2004 as a first class four star hotel of 53 bedrooms. In 2012 he purchased the freehold of West Lodge Park Hotel after some 67 years leasing the hotel since 1945, thus securing the future of this wonderful hotel for future generations of guests, staff, and the Beale family.
There can be few family businesses in the country able to trace their history back to 1769 which are still owned and operated by the same family. Developing from a single baker’s shop to a group of fine hotels has been a journey of over 200 years, during which the Beales have moved from Hertfordshire to London and back again. Each of the eight generations has added its own particular stamp, constantly adapting to new circumstances and, through booms, slumps and world wars, getting on with minding their own business.