fun and intrigue
fun and intrigue
Originally a coaching inn built in 1743, it was turned into a fashionable hotel by William Skindle in 1833. Skindles’ glory years were the late Victorian and Edwardian eras and the “swinging Skindles” of the 1970s when Louis Brown owned the hotel and its nightclub, La Valbonne.
From 1833, it developed as a smart hotel in the newly fashionable resort of Maidenhead, a short ride from London. A highlight of the season was Ascot Sunday when the smart set arrived on boats and boating parties were popular. In the 1920s and 30s, it became frequented by rich and racy motorcar drivers.
This brought many celebrated social figures to Skindles and its prestige attracted the patronage of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and many famous characters, some of whom frequented parties at nearby Cliveden House. Though glamorous, the hotel achieved a degree of notoriety as a place noted for extra marital liaisons, hence the music hall joke of the time, “are you married or do you live in Maidenhead?”
In the 1950s, the complex became famous for tea dances on the lawns and the owner kept a monkey called Chico who lived in a willow tree on the riverside lawn that stole spectacles and earrings from unwary customers. Visitors during this period included Bette Davis, the Marx Brothers and King Hussein of Jordan.
In the 1960s, it became involved in the notorious political and sex scandal of the 1960s when it was used for trysts by the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo and his lover, Christine Keeler.
In 1978, it was taken over by nightclub impresario and international restaurateur, Louis Brown. It underwent a major refurbishment and re-established as a nightclub and disco called Studio Valbonne at which guests included Princess Margaret, Russell Harty, Michael Parkinson, Jim Davidson and Diana Dors. The nightclub could accommodate up to 700 people and boasted two bars, a restaurant seating 70 and two indoor swimming pools.
In the early 1980s it was voted the best nightclub in the world. The Rolling Stones and Thin Lizzy played there and guests included John Lennon, Yoko Ono, President Nixon and Princess Margaret.
In the 1990s, Skindles became a rundown venue hosting discos and it finally closed its doors in the mid 1990s. It became derelict and was bought by Berkeley Group in 2014. Demolition and redevelopment began in October 2015 to make way for the award winning Taplow Riverside development. Roux at Skindles stands on the site of its illustrious predecessor, Skindles Hotel.
(Much of the help in learning about this history came from historian Nigel Smales and we are grateful also for the kind use of the photograph by Terry Clark and the Facebook Group Maidenhead Memories.)