Celebrations at Spalding hotel

In another life, Spalding’s Red Lion hotel proprietor Nigel Wilkins tried to kill off Dr Who.

Though he’s been running the Market Place hotel for the past 30 years – and was involved in another well-known restaurant in town before that – Nigel’s first love was acting.

Nigel Wilkins and his mother Joyce make a presentation to Lucy Pettit. Photo: SG220516-113TW

Nigel Wilkins and his mother Joyce make a presentation to Lucy Pettit. Photo: SG220516-113TW

He had a go at making that work, touring, doing small parts and acting as “leading monster” in Dr Who.

Looking back, which he was recently forced to do when Dr Who fans came asking him to sign photographs for a special event in Coventry, he says it was all great fun.

However, he realised acting wasn’t going to be his career, and London wasn’t where he wanted to bring up his son, John.

After a spell learning the ropes at the Savoy hotel, Nigel returned to join the family business, Isobel’s Pantry, and then, when that closed, The Red Lion Hotel.

That was in 1986 and on Sunday Nigel celebrated the anniversary with a family meal and presentation to a member of staff who has also worked at the hotel 30 years or more, Lucy Pettit.

Lucy first went there as a 14-year-old Gleed School student looking for work over the Tulip weekend. She was then offered more work in the kitchen, and over the years has done everything from cooking, housekeeper, manager and now bar and restaurant work.

In fact, it’s the variety of work she enjoys most, as well as the customers.

Lucy probably remembers the hotel as it was before a major redevelopment in about 1990.

Nigel says the rear half of the hotel, including bedrooms, car park and the Red Lion Tap, was sold off to property developers, which gave them funds for badly needed work.

He said: “It was pretty much gutted on the inside. When we took down the connecting walls between bedrooms the insulation between the lath and plaster walls was sawdust and running through that was wiring that fed the different rooms. It was quite an eye opener.”

There were many changes at that time, including making all rooms en suite, but what has been preserved is the cosy atmosphere of the front bar where people have been meeting for many years.