Danny La Rue, Yank tourists and dustheads: 50 years running iconic Hanley B&B

Legendary hotelier Edie Hindmoor has experienced the evolution of Hanley - from her iconic guest house. Verdon Guest House used to be the place to stay when celebrities - including Olive from On The Buses and Danny La Rue - performed in the city centre.

The 84-year-old - who opened the Charles Street guest house in the early 1970s - sold the business earlier this year. Now she has written a book - Memoirs of a Stokie Landlady.

Edie was married with four children and living just two streets away when she opened the guest house. The property had belonged to her sister.

Edie said: “I did well from day one. People didn’t like to stay at hotels with the prices. Only business people stayed at hotels back then. There were a lot of guest houses around Stoke-on-Trent - they were preferred. Within the same week it opened, it was full of contractors.

“As well as contractors, tourists turned up. I had never imagined a tourist trade in Hanley. One day, an American couple were standing at the doorstep with their cameras. I asked them what were they doing in Stoke-on-Trent? They said it was the Potteries they’d come to see. There was a lot in those days. That was the start for me of all the tourists. Loads and loads came from the tourist board which was set up in Hanley. We ordered information books, guide books, they loved the information we provided. As soon as the pottery industry declined, we didn’t see any more tourists. That was a blow to Stoke-on-Trent.”

Verdon Guest House started out with 11 rooms. It later expanded to 16 rooms with bed and breakfast and the option of an evening meal. Edie once charged £4-a-night bed and breakfast - it was £50-a-night when she finished.

She added: “We stopped doing breakfast, hardly anybody asked for it anymore. They preferred to lie in.”

It was 2020 when the Covid pandemic struck and hotels were ordered to close - and instead house the homeless. It was the start of a decline.

Edie said: "We couldn’t afford to close down. When the government said can you take the homeless, I thought now is my chance to do something worthwhile. I belong to the Baptist church and have done for many years. I thought at the guest house we can offer some support and love. For some of them it changed their lives - most of them didn’t.

“It slowly went from a beautiful place and it just declined. These people, they didn’t act like regular people. They always argued and took drugs and drank. They chewed rocks in front of me. They chewed on these rocks and all I could see was blood pouring from their mouths. They couldn’t feel it.

“Through the night, I could see everything on the cameras, I could see them out on the street. I’d have to turn the bell off overnight or I’d get no rest. They still knocked at the door trying to get in, all drugged-up.

“I couldn’t tell you how bad it was. They started stealing stuff in the rooms, TVs went missing. Whilst I could supply things back it would just deteriorate. It never stopped. With the prices of stuff I couldn’t afford it. To pay the bills at the same time, it was a real problem and I began to get very nervous about what was happening.

“I went around charity shops looking for bargains as the microwaves, the fridges, the bedding had gone. I would ask them to leave then they’d take stuff with them. As fast as I replaced stuff, they just destroyed them. They punched the smart TVs.

“When they take monkey dust, they don’t realise what they do. It makes them angry and want to destroy everything. When you take them in they seem fine, but then they take this stuff. I told the housing people to take them away and asked them not to send any more in that state from alcohol and drugs.

“It was very hard to have decent people stay after that. We couldn’t take bookings after Covid because I was ashamed of what the house had become. I desperately tried to make something of it.

“The bills had gone so high. I was paying out so much in rates and tax. It took 40 per cent of the income alone. We couldn’t keep up with buying extra stuff and paying the bills.”

In 2023, Edie knew it was time to sell the business and listed it for sale. In January this year it was bought by a businesswoman hoping to bring it back to its former glory.

The condition of the rooms before the pandemic hit
The condition of the rooms before the pandemic hit

Edie said: “She’s invested an awful lot of money into the property. She’s doing the best she can for the purpose of the community. When I went round the new owners had done it up beautifully. They’ve bought new beds, new heating, it’s lovely. The building is nearly 200 years old and it still has some original features in it.”

Edie has nearly finished writing her book.

She said: “It tells stories of running the guesthouse and the gradual decline of Stoke-on-Trent since my childhood during the war years. From the 1930s, when it was covered in smog, how everybody worked and stuck together, the factories brimming over with work, the poverty in Hanley with the miners, the pits closing down. How it went from people being honest and we could leave our doors open. We never locked the doors. Then all the crime started, the rise of the drugs epidemic. It was a different life.”

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