Last month saw the celebration of Maureen Callaghan’s 90th Birthday, marking a massive milestone for a
wonderful lady who has, and will always be the heart and soul of the Riviera. Having owned the hotel for
over 50 years, there is no better time to reminisce then after the hotel owner’s birthday month so here
is just a brief history on The Rivera Hotel and how it got to be the success it is today:
The Riviera Hotel: A Brief History of a Family Business
In 1960, Alexander and Maureen Callaghan and their (then) four young children moved into the ten-bedroom Riviera Hotel.
Alex was 35 and had worked his way through promotion to become Purser on the Cunard cruise liner
Queen Elizabeth. He had not only learned his hospitality skills with Cunard, but had also seized the
opportunity afforded by his many voyages across the Atlantic to save the money for the deposit to buy
the small guesthouse in Alum Chine.
Although Maureen and the children moved into the hotel, Alex stayed with Cunard for another year,
earning a salary to put towards his plans for the hotel’s expansion. This meant that Maureen, with four
children under seven, was plunged into the additional role of single-handedly running a small hotel.
In 1961, Alex resigned from Cunard and came to his new home determined to start building the six extra
bedrooms and a new dining room which he and Maureen had designed in that first year. Not long after, the
neighbours at No 12 decided to retire and so the Callaghan’s persuaded the Bank to lend them the money to
buy their guesthouse. The next building project was to join the two buildings and what is now the ballroom
in The Bridge Bar and Grill was built.
After No.12 was integrated into “the Riv”, the owners of No.16 also decided to sell so another trip to the
bank ensued. This time, the new restaurant was built to join these two buildings. The indoor pool, the mansard
roof joining the three buildings and sundry other projects all helped Alex and Maureen provide facilities
which leisure guests enjoyed and the trade of the hotel increased.
The next projects were the purchase of “the Bungalow” on Studland Road (now the Poolside Lodge),
followed by the purchase of two adjoining properties which became the Belle Reve Holiday Apartments.
This also offered the opportunity to build the outdoor pool – in the shape of an R – which was completed
in the early 1970s. Guests who had first come to the hotel as children were now bringing their own
children for family holidays. This was because of the huge personal interest the Callaghan’s showed in
their guests, endearing them to thousands of families from all over the country who would come to stay
time and again, knowing that they would receive a warm welcome and an enjoyable stay every time.
In 1990, after a year’s illness, Alex sadly passed away, aged 63. Maureen and the family were determined
to carry on the business and their daughter Maria and son Andrew took over the administration and operational
sides of the business respectively.
DID YOU KNOW?? : On a hot windy afternoon in July 1999, a young Assistant Manager was making his
lunch in the kitchen when he was called away to a job, mistakenly failing to turn off the equipment before leaving
the kitchen. This resulted in the unattended chip fryer catching light. The fire quickly ripped up through the
kitchen vents and ignited the wooden surrounds. This spread the fire sideways through the first and second floors
of the hotel. Some 90 firefighters fought the blaze which took two days before it was finally extinguished.
Fortunately, at this time of day, there were no guests and few staff in the hotel and no-one was hurt.
The family was determined to re-establish the hotel and make it better than ever and, in September 2000,
the Riviera re-opened for guests after a £4.5m refurbishment.
The Riviera Today:
In addition to holidaymakers and a growing following of corporate guests who value the friendly and helpful
service which we strive to offer, the Riviera now runs many Masonic Lodge weekends, parties, weddings, baby
showers and conferences for the locals of Poole, Bournemouth and the surrounding areas. In just this year
alone we have so far:
* Watched an array of beautiful brides and handsome grooms walk down the aisle on
their big day, each with their very own unique colour schemes and wedding decor. Here is a
selection of just a few:
Each special day was equally as beautiful as the last and it was an absolute honour to meet, plan and witness
the weddings of every couple we have had the privilege of hosting in 2017.
We can’t thank each couple enough for the incredible feedback we have received from both them and their guests.
We love receiving and reading all their lovely FB posts, emails and cards and are always sure to pass on the
praise to the whole team so everyone gets a chance to read the wonderful reviews. Here is just a snippet of the
feedback from some of our 2017 weddings:
Katherine Ward (had her evening reception with us on 4th August 2017):
“I cannot recommend this hotel enough. All the staff were truly amazing at helping us ensure
our wedding reception was perfect, in every way it was better than we expected. Lauren
(who is the wedding/event’s organiser), you were just pure amazingness and we are so
grateful for everything! Thank you all so much!”
Hannah Richardson (got married with us on 10th August 2017):
“The hotel and apartments are great and the staff are fantastic. We’ve just had our wedding
here and it was absolutely perfect and the staff were incredible. The food is gorgeous and
the swimming pools are lovely. Can’t wait to come back again and would come back with my
children in the future”
Charlotte Smith (got married with us on 5th August 2017)
“Just wanted to say a massive thank you to Lauren, Amy and the team for all the hard work
you did in making our wedding so perfect. The food was amazing and the whole venue was set up
beautifully. We had a fantastic day and everyone really loved the hotel and had nothing
but good things to say about it. Some of the guests are going to book to come back. A huge
thanks to my best friend Billy! He worked so hard in the evening and was just so lovely!
What a guy! We couldn’t have asked for a better day and we can’t wait to come back and
stay – which will probably be soon “
* We have served Afternoon Tea for a large number of baby showers to celebrate
many mum-to- be’s expected new arrival and received some amazing comments about our staff and food:
Emma Purvis had her baby shower here with us on 22nd July 2017:
“My baby shower was held yesterday 22.07.17. Absolutely fantastic day. Kids loved the
pool, the food was amazing, and staff were fantastic, nothing was too big of an ask.
Could not fault and highly recommend. Thank you”
Sally, organiser of Georgina’s baby shower which was held on 25th June 2017:
“Dear Lauren, Just a quick email to say thank you so much for helping organise yesterday.
The whole event went smoothly and the room was presented excellently upon arrival.
The member of staff who was serving on the day (Billy) was very helpful; and nothing was too
much trouble. He even asked which type of music we would like in the background.
The dietary requirements were also remembered and the food was delicious as always!
Thanks again to yourself, the staff and the hotel for such a great event!
This is the 3rd time I have been in this suite for this sort of event and I will always
recommend this hotel to others.
I’m sure I will use the hotel many times again in the future