Former Bedford captain’s manor house ‘The TAJ Gateway Coonoor’ now leading South India hotel, reports Hemang Palan IndiaGBnews Mumbai bureau

Former Bedford captain’s manor house ‘The TAJ Gateway Coonoor’ now leading South India hotel, reports Hemang Palan IndiaGBnews Mumbai bureau

The earliest recorded existence of The TAJ Gateway Coonoor (previously called Hampton Manor), located in Tamil Nadu state in Southern part of India, is in 1857, listed in the name of Mr EB Thomas. However, the property was originally owned by a Bedford, UK, native, Capt Francis Houlton, reports Hemang Palan IndiaGBnews Mumbai bureau.

It was built as a priory to the All Saints Church (adjacent to the Hotel). The hotel was sold to Capt Francis Houlton in 1865, and as a practice of the time, these areas in Coonoor are still called ‘Bedford’.

Hampton was sold to Mary St. George Bevan in 1907. She and Mary Agnes Marjotibanks converted the place to a hotel in 1908, which operated until 1920. After the death of Mary Bevan and much legal proceedings, Miss Charlie Burton Henderson (later Mrs. Ellery) – niece of Ms Bevan acquired Hampton.

Mrs Ellery did not allow Indians except an odd Prince or High Court Judge into Hampton. Many houses surrounding the Hampton, as it was known well over south, were named similarly, such as South Hampton, Little Hampton, More Hampton, Hampton Row etc. Guests were asked for their regimental badge, the design of which was displayed on the table corner at dinner much to the delight of guests. The little train coming up from Mettupalayam was visible from Hampton in those days. The little train still travels between Mettupalayam and Ooty.

In 1946, Gordon Cameron, an Australian serviceman, came to Hampton. Cameron had a penchant for horses and making money on quick deals. Having overstayed at the Hampton, he was asked to vacate the room that he was staying in, for a guest. Refusing to do so, he had an argument with Mrs Ellery when she said, “If you want the room buy the place,” to which Cameron promptly agreed. The money, which he paid for Hampton, was acquired by Conning, a US serviceman in buying a godown full of damaged mosquito nets in Calcutta. Thus on 8th of July 1946, Cameron came to own Hampton.

Cameron was a law unto himself and started a bar and a grill, which to this day serves as the Conference Hall. He built rooms dispensing with Municipal permission, occasionally building his own handstand, not bothering for proper plans. In 1962, having run out of money chasing big ideas, Cameron sold Hampton to Mrs SL Dass in 1977.

The property came under the TAJ banner in 1990 and was carefully renovated to retain its old character, adding all modern amenities.

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