Alford hotel renovation unearths historical find

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Historic documents from the 1900s and earlier have been unearthed during renovation work at the Forbes Arms Hotel at Bridge of Alford.

New owners, Tricia and Richard Rendall, have found handwritten menus, photographs, wedding invitations and greeting cards from the early 20th century.

The novice publicans hope an Aberdeenshire Council archivist – as well as locals – will shed light on the find, which will be put on display in the bar when it re-opens today (Thursday) May 21.

Tricia, 44, said: “It’s been fascinating reading the menus and looking at the old photographs. We’ve even discovered that one of the greetings cards was sent to the Spence family, who opened the bar in 1890, from people who used to live in my husband’s old home! Once the archivist has looked at the documents, we’re sure locals will be able to tell us a few extra stories about the people who wrote the cards and appear in the photos.”

The old menus - dating back to 1905 - were found in the hotel’s cellar, where Richard had to repair leaking pipes.

“Some of the old wedding invitations and documents date back to 1898, “ said Tricia.

“I want to keep the stuff here and maybe frame it, as I think it belongs here. I’ve also got a huge collection of volumes of books to do with cattle, called the Polled Herd Book by the Cattle Society, dating back to the 1800s, which I’ve offered to Alford Heritage Centre.”

The couple, who decided to buy their local as a challenge, will create up to six new jobs and offer a bar menu, seasonal dinner menu plus high teas, alongside nine ensuite bedrooms.

Tricia, who is a community nurse, said: “In the space of six months I had completed a second degree, moved house, got married and decided to buy the bar! It was a very busy and stressful time but we’ve never regretted our decision.

“My husband is a site manager for a construction company, so he’s been dealing with the renovation work while I’ve sourced a fantastic award-winning chef, Sandy Cowie.”

The couple have big plans for the business, eventually hoping to add a decked area down to the River Don, a fenced children’s play area and a hot tub and sauna.

Tricia said: “The town has had no local hub since the bar closed, so we want the Brig Bar to re-gain its position at the heart of the community, bringing people together and re-kindling community spirit.” An open day with bouncy castles, face painting, giant games and a buffet will be held from noon to 5pm on Saturday (May 21).