Newly-opened Acklam Hall was recently joined by a guest of honour with a special connection to the building.
Eric Collier, from Saltburn, was one of the first intake of pupils at the original Acklam Hall Boys Grammar School in 1935. The 92-year-old is still a member of the Acklam Hall Old Boys Association and, when the hall ceased to be a school, Eric instigated the move of the Old Boys War Memorial to St Mary’s Church in Acklam.
Eric and his family were guests of honour at the recently renovated Acklam Hall and joined the team for afternoon tea in The Brierley, the hall’s restaurant, sharing his stories about his time at Acklam Hall over 80 years ago and also some of his personal memorabilia from his time there.
Eric said: “I have such fond memories of being at Acklam Hall and I am very proud to have been one of the first students there in the 1930s. It has such a wealth of history, some of which I have documented. I am so pleased to see that the renovation has been in-keeping with Acklam Hall’s stunning original architecture and I am so thrilled to return to see it back to its former glory.
“Some of my happiest memories of being at Acklam Hall include cycling to school from Linthorpe through what were then country lanes. We weren’t allowed to ride our bikes across the school courtyard so we would get off and push them. I recall the kitchen gardens supplying the vegetables for our school lunches and the outline of the old greenhouses can still be seen in the boundary walls.”
After leaving Acklam Hall Boys Grammar School, Eric went to work at Dorman Long in Middlesbrough as a buyer and, at the age of 18, joined the Royal Engineers.
During the Second World War, Eric became a Quartermaster Sergeant of the 79th Armoured Division with specialised armoured vehicles, known as ‘Hobart's Funnies’, and was part of Churchill’s secret weapons used to retake Europe from D-Day onwards. The war took him through France, Belgium and into Germany where his unit was one of the first to liberate Belsen Concentration Camp. He remained in the army of occupation in Europe until being demobbed in 1947 when he went back to Dorman Long, where he studied to become a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.
Eric then became a lecturer at Constantine College in Middlesbrough and then went on to work at Kirby College in Linthorpe where he continued until his retirement in 1988 as a senior lecturer in business studies.
The newly-renovated Acklam Hall opened in February, following a multi-million-pound refurbishment, and is home to The Brierley restaurant, four function suites for weddings and other special events, 18 serviced offices and a number of state-of-the-art conference and meeting room facilities.
The Brierley offers two dining experiences- The Salon, which is open all day for breakfasts, lunches and evening meals as well as Sunday lunches, and the more formal Dining Room which offers a range of afternoon teas and a la carte fine dining.
Martin Williams, from Acklam Hall Limited, said: “Since opening our doors in February we have met some of the most interesting characters associated with Acklam Hall’s past. It has been fascinating for our team to hear first-hand accounts of this amazing building’s history and Eric was fantastic company with such great stories to share.”
The Grade I listed building’s refurbishment has seen dozens of its rooms and features restored to their original grandeur. The re-development of the 17th Century building has so far created over 20 new jobs in Middlesbrough as well as opportunities for dozens of local suppliers.