DEDICATED staff are celebrating a collective 50 years of working at one of the area’s most prestigious hotels.
And both seamstress Karen Riley and Jane Napper have interesting tales as to how they ended up at Lumley Castle, in Chester-le-Street.
When seamstress Karen, 50, first joined the staff at the 600-year-old hotel 25 years ago, it was to help a couple of volunteers in keeping the venue’s ornate four poster bed drapes, curtains and wall coverings in tip top condition.
Now, a quarter of a century later, the talented needlewoman is solely responsible not only for the 73-bedroom hotel’s soft furnishings, but for the costumes worn by staff at Elizabethan banquets and special events – and she has no plans to stop sewing.
Bosses at the four-star hotel have even converted a room in one of its ancient stone turrets into a workroom for her, complete with two electric sewing machines and an overlocker.
There, Karen carries out repairs, designs and creates the pelmets, swags and drapes which adorn the hotel’s bedrooms and state rooms as well as the table linen for its Black Knight Restaurant.
“The scale and variety of soft furnishings here at Lumley has grown considerably over the years, which has been challenging and very rewarding,” said Karen.
Jane, who liked Karen is also from Chester-le-Street, was 22 when she visited the castle to support her friend Sandra who was hoping for a job there.
However managers were so impressed with Jane that they offered her a junior receptionist position on the spot – and a quarter of a century later she is still welcoming visitors to the 600-year-old castle.
Jane, 47, said: “I had originally trained as a hairdresser, but I knew that wasn’t for me, so when Sandra said she was going along to Lumley Castle’s open day I thought I might as well go with her.
“It never occurred to me that I would be offered a job immediately – or that I would still be there all these years later, but I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“In fact, when my boyfriend Paul proposed, I just knew there was nowhere I would sooner tie the knot and we got married here on October 10, 1995.”
During her time at Lumley Castle Hotel, Jane has risen through the ranks, becoming head receptionist and ultimately Reservations and Revenue Manager.
“The hospitality industry is renowned for a high staff turnover,” said Lumley Castle’s general manager Christine Gott.
“However, there is such a strong sense of teamwork at Lumley and such a lovely atmosphere, that many of our staff have been with us for years: like the guests, they never want to leave.”
Among those helping Jane celebrate her silver anniversary will be none other than Sandra Bell, whose idea it was to visit the castle in the first place.
“Sandra did get offered a job by someone else fairly soon after,” said Jane, “so there were no hard feelings and, like me, she’s had a very happy career.”