Penelope Keith's tea room
Tea Time Tidbit for the week of November 26, 2018
Penelope Keith as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton
It’s hard to imagine To The Manor Born’s Audrey fforbes-Hamilton not getting her way, but that was certainly the case for the actress who played the former Lady of the Manor when she tried to open up a tea room in the Scottish Island village of Avoch. Instead of welcoming the popular actress’s idea, the local residents and council fought her efforts from the get go.
Keith’s quest to become a "tea lady" began in 2005 when she and her husband, through their production company Pencon Productions Ltd., purchased the site of an old gas station in the Scottish village of Avoch. It was close to where the couple had a second home and their aim was to turn it into a tea room. But their application for planning permission was promptly rejected. Not only that, but villagers complained that the plans for the tea room, which included an upstairs flat, were an "eyesore" and that locating a restaurant on the site would be a disruption traffic-wise, as parking was limited.
Three years later Keith, through her company, re-submitted plans and once again they were met with objection. This time round though, the objections included a petition signed by half of the village’s population. To add a somewhat dramatic twist to Keith’s efforts, a policy inquiry into the petition was made and the petition was found to be fake, with many of the names on it being those of people who were no longer alive!
Every good drama though needs some comedy and it turned out that many of the non-deceased people who signed the petition thought it was a petition to keep the local Post Office open! Not surprising really, as the petition had been put up in the Post Office where it had been billed as a call to “Save our Highland post offices”. Needless to say the Postmistress was an opponent of Keith’s tearoom.
Crofter’s Bistro, Rosemarkie, Scotland
In 2011, through her company, the ever-persistent Keith, submitted another set of plans which after six years were finally approved. By that time though, Keith and her husband Rodney had decided to throw the tea towel in on running a café in Avoch. Instead they had purchased and opened a small restaurant in Rosemarkie, another village just a couple of miles away from Avoch. They installed one of their sons as chef, called it Crofter’s Bistro and the previously much-longed-for Avoch tea room remained unbuilt.
The tea room site subsequently fell into decay, until eventually in 2016, its owners funded clearing of the land and gave permission to the Avoch community council to turn the site into a community garden, which reportedly continues to thrive.
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
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