Brownsword Hotels, the company founded by greetings card entrepreneur Andrew Brownsword and his wife Christina, now owns 12 hotels. Six city centre venues are run under the Abode brand and the remaining country house properties have now been brought together under one name.
The launch of the brand comes nearly eighteen months after the company acquired four former Von Essen properties out of administration: Amberley Castle, Buckland Manor, Lower Slaughter Manor and Washbourne Court, which has since been repositioned as a pub with rooms and has been renamed as The Slaughters Country Inn.
The Gidleigh Collection is named after Gidleigh Park, the Dartmoor hotel made famous by renowned chef Michael Caines who has been in charge of the brigade at the Devon venue since 1994 and who helped the property’s restaurant gain two Michelin stars in 1999.
The property was acquired by Brownsword Hotels in 2006 and Caines has since taken up a role as director of food and beverage for the entire group.
Speaking to BigHospitality, Halliday said part of the reason for the new brand name was to instil some of the staff culture and the desire for accolades from Gidleigh Park into some of the newer hotels within the luxury portfolio.
“All the properties within the collection should be aiming to get a Michelin star, apart from the pub,” he explained.
As well as Gidleigh Park and the four former Von Essen properties, Brownsword Hotels also owns Bath Priory which was the company's first hotel purchase and also sits within the new collection. Currently only Gidleigh Park and Bath Priory boast Michelin-starred restaurants.
“By virtue of where they are and what they are, in terms of character, they are not necessarily reproductions of Gidleigh Park. It is about delivering quality and a certain level of drinking, dining and comfort.
“I am not sure they will all chase similar accolades. Gidleigh is certainly a set apart and it is great for us because it is an aspiration for a lot of those other businesses,” he added.
The brand launch represents a significant development for Brownsword Hotels after the purchase of the four former Von Essen properties. Halliday described it as the moment he was happy to put the entire set of country house hotels 'to market' after some of the businesses had suffered from a lack of good management or investment.
"Some of these properties were quite austere if you just turned up at the gate, some of those operations were held back by that. You have got to make them look as welcoming as possible.
"Eighteen months down the line, we are nearly there. It is about whoever is leading those businesses - a general manager setting the right tone and instilling the right culture."
At the time of the acquisition Halliday told BigHospitality more purchases could be in the pipeline. Although he refused to rule out further expansion if the company's owners finds a property which fits the portfolio, Halliday said his focus was on slightly 'relaxing' the style of the offer and attracting more guests from emerging markets.
"We have got to exploit the emerging markets and the US market. What we are marketing will really appeal to some of those marketplaces but we need greater reach," he concluded.