New owners of historic Swanage pub reveal tapas bar plans

A brother and sister team are hoping to bring a taste of Spain to Swanage after buying the old Purbeck Hotel which has been standing disused for many years.

Lewis Harrison and his sister Beth Harrison have just completed the purchase of the Grade Two listed building in the Lower High Street, which dates back to the early 1800s. They plan to open a tapas bar and convert the upstairs into flats.

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Beth Harrison and Lewis Harrison

Beth and Lewis Harrison inside the old Purbeck Hotel

“Rollercoaster”

With help from mother Shirley, grandmother Joan and father Alan, they bought the old inn, which comes with planning permission for six flats – two two-bed and four one-bed – for £750,000.

Lewis Harrison said:

“It’s been a rollercoaster to get it but now we have, it’s worth it.”

The old Purbeck Hotel Free House, which appears in lots of old photos of Swanage, shut many years ago but people in the town have memories of ‘a bit of a party place’.

Lewis Harrison and old Purbeck Hotel sign

The old pub sign

Once called the White Hart

It’s next door to Jenkins newsagents, formerly H. B. Hibbs, and was called the White Hart until 1873. Strong’s of Romsey took it over from Panton’s of Wareham in 1897. It hasn’t been a pub for at least 12 years.

Lewis served an apprenticeship at luxury yacht builders Sunseeker before joining his father Alan Harrison in property development. He will concentrate on the flat conversions. Beth, an experienced chef who was living in Spain for three years before returning to Swanage last year, will manage the commercial side.

HB Hibbs shop in lower High Street

The Purbeck Hotel next to the newsagents in an old photo

“Relaxed atmosphere”

Beth Harrison said:

“I liked the atmosphere out in Spain, and we are hoping to bring something of that back here, somewhere that has a relaxed atmosphere where you can eat any time of day and child friendly.”

Beth, who has two boys of her own – Ardie, 2, and Parker, 4 – says the focus will be on creating quick, simple but nourishing food.

Both admit there is a lot of work to do to achieve their dream. Realistically, it won’t be until summer 2023 before they can open. They even plan to have music at some point.

HB Hibbs shop in lower high street

The old hotel back in its heyday

“Plenty of character”

Lewis said:

“It’s a listed property and that is appealing to me. It’s got plenty of character and having planning already in place simplifies things. I’ve done property developing with my dad for years.”

Alan Harrison is a well-known property developer in the area, whose projects have included Bay View Court.

Lewis added:

“Lots of people have stories about the old hotel around town. It was apparently a bit of a party place back in the day.”

Old Purbeck Hotel

Plan is to have a tapas bar with flats above

“Spanish touch”

Beth said:

“We want to keep all the old stonework, so that it has quite a rustic feel to it, with wood for the bar and a Spanish touch.”

Lewis added:

“It definitely suits us. I love the character of the properties round here and my sister has been dying to have her own restaurant and bar.

“I believe there is room for a different type of bar restaurant in Swanage and making it a tapas bar will be a niche.”

Street view of the lower High Street
Library image

Lower High Street in Swanage

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