Family left fuming after room booked at Hartlepool hotel for wake of 101-year-old great, great grandmother is used to film ITV detective drama Vera

A grieving family has been left fuming with the management of a Hartlepool hotel after a room they booked to hold a wake for a 101-year-old relative was instead used to film hit TV show Vera without staff giving them any warning.

By David Allison
Thursday, 23 May, 2019, 06:00
Minnie Nichol celebrating her 100th birthday with a card from Her Majesty the Queen.

Wendy Horsley’s family had paid £300 to book a room at Hartlepool’s Staincliffe Hotel for mourners to celebrate the life of her nana Minnie Nicol, who passed away aged 101 earlier this month.

But as Wendy and others went to the venue to set up the room the evening before the funeral, she was stunned to find the room had been converted into a nursing home-style room so that scenes of the ITV detective drama could be filmed.

Brenda Blethyn (left) and a fellow actress recording Vera on Middleton Beach, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

Mrs Horsley, 54, says she and her family have been given no apology from hotel management and the wake had to be held in a bar area of the Seaton Carew venue instead.

She also said that some mourners were unable to get into the venue as the car park was sealed off to incoming cars because vehicles associated with Vera were parked up.

She added that the confusion has left her own mum, Mrs Nicol’s daughter Dorothy Robinson, 79, and Dorothy’s husband Eric, 83, distraught.

But hotel chiefs say there were no complaints from the family on the day of the wake, although they did accept that their room was not the one which was originally booked.

Minnie Nicol celebrating her 99th birthday alongside daughter Dorothy Robinson, middle, and granddaughter Wendy Horsley.

Wendy, who works at Rossmere Park Care Centre in Hartlepool, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace and everyone in my family, including my own parents are really upset about what happened.

“My nana passed away on May 5 and the room was booked a while after that ahead of the funeral.

“Then when we went to decorate the room the night before the service we were told by a member of staff that we couldn’t use it anymore.

“A female member of staff said she would give us the big ballroom, but we only had about 40 people coming.”

The Staincliffe Hotel car park closed awaiting the arrival of actress Brenda Blethyn who plays Vera. Picture by FRANK REID

The family were instead given a bar area to use for the wake, but on arriving at the Staincliffe following Mrs Nicol’s funeral at Hartlepool Crematorium, mourners found the hotel’s car park closed off due to the filming of the programme.

“We had elderly people with mobility issues who couldn’t get near the building,” said Mrs Horsley, who is married to Richy, 54.

“My nana had been in Rossmere Park Care Centre for the past nine months and she made a lot of friends there.

“Some of them had to give up and go home because they weren’t able to walk that far.

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“They should have told us that they had booked the room for the filming of Vera and we could have got somewhere else even at short notice.

“We haven’t had compensation or an apology.

“When I spoke to the manager he just said “Vera’s coming”, but I’ve not watched the programme before so I didn’t know who he meant.

“My nana was born in Seaton Carew and that’s why we wanted her wake there.

“The day should have been a celebration of our nana’s life because we worshipped her and wanted to give her a great send-off, but now we’ll remember it for this happening.”

North East-set Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn, is filming its 10th series.

The programme is based on the popular novels by renowned author Ann Cleeves.

What the Staincliffe Hotel said

A hotel spokesman said: “We are truly upset and concerned in regards to the comments we have been presented with after Monday’s funeral service.

“I personally accompanied the head of the family out to ensure the service went well.

“I was given this exact statement: “It was a shame about the other room but this room was fine and the food was lovely”.

“We fully appreciate that it was not the room originally spoken about however taken into consideration the access for the elderly, the room which the service was moved to has disabled access with a ramp and side terrace with no stairs to climb.

“We were informed that the main bar would be fine.

“In regards to the car park, due to the filming we had large vehicles in and out and taking into consideration the safety of the public and customer vehicles it was in everyone’s best interest to close it off.

“We provided access for the funeral and informed relevant parties if they would need parking we would reimburse their tickets.

“We are a recently new business and always ensure we give our best to all functions.

“If at any point we were addressed to such complaints we would of dealt with the situation at hand, however we have received these complaints through third parties and only now have an opportunity to address them.”