The Cock House Guest House and Restaurant was opened by husband and wife team Peter and Belinda Tudge on 15 June 1991, just 10 days before the Grahamstown Festival, a real "baptism of fire"!
Peter and Belinda were newcomers to the hotel business. Both British, Peter was born in Sidcup, Kent, and Belinda was brought up in Esher, Surrey, and subsequently Malta. Peter came with his family to South Africa as a small boy and was educated at Graeme College, Grahamstown. He qualified as an accountant and went overseas in 1977, moving a few years later to the Persian Gulf where they met. Belinda was then working in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, as a travel agent and they were able to travel extensively through India and the Far East. They moved to Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in 1985 where they spent a further six years.
It was during a holiday in the hill country of Malaysia that the idea of running a country inn first materialized. They stayed in a quaint inn called "Ye Olde Smokehouse" and realised how beautiful it could be if renovated. Some years later, when not only looking for the place but also the country, they visited Margaret River in Western Australia and stayed in a converted planter's house. Owned and run
by a husband and wife team, the latter a self-taught cook, the cuisine and home-from-home atmosphere was outstanding and proved the catalyst they needed.
Belinda had always been a keen cook, also self-taught, apart from an intensive 4-week cookery course in the UK in 1990. Shortly afterwards, while visiting Peter's two daughters then at Rhodes, they found The Cock House. To get some experience, Belinda worked a short apprenticeship with Dave and Jenny Dyer who owned Oaklands Country Manor in Van Reenen, Kwa Zulu Natal.
In terms of the restoration, structurally the main house is much as it was originally. The Tudges had to knock two downstairs bedrooms into one room to create the pub and much rebuilding went into forming the office and kitchen. They also built on the conservatory. The Breakfast Room is the former kitchen, still complete with the “Welcome Dover” stove.
The first four rooms were built on the site of the former stables. Each of the rooms has been named after a former owner of the house. The old yellowwood ceilings and beams in the stables were "recycled" to make the bar and most of the tables and desks. There is a photo album of "Before and After" photos in the lounge which will give you a better idea of the extent of the renovations.
The second phase of alteration, in 1995, provided three additional guest rooms, two upstairs in the main house and one next to the cottage. Rooms 6 and 7 are both suites which can accommodate four guests. Rooms 4 and 6 boast beautiful four-poster beds and have become favourites with honeymooners! In 2002, two new suites were opened, Levy (Room 8) and Fourie (Room 9). Both have a lounge and ensuite bedroom.
Tragically in September 2003, after a brief but epic battle, Peter Tudge died from cancer. Belinda continued to run the business until November 2005, when The Cock House was bought by businessman and entrepreneur Richard Anker-Simmons.