Hotel couple Clara and Pedro clock up 60 years of service

Head housekeeper Clara Lagos may almost be 60 but she can still change the bedsheets faster than most of us can get our slippers on in the morning.

In fact, the 59-year-old, is certain she can strip and remake a double bed in less than five minutes.

She laughs out loud during her morning room rounds at the Mercure Shrewsbury Albrighton Hall Hotel and Spa when she’s challenged to put her money where her mouth is.

“I’m definitely still the quickest,” she says proudly.

“If I can find a bed that still needs making I’ll show you.”

It’s no surprise really that Clara is the queen of bed making as this year she will have been housekeeper for the listed property, located on Ellesmere Road, for 30 years.

And, she admits she’s not just quick, her attention to detail is also second to none.

“I’ve always treated the hotel as if it were my own home,” she says, as she removes a slightly smeared stainless steel tissue holder from one of the bathrooms and pulls out her duster.

“I have very high standards. I like my home to be neat and tidy and l like the same for the hotel and all its guests.”

Clara started working at the 18th Century manor house in 1986 when it first opened as a hotel with just 21 bedrooms.

The then owner also employed Clara’s husband, Pedro, and he too is celebrating his 30th working year at the property.

He works as a waiter and fondly goes by the name of ‘Papa’ among hotel colleagues.

He, just like Clara, has also perfected a number of trademark skills over the last 30 years, one of which has earned him the title of chief cappuccino maker!

When they first started working at the property, the couple, who are originally from Madeira, lived on site in the old stable block.

“It was a two bed flat and we lived there for 10 years,” beams Clara as she recalls her early days at the property.

“It was easy for work but then I fell pregnant with my daughter Cassandra and we needed somewhere bigger so we moved into Shrewsbury.

“We’ve dedicated almost half our lives to this property and we’ve seen lots of changes over the years. We’ve worked for a number of different owners but one thing has never changed for either of us and that is we love coming to work.

“I love my job and I love coming to the hotel - it’s such a beautiful place.”

Clara says one of the most notable changes at the hotel, which is now owned by Peter Cashman, who is also chief executive of Focus Hotels, is the increase in the number of bedrooms.

There are now 87 split between the main hotel, the new block, stable block and school house.

And Clara knows her way around each and every one of them like the back of her own hand.

“A few years ago when I was cleaning one of the rooms the power went off and the lights went down but I was still able to get the job done as I knew exactly where everything was in the room.

“If you were to ask me which side of the room the bed is positioned in any room in this hotel I would be able to tell you. I’ve been here so long I know every single nook and cranny.”

But for Clara, there is one room she is more familiar with than most and that is the Thomas Ireland Suite.

It’s a beautifully presented room and is one of the most popular bridal suites with couples choosing to tie the knot at the hotel.

“When I first had my daughter I continued to work and used to bring her with me to the hotel,” she says.

“Of course you can’t do that sort of thing nowadays but back then it was different.

“I used to bring her moses basket and leave her in this room whilst I cleaned.

“I would regularly check on her but most of the time she slept so I have wonderful memories of her in this room.

“For me it is my favourite place.”

Every morning at 6am Clara and Pedro, who have been married for 40 years, arrive at the hotel together to start their working day.

“People think we are crazy to be here after all this time but still after 30 years it feels great to come to work and we never get sick of one another.”

Hotel general manager Jennifer Sibbald-Wall lights up when asked about Clara and Pedro.

She says: “They are such a wonderful couple. Nothing is ever too much trouble for anyone. We have guests who come year after year and they all know Clara and Pedro. They are very much respected by everyone who works here.

“Clara takes pride in everything she does and she never gets any of her attendants to do anything she wouldn’t do herself. She is one of those ladies that just gets the job done and gets it done properly.

“And as for Pedro or ‘Papa’ as we affectionately call him he is more often than not the go-to guy for everything. His official job is a waiter but he is so much more than that.”

The hotel has recently undergone a number of major refurbishments including a full make over of the Inspiration Leisure Club and Orchid Rooms Spa.

Jennifer says: “The new leisure club and spa is truly magnificent and is proving a huge hit with guests.

“We often get comments from guests about the several large pink orchids we have dotted about the spa rooms and how wonderful they are.

“The truth is, it’s Papa who looks after these. He takes them home, waters them and attends to them.

“Coming from Madeira he has a real passion and love of flowers but I bet there aren’t many hotel waiters out there who would go this extra mile.

“Clara and Pedro are a truly remarkable couple and we are very lucky to have them here at the hotel.”