Hotel History

Russian Romanoff family
Villa Syracusa, Torquay

The Hotel was originally called the Villa Syracusa, a private home built for the Russian Romanoff family. While the Romanoff family were in residence, they entertained the family at the Villa. During their absences, the villa was often let privately.

Entry from the Torquay Directory on November 30th 1859:

Villa Syracusa

“To be LET, handsomely furnished, from 1st of December, consisting of 5 reception rooms, three of them 70 feet in length, ladies boudoir, 8 best bed-rooms with bathrooms, 9 servants bed-rooms, convenient offices, with 5-stall stable, loose box, double coach house, and 2 bedrooms over, for coachman, etc.”

In August 1864 the Prince of Wales visited the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia while she was staying at the Villa Syracusa. Her party included the count Gregoire Stroganoff and Countess Alexandra Tolstoy. The Prince of Wales liked the area so much that he built his mistress a house here about 300 yards away, currently known as Sun Dial Lodge.

In February 1890 the Villa Syracusa was opened as a convalescent home for soldiers and sailors invalided from the Boer War in South Africa. Richard Mallock, Deputy Lieutenant of the County, arranged this. The Villa was generously given by his brother-in-law, E.A. Lee of Liphook Hants and in connection with J.A. Shaw Stewart, they appealed for funds, which met instant support – £1,300 being contributed in eight days.
On June 19th 1900, the Princess Henry of Battenburg visited the Syracusa Home, of which she became Patron. The home closed on 14th December 1901, having received 255 convalescents in 22 months.


The Torquay Hydro

The hotel retained its name until approximately 1950. However, it ceased trading as a hotel in 1939 and for the war years, it was bought to house the Prudential Assurance Company’s offices and staff when they were evacuated from London.

After the war, the hotel building was sold and became the Carlton Hotel. In 1956 it was purchased by the Worker’s Travel Association, which changed the name to the Highmead. In about 1966 the hotel became known as the Overmead.

Hotel Gets New Look

The current owner purchased what was then called The Overmead Hotel in November 1998. Since then 32 bedrooms and a new entertainment suite have been added, and other improvements are constantly taking place. In January 2009 the hotel changed its name to reflect its wonderful position, becoming The Headland Hotel. In 2016, a brand new spa has been built within the hotel, making us first hotel in England to have 3 Hydropool swim spas in one room.  All of this has helped the hotel to achieve the hight three star status awarded by Visit Britain and AA.