Top 50 Boutique Hotels

Get to know Claudia Waddams, Owner, Number One Bruton

How did the owner get into hospitality and what makes Number One Bruton so special? We sat down to find out.

By Charli Tomney | 29/10/2023

When did Number One Bruton open?

Number One Bruton opened (officially) in January 2020 after a 4-year renovation and rebuild, it was all a bit of a nightmare as we were locked down less than two months later.

What was your vision for the hotel when you opened it?

Luckily, I had a really clear vision for the hotel - not in terms of interior design but I knew exactly what I wanted it to ‘feel’ like.  I can’t bear being made to feel like an imposter when I go and stay somewhere fancy, it’s terrible feeling like you don’t belong.  I think that some hotels promote this vibe for the sake of exclusivity, but I think that this kind of environment is the antithesis of hospitality.  I wanted Number One to feel like you were staying with really cosy, well-travelled friends who were genuinely pleased to see you!

What attracted you to hotels?

As is so often with life it was accidental…my husband has always been in hotels and, early on, I made a conscious decision to NEVER work with him but Covid changed that and when lockdown ended and the terrain was unsure I had to step up to fill in gaps: from making beds to running reception; cooking breakfast to PR - we were covering all bases.  I have always loved front-facing and I like interacting with people so actually it has worked out really well.  In my previous life I worked in publishing and then as a freelance content creator whilst studying for a MA in linguistics - before we brought Number One (and I got involved with the building / interior work) my plan was to go into speech and language therapy or forensic linguistics - perhaps I’ll go back to it in the future.

What do you enjoy most about your industry?

There has been a big change in hospitality:  a shift away from the enormous, corporate, faceless hotels of the past towards smaller operations run by people who are in the business because they really feel it is their vocation. The size of Number One means that I am often able to meet our guests and I LOVE this - I come from a family that moved every two years and this is the closest I get to travel without having to leave the country!  There are hilarious moments and sad moments and testing moments and romantic moments; every traveller has a story to tell, and it and it is a privilege to be a minuscule part of their narrative. 

Biggest achievement to date?

I’m proud of everything that we have achieved in Somerset. Obviously, restoring the property was a huge accomplishment (it was derelict when we brought it and there were many, many tense times along the way) but a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life was when we made it on to a best hotels list in a well-respected magazine: we were in our office, having just recovered from Covid, it was raining, the tiered system was about to be enforced and we were having a meeting about how best to deal with this when someone came running in to tell us - it was a huge moment and we were blown away…creating a hotel in the most nightmarish of times and making a success of it is something that I am proud of every day.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’m quite an anxious person - but as I’ve got older, I’ve realised that life is nothing but unpredictable and leads you down all sorts of unexpected paths, so my advice to my younger self would be to try and be open to everything and don’t be scared to face your demons; anticipation is always worse than the actual event.

What makes staying at Number One Bruton so special?

I can hear my husband saying ‘comfortable bed, great shower’ as he walks past and of course those things make a good night’s stay but a hotel that feels ‘special’ earns that accolade by bringing something extra.  The building and its interiors are special, the town of Bruton is special, we are heavily invested in our locality and community: we use local artists, makers, producers and friends, the attention to detail is special.  Our team is second-to-none, they work hard and they CARE.  Aled and I love the hotel and have put our hearts and souls in to it, I hope that this seeps in to the bones of the building and that our guests feel that what we offer comes from a place of authenticity.

Where’s your favourite place to stay in the UK?

This is quite an embarrassing question to answer - I’m horribly badly travelled within the UK but every summer we go to Pembrokeshire with my husband’s family (who are Welsh) which I think is one of the most astonishingly beautiful places and, going back to London is always a pleasure.

Who’s your biggest influence?

Personally, my mum is a big influence she is a magpie and she loves colour - she is a maximalist and definitely of the more-is-more school which echoes throughout the hotel, in the same vein, the artist, Candace Bahouth whose work brings me immense joy - her house in Somerset is like paradise.

Professionally, I have always admired Kit Kemp the designer and Nick Jones of Soho House I think they were way ahead of the curve.

Where’s a place you’d like to visit but haven’t yet?

So many places! I’ve always had a bit of a thing about the Southern States of America - there is a hotel called Hotel Peter & Paul in New Orleans which I really like the look of; it is in an old church and covent complex and I would love to go there.

This is a cheat, but when I was a child I lived in Trinidad - it is the place that gave me my first memories and I would love to go back there and see the island and, closer to home, Glebe House.