Champneys Health Resorts announces death of founder, Dorothy Purdew OBE

Much-loved industry icon, owner and chairperson of Champneys, Dorothy Rose Purdew OBE passed away this week surrounded by her family


By Mark Smith

06 September 2023

The inspirational industry icon, owner and chairperson of Champneys, Dorothy Rose Purdew, OBE, passed away this week surrounded by her family.

Dorothy was born in Clapham, London in 1932. She started her first business, WeightGuard in 1970 with just £60 and opened her first ‘health farm’, Frimleys, eight years later.

She and her late husband Bob, along with their son Stephen, bought Henlow Grange, and over the following years, Dorothy and Stephen added Springs Health Farm in Derbyshire, Forest Mere in Hampshire and then what is now known as Champneys Tring in Hertfordshire to their portfolio.

Since bringing all four of their properties under the Champneys banner, the brand’s clients over the years have included TV and film stars, sports personalities and other rich and famous people.

spa swimming pool with natural light and elegant fittings
The swimming pool at Champneys Mottram Hall

Champneys: going from strength to strength

Guiding the business from strength to strength, Dorothy and Stephen purchased Eastwell Manor and more recently Mottram Hall in Cheshire, and the Champneys brand is today valued at over £300 million.

One reason for her huge success was highlighted by a brand spokesperson, who said the entrepreneur would read guest feedback every morning, “eager to learn of how the business could improve”.

“It is with great sadness, that we announce the death of our owner and chairperson,” they added.

“Dorothy could never believe a girl from a working-class background could become one of the world’s most influential spa operators. Champneys became her life.”

She detailed her work in the 2011 book, The Long Road to Champneys: The Extraordinary Life of a Pioneering Spa Queen

people celebrating a a gala dinner
Dorothy Purdew celebrating with friends at a spa industry event

A much-loved industry icon

“Dorothy was an inspiration to so many people out in the spa industry,” said Sarah Camilleri, publisher and editorial director of European Spa. “A champion of spa business, she was passionate about people and improving the skills and recognition for everyone involved – from trainee therapists to spa management.

“Her work to build the Champneys brand was extraordinary and she also always made time to contribute to many industry events and charities.

“I was privileged to have her guidance and wisdom on many occasions and to call her my mentor and friend.”

Dorothy is survived by her sons Stephen and Simon; her grandchildren, James, Daisy, Robert, Raffaella, Barnaby; and her great grandchildren, Charlie, Olivia and Henry.

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