5 hotels through the ages
According to the AA, who have produced a Hotel Guide for 50 years, certain hotels have helped define our history, from the change in architecture to the changes in our tastes. Here, we highlight some of the hotels showing some of the key styles and hospitality trends of British history, from the 1100s to the 20th century
THE MEDIEVAL HOTEL
The Maids Head Hotel, Norwich, AA rating 4*
The oldest hotel in the UK, built on the site of William the Conqueror’s home, The Maids Head Hotel in Norwich once entertained Queen Catherine of Aragon as she sought council from the bishop of Norwich on bearing a son. It gained its current name after hosting Queen Elizabeth I in 1587 and was later made headquarters for the 43rd and 44th Imperial Yeomanry Companies during the Boer War. The lovingly maintained redbrick and beamed exterior and traditional oak panelling inside keep the history of the building alive in the heart of Norwich’s Tombland.
THE MID-17TH CENTURY FARMHOUSE
Ye Olde Bell, Retford, AA rating 4*
Ye Olde Bell began life as a farm in the 17th century, and was also used as the village church. The hotel rose to fame and fortune in the days of stagecoaches and highwaymen and the inauguration of the postal service in 1635. It also accommodated the young Queen Victoria in what is now named the ‘Victoria Suite’ on her journey along the Great North Road from London.
THE ROMANESQUE REVIVAL HOTEL
The Metropole, Llandrindod Wells, AA rating, 4*
The Metropole in Llandrindod Wells was built in 1872 before the town itself even existed. Home to hydroelectric baths, the Metropole claimed to treat everything from neurasthenia to obesity and gout. Strategically placed between the two sets of Llandrindod mineral springs, and within walking distance of the railway station, it grew from small beginnings to become at one time the largest hotel in Wales.
THE VICTORIAN HOTEL
The Victoria, Sidmouth, AA rating, 4*
The first-purpose built hotel in Sidmouth, The Victoria opened at the turn of the century and was an instant hit thanks to its seaside location at a time when coastal bathing was hugely popular. Queen Victoria was brought to Sidmouth when she was only a baby, later followed by her third son, the Duke of Connaught after whom Sidmouth’s famous Connaught Gardens are named. The hotel has retained many authentic Victorian features, such as oak panelling, the sweeping original wooden staircase and charming stone turret rooms.
THE 20TH-CENTURY HOTEL
The Goring, London, AA rating, 5*
London’s The Goring was opened in 1910 when the cost of a room was equivalent to a mere 37p. The first hotel in the world to have en suites in every room, it was frequently visited by Winston Churchill during the First World War. The hotel became an annexe to Buckingham Palace during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, housing a vast influx of foreign royalty, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s the Goring received annual visits from the Queen Mother as Patron of the Injured Jockeys Fund. In 1992, 30 years after taking on the hotel from his father, George Goring was made an OBE from HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace for “services to the hotel industry”.