Bideford's Early Beginnings
With a history dating back to 1688, The Royal Hotel is a building that consists of 2 parts. The Colonial House was the older section of the two and began life as a townhouse to a tobacco merchant and the former mayor of Bideford named Mr John Davie. That section of the hotel contains relics from that period in time including a fine staircase and two breathtaking plasterboards that can still be found in our Kingsley Lounge and Kingsley Suite.
In 1839 a builder named Richard Heard bought the Colonial House and in 1842 the building was marked as an old workhouse and was built around an enclosed courtyard which was no doubt a useful feature. In 1830 Bideford's Quarter Sessions opened a jail adjacent to the workhouse making use of the 3 strongrooms to function as prison cells. This would remain as Bideford's jail until the police station opened in 1897.
a home fit for a Merchant
Richard Heard then purchased the vacant Colonial Buildings and set on converting them into a "home fit for a Merchant" as he was branching out into other avenues of trade. As supplies of Timber for builders and shipwrights dried up, he discovered new avenues that included organising ships to be built on Prince Edward Island and importing timber back into England.
Richard Heard was known to have a notable library including some old manuscripts that were later found in a cupboard concealed by a panel at The Royal Hotel. These manuscripts were used by Charles Kingsley, author of the blockbuster historical novel - Westward Ho!
The Beginning of The Hotel Industry
In 1873 the property adjacent to the Colonial House "The New London Inn" was demolished. Heard set about extending the Colonial House onto the vacant plot converting it into a luxury hotel. The hotel had a continental courtyard, its own pool room and direct access to Bideford's railway platform.
Heard struggled to obtain a license for the premises after opening the hotel in 1889 which subsequently resulted in the hotel changing hands 7 times during the following 25 years.
In 1933 the hotel was sold to Trust Houses Ltd who brought some stability, and also saw the hotel during the second world war, where it became a hub for officers planning the D-day invasions, with their Green Room set aside for secret discussions and military conferences.
Finally, in 1968 the hotel became the first hotel we bought earning it an AA star, and became the starting point of The Brend Collection that we know today.