A hotel that is at the heart of the history of Bideford
In the late 17th century, Bideford’s trade with the New World was booming. The town had a well- equipped fleet of merchant ships that was busy importing all kinds of commodities across the seas from the colonies. At the centre of all this was John Davie, a prominent local tobacco merchant. In 1688 he ordered the building of a grand home, which he named Colonnial House. Parts of this house have been remarkably well preserved and are now the heart of The Royal Hotel. A classic example is our beautiful Kingsley Room, which retains its original pine panelling and magnificent ornate plaster ceiling, created by English craftsmen to an Italian design.
This ceiling is incredibly rare, as the snakes and serpents hang down a long way, yet there are no metal wires to hold them up, only plaster. Our finest luxury bedroom, the Kingsley Suite, has a similarly ornate and unusual ceiling. (Just ask at Reception as we would love to show you these unique historic rooms, so long as they are not in use.)
After the American War of Independence put an end to the tobacco trade, the building became a courthouse for a while. Check out the prison cells that are located behind the hotel ballroom. These same cells would later be used to house convicts awaiting transportation to Australia.
North Devon’s most famous writer, Charles Kingsley, enjoyed an extended stay here in 1854 and wrote part of his famous story “The Water Babies” at the hotel. His swashbuckling adventure story, “Westward Ho!” was so popular with Victorian readers that a nearby resort was named after it and a statue of the author was later erected on Bideford Quay.