Is this England’s Oldest Hotel?
The Angel & Royal Hotel, in the market town of Grantham, is said to be the oldest Inn in England.
Although the façade of the current building is a mere 600 or so years old, the inn dates back to 1203, and was built as a hostel for the chivalrous Brotherhood of the Knights Templar. It stands on the route of the ancient Roman road, the Ermine Roman Way, and would have been a popular stopping point on the long journey from London to Edinburgh. The road later became the Great North Way, and is now Grantham’s bustling High Street, lined with cafés, antique shops, and boutiques.
The Angel gets Royal
As the Angel Inn, BEST WESTERN Angel & Royal in Grantham had plenty of royal visitors. King John (of Magna Carta fame) held court here in 1213, and, over the centuries, so did Richard III, Edward III, Charles I (as well as his enemy Oliver Cromwell) and George IV. But no one thought to add ‘Royal’ to the name of the hotel until 1866. What prompted the change – after 663 years in the hotel business – was a visit by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Edward the Prince of Wales, and heir to the throne. This visit was finally considered to amount to royal patronage, and the old Angel Inn became the Angel & Royal Hotel.
Dine in the King’s Room
It’s strange to think, while enjoying braised lamb shank and a nice Shiraz in the King’s Room Restaurant at BEST WESTERN Angel & Royal Hotel in Grantham, that Richard III sat in that very same room back in 1483. The restaurant occupies the oldest part of the hotel, and the stone walls, open fireplace and oriel windows with their elaborate carvings are as Richard would have seen them. Whether he ordered lamb, we don’t know. But we do know that he sat here and wrote a letter to the Chancellor demanding that his cousin, the Duke of Buckinghamshire, be arrested on charges of treachery. The original letter is in the British Museum, and a copy of it is on display at the hotel. Buckingham was duly executed, and Richard died in battle two years later, ending up under a car park in Leicester.
There is a small staircase to nowhere in the corner of the Kings Room Restaurant at BEST WESTERN Angel & Royal in Grantham.
For many hundreds of years, the hotel was one of the most famous coaching inns in England, and regularly received royal and powerful guests (no change there then!).
The stairs used to lead to a lookout spot on the roof, from where the innkeeper and his staff could keep an eye out for stagecoaches, giving them just enough time to dash back down and form a well-turned out welcome committee at the door.
It’s not wholly unusual to knock away the brickwork and find a fireplace during renovation work, but workmen at the BEST WESTERN Angel & Royal in Grantham in 1947 came in for a big surprise. As they chipped away the plaster on a wall in the Angel Bar, a small fireplace was revealed; more chipping revealed another – and yet another. Eventually, their work had revealed the original medieval fireplace; a magnificent construction, 9ft wide and 6ft high. The holes for the spits on which whole pigs and boars would have been turned over the flames are still visible. Today, it’s more customary for the chefs to use the kitchen, and to serve fine fare in the King’s Room Restaurant, but the fire is still kept alight through winter to keep tired travellers warm.
Jasper the Friendly Ghost
Visitors have been coming to what is now BEST WESTERN Angel & Royal Hotel in Grantham for over 800 years, and so it’s no real surprise that some have, er… stayed. Many spooky stories are associated with this ancient inn. Mysterious orbs, or balls of light, said by some to be the first appearance of spirits, have been photographed in the Kings Room Restaurant; and a slender white lady and a spook named Jasper are among some of the hotels supposed more permanent residents – although, so far, they have proved to be camera – shy.
Check with Grandfather
You could look at your watch, but to check the time in old-fashioned style whilst staying at BEST WESTERN Angel & Royal in Grantham, make a trip to Reception where you’ll find a magnificent long-case clock by famed clockmakers Bullock of Bath.
The Princess and the cornflakes
When Prince William received his pilot’s wings at Lincolnshire’s RAF Cranwell in 2008, BEST WESTERN Angel and Royal Hotel paid host to a very special guest: a young lady, known simply back then as Kate Middleton. Arriving late on a Sunday evening, the future princess impressed the staff with her total lack of airs and graces. Seeing the restaurant was closed, and the tables had been set for breakfast the following morning, she asked for a bowl of cornflakes-and munched on her impromptu snack in Reception, before heading to her room.