A Brief History
The Angel, at Grantham, has been known to travellers on the Great North Road for more than 800 years, and many tales are told of it.
The inn retains its medieval character and much of the original buildings. It has the distinction of being one of the few remaining medieval hostelries and one of the oldest in the country. It stands on the ground believed to have belonged to the Knights Templar, acquired by the preceptory of Temple Bruer- one of England’s richest Knights Templar preceptories, second only to The Temple in London.
The Order was dissolved in 1312 and the Angel was seized by King Edward II and most likely became the property of the Knights Hospitallers. At the time the Angel no doubt entertained the prosperous merchants in the wool trade of the thirteenth century, who came to Grantham in their travels to and from the great market at Boston. There is a record of one such who was indicted in 1274 for smuggling forty bags of wool from Grantham to London and thence to France.
Origins and Royal Visits
There are no records to indicate The Angel and Royal's origin or extent in those old days. The fine front which is familiar today is a gatehouse in the style of the last quarter of the 14th century, but there is evidence in the street plan of the town that there must have been a complete courtyard range of buildings behind it. Its ancient cellars and foundations are reputed to go back further to the 9th century and are said by unfounded rumours to be linked by tunnels to both St Wulframs Church and the town’s market square. Its site, at the highest point of the town and opposite the marketplace, is one which would normally have been occupied by the castle, but, except for a street name or two, there is no trace of a castle and the Angel seems to have fulfilled its role in entertaining the town’s important guests.
Tradition says that King John and his train of courtiers were lodged here on 23 February 1213, two years before the signing of the Magna Carta. The patent rolls of his reign prove that he was in the town on that day. Of the building King John saw, nothing is thought to remain unless it be some masonry in the cellars. But the present gateway has walls 35 inches thick so that its 14th-century front almost certainly refaces a much older fabric. Upon its hood moulding are carved the heads of the next royal visitors from the 14th century, surmounted at the time as a tribute to their royal patronage: King Edward III and his Queen, Phillipa of Hainault, who begged the lives of the Burghers of Calais.
The King's Room
The big upper room of the present inn, now the restaurant, a state apartment in the old gatehouse, was known for centuries as the King’s Room, or La Chambre du Roi, in reference to the fact that in it on 19 October 1483, King Richard III, not three months settled on his throne, received the Great Seal. This enabled him to start proceedings against his cousin, the treacherous Duke of Buckingham and issue his death warrant. Buckingham’s death warrant was thought to have been signed here, but historians now believe that it must have been signed at Salisbury. The original warrant no longer exists, but the facsimile of a letter from King Richard III asking for the Great Seal (with the king’s postscript) is on display at the hotel, adjacent to the King’s Room Restaurant.
This King’s Room has three oriel windows with carved stone paneling in the coving of each and there is similar carving in two windows on either side of the archway on the ground floor, which are rarely seen today in a building of this size. The carving over the window in the bar is elaborate and shows a pelican in piety, that is a pelican feeding her young with her own blood. This is a device with religious associations and supports the tradition linking the house with pilgrims to the shrine of St. Wulfram, to whom the parish church is dedicated. The room with the pelican carving was the scene of an interesting discovery in 1947, when in stripping the walls for redecoration a portion of plaster was cut away and exposed solid stone blocks. Eventually, the whole of an original fourteenth century fireplace spanning nine feet was uncovered and has now been restored to use. A similar fireplace was uncovered in the lounge in 1958.
Old licensing hours were long, 18 hours a day, 4am to 10pm seven days a week, closed only during Divine Service, Christmas Day and Good Friday. At the Angel however, they were permitted to remain open as long as they liked until every bed was filled. In 1706, when the Angel’s landlord, Michael Soloman died, he left a legacy in his will of 40s. a year to be paid for the preaching of an annual sermon against the evils of drunkenness each Michaelmas Day. The sermon is still preached and is now paid for by a Brownlow Trust Fund.
A Traveller's Inn
An eighteenth-century feature to be observed is the four square rain-water head bearing the date 1746, and the device of a griffin. A relic of posting days is to be seen in the postillions; uniforms shown in a glass cases in the hotel’s King’s Room, which were discovered in a forgotten cupboard. In 1791 Lord Torrington’s travels brought him to Grantham. He was lodged at the Angel and found the wine very tolerable; his bill shows a charge of fourpence for rush-lights, one shilling for brandy and one shilling and sixpence for tea, a commentary on changed values! The Angel, because of its situation on the road from north to south and stables for 50 horses, has always been a traveller’s inn, and in the days of travel by coach hundreds of coaches pulled up outside it every week. The famous York, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen Royal Mail stopped there, as did the Royal Charlotte bound for Edinburgh, the York and Leeds Post Coach and the York Highflyer. In the early years of the nineteenth century the inn was for a time in the hands of Messrs. Windover, carriage builders of Long Acre in London. In
more recent times, before the motorcar had made distance inconsiderable, its long range of stabling was kept busy throughout the hunting season by the followers of the Belvoir Hunt.
The Angel And Royal Hotel
The coming of the railways discouraged many posting inns, but not the Angel at Grantham. A guide published by the Great Northern Railway in 1857 has an announcement by the then landlord, Richard John Boyall, who thanks the Nobility and the Public generally who have so liberally patronised the Hotel under his management, and with the greatest respect informs them that he is determined to maintain the character of the same by strictly attending to the comforts of his guests... and by the observance, through his attendants, of those little minutiae which so essentially contribute to make the abode in an hotel partake of the comforts of a home.
Up until the middle of the 1800s, the hotel was still classed as an Inn, being fondly known simply as The Angel. Despite the fact no less than seven Kings of England and various other members of royalty had already patronised the Inn, which included Edward IV on the 14th of March 1469, Charles I on the 17th of May 1633 (his arch enemy Oliver Cromwell also stayed at the Angel after his successful battle near Grantham in 1643) and numerous visits by George IV, it wasn’t however until 1866 and a visit to Grantham by the then Prince of Wales which led to the property getting the second part of its name. It was universally agreed that the visit by the eldest son of Queen Victoria and heir to the throne as Edward VII should be commemorated by the incorporation of “Royal” in the Inn’s name: thus The Angel & Royal came into being and as it is known today throughout the world. It was not until the early 1920s that the word Inn was officially dropped, and the building became a hotel.