Hotel; early C19 and substantially enlarged in around 1850, the mid-C19 work attributed to SB Gabriel and JH Hirst. Also attached mid-C19 stable and coach house range; altered late C19. Later programmes of extension, alteration and refurbishment.
Reasons for Designation
The Royal Hotel and its attached former stable and coach house range, the former built around 1808 and substantially enlarged in about 1850, with subsequent phases of extension, alteration and refurbishment, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* The Royal Hotel building is a distinctive Italianate composition with ornate façades that have a high level of decorative detailing;
* Despite later refurbishment and some reconfiguration, the building retains a good proportion of its historic interior scheme for a hotel of this date;
* The hotel forms a legible ensemble with the associated stables and coach house range which date from the mid-C19 with late-C19 and later alterations.
* The first hotel of the speculative Weston-super-Mare seaside resort;
* With the adjacent Royal Terrace on Knightstone Road and the former Stuckey Bank at 16-18 South Parade, both listed at Grade II.
Weston-super-Mare has been a popular seaside health and leisure resort for around two hundred years. Unlike several major resorts, such as Brighton and Weymouth, Weston developed without royal patronage and the attendant courtly entourage. Weston's success, however, was the result of the purchase and reorganisation of land ownership by businessmen speculating on the hopeful growth of a resort, and from 1815 its place as a resort had been established. Like other seaside and spa resorts in England, Weston was transformed because of the need to provide accommodation for those individuals and families who would spend up to several months away from their regular homes. The type of accommodation varied according to purpose and the amount of money willing to be invested, usually by speculative builders. While many of the early visitors had to lodge in the modest cottages of the indigenous population, it did not take long for new hotels, terraces of houses used for lodgings and detached private villas to be added to Weston's townscape.
Richard Parsley and William Cox, together with JP Capell and Richard Fry, were involved in the erection of the first resort hotel in Weston. Work began around 1808 on the site of a farmhouse that had been destroyed by fire in the late C18. The hotel opened in July 1810 and was leased to James Needham, a Bristol hotelier. At the time it was described as having ‘every convenience’, ‘A select Boarding Table – Neat Post Chaises – Good Stabling and lock-up Coach Houses.’ It also had facilities for making its own beer and a bathing machine. The hotel was not an immediate success, and had to close eleven months later due to a lack of custom. It reopened in 1814 as the number of visitors to Weston increased sufficiently for the venture to succeed. This date may have coincided with the first coach services arriving from Bristol. It was called Fry’s Hotel in 1822 and Reeves Hotel by 1829 following its purchase by John Reeve. At the time, the hotel was described as a ‘large square house, pleasantly situated near the Esplanade commanding a fine view of the bay and the Bristol Channel.’ The Tithe map of 1838 shows the hotel as a detached building to the south-west of four buildings arranged around an open yard on the corner of West Street and South Parade. An illustration showing the hotel in 1815 depicts a south-east facing building with a symmetrical façade comprising a central entrance flanked with a window to either side, three windows to each of the two upper floors, and a first-floor balcony supported on columns. A painting of Weston-super-Mare dated 1842 shows the same elevation, but depicts the building with four windows on each upper floor.
In the 1840s the hotel was sold to Thomas Rogers, a notable figure in Weston, who undertook a substantial programme of rebuilding, extension and refurbishment, and described the hotel in July 1851 as ‘considerably enlarged, possesses accommodation equal to those of any establishment in the West of England.’ Pevsner (see SOURCES) attributes the mid-C19 work to architects Samuel Burleigh Gabriel and John Henry Hirst of Bristol. Improvements were also carried out to the courtyard buildings to the north which were described at that time as ‘the posting and livery department.’ The complex was renamed the Royal Hotel in around 1855. The building was further extended at its north end sometime in the second half of the C19, and additional, minor alterations were carried out in the late 1880s.
By 1916 the hotel boasted electric lights throughout, a lift, a billiard room, a garage and the headquarters of the RAC. It was also described as being the 'most central hotel in the town. Since then the building has undergone various phases of refurbishment and alteration, including the addition of a mid-C20 single storey-range and mid-1960s a ballroom/function room to the north half of the west elevation, some internal reconfiguration particularly at ground-floor level, such as the opening up of the south end to create a public bar, and the installation of fire doors, double-glazed windows, a lift and fire escape staircases.
The courtyard buildings to the north were further modified in the late C19 and the building on the west side of the courtyard was demolished. The roadside range has undergone alterations over the years and has had various functions. The ground floor of the southern part was formerly the hotel’s billiard room and a bar known as The Vaults; it is now (2017) a wine bar. Much of the rest of the building which was originally stabling and coach houses with sleeping rooms for coachmen above is currently used for storage and domestic accommodation respectively. Since the mid-C20 several outbuildings for boilers and other plant have been built along the south side of the yard.
Hotel; early C19 and substantially enlarged in around 1850, the mid-C19 work attributed to SB Gabriel and JH Hirst. Also attached is a mid-C19 stable and coach house range; altered late C19. Later programmes of extension, alteration and refurbishment.
Constructed primarily of local stone rubble; brick in parts, with rendered walls and ashlar and stucco detailing. The hipped roofs are clad with slate, and there are rendered stacks to the ridges and down the roof slopes. The fenestration is a mix of styles and dates, including timber sashes and late-C20/early-C21 uPVC replacements; those to the principal building replicate the style of the mid-C19 windows.
The hotel complex occupies a large corner plot with north-south street frontage on South Parade. There are car parking areas to the south-west, south and east, and an extensive lawn to the west extending as far as Royal Parade. The principal building is roughly rectangular on plan with C20 additions to the west, including a mid-1960s ballroom extension. From the north-east corner of the hotel is an adjoining roadside range which curves at the corner between South Parade and Knightstone Road.
The hotel building is in an Italianate style and has three storeys and cellars. The principal (east) elevation is a symmetrical composition comprising a central entrance bay which breaks forwards and flanking outer blocks of three bays. To the far left is a single-storey loggia, and to the right-hand end is a three-storey former service block of three bays which is set back. There are quoin stones to the central bay and the corners of the flanking blocks, a rusticated ground floor, first- and second-floor cill bands supported on corbels, an overhanging eaves brackets and a moulded parapet. The entrance bay has a projecting open-sided porch to the ground floor which has three archways with keystones to the front, an archway to each side, and a balustrade. Within the porch is a pair of glazed doors with a round-arched window to either side. At first-floor level is a tripartite window with pilasters that have recessed panels and capitals from which the arched heads spring. There are roundel motifs in the spandrels and large keystones serve as brackets for an entablature. To the second floor is a flat-arched tripartite window with eared architrave. The flanking blocks each have three round-arched windows with plain keystones to the ground floor; three round-arched bipartite first-floor windows with raised architrave, scrolled and fluted keystones; and three square-headed paired windows with raised surrounds to the second floor. The south loggia is similar in style to the east entrance porch, and has rusticated wall treatment and large keystones above the arched openings, of which there are seven to the south elevation and one to either side; the latter glazed-in. It is topped by a balustrade. To the ground floor is a central entrance with casement doors and a window to either side; bipartite windows flanking a central doorway with a raised surround of pilasters, capitals and a keystone supporting an entablature to the first floor; and three flat-arched paired windows to the second floor. The Royal Parade (west) elevation is similarly treated, with the same arrangement of window openings and detailing. There is an additional bay at the north end. The north half of this elevation is obscured at ground-floor level by mid-C20 additions, including an extended entrance porch to the central bay, a single storey-range and a ballroom/function room. The first floor of the projecting central bay has a tripartite window with round-arched lights, keystones and eared architrave. The window above is flat-arched, and has a raised surround which is also eared. The plainer northern block has a range of window types including late-C19 timber horned sashes, metal-framed and uPVC. To its northern elevation, the ground floor is raised above the basement and has entrance doors approached by a flight of concrete steps with metal handrail. A metal staircase rises the full height of the building.
Adjoining the north end of the hotel building is a curved two-storey range. Across the range most of the windows frames and glazing have been replaced. The ground floor of the roadside elevation has round-arched windows, including a Venetian window, two infilled doorways and a wide segmental-arched opening to the rear courtyard; all have heavy surrounds with keystones and an impost band joining the openings. The arrangement of first-floor is less regular. Most have round-arched heads, keystones and corbels below the cills. Above the passageway is a flat-arched tripartite window and to the left of this is a Venetian window. To the far right is a segmental-arched taking-in door. The courtyard elevation is plainer and has sash windows and a tripartite window above the passageway in the south part of the range. The western half has three wide openings under flat arches with timber doors and a gabled, enclosed porch to the ground floor and there are heavy surrounds to the first-floor; the three to the left-hand end are later insertions.
There has been internal refurbishment and some reconfiguration over the years, and the function of many principal ground-floor rooms has changed over time. The main (east) entrance leads into a central hallway and reception area which contains the main open-well staircase. This has an open string, decorative wrought-iron balusters and a moulded handrail and terminates with a volute newel and curtail step. Large doorways with fanlights set in raised surrounds with keystones on either side of the hall access the spine corridors which run the length of the building; this arrangement is replicated on the upper floors. The original drawing room, waiting room and a bedroom in the south end of the building have been opened up to form a single space which functions as the hotel bar. There is a further bar area in the single-storey addition on the west side of the building which is accessed from the entrance hall. This leads onto the ballroom. To the north of the hall sections of the corridor walls have been removed to create a large dining room. Most of the public areas have cornices and ceiling plasterwork of different designs. There are panelled doorcases to the rooms on the half landings, and some of the arched openings have a moulded architrave, but many of the fittings, including the doors, date from the late C20 and most of the fireplaces have been covered over. To the upper floors, the landings have been enclosed with timber and glazed partitions. A second staircase at the north end of the building has a plain metal handrail and balusters and gives access to further rooms. A lift is also located here.
The roadside range to the north has also been subject to internal reconfiguration, and the room divisions between the former billiard room, smoking room and bar parlour have been removed to create an open-plan bar with late-C20/early-C21 fittings. The stalls in the former stables have also been removed and this part of the ground floor serves as three separate storage areas. There are a number of bedrooms to the first floor.
The western boundary to the hotel grounds along Royal Parade is marked by a low wall of random stone rubble, which has been rebuilt in places, and modern metal railings. The north end of the wall has a pier with a pyramidal cap. Much of the hotel courtyard is bounded by the north end of the hotel and the attached two-storey range, but beyond the west end of the range, adjacent to Knightstone Road, is a ramped wall of random stone rubble with dressed stone coping.