AS a very young child I was brought up in the beautiful city of Exeter.
From the age of about five to 13 of which the last few years were spent at boarding school as my parents moved away. But we all had fond memories of the ancient city on the River Exe in south west England.
Dating back to the Roman era, the Exeter city walls surround its centre and Gothic Exeter Cathedral.
Exeter Castle, a Norman landmark, overlooks leafy Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens. The place is steeped full of history and it was with some sadness that I witnessed on TV the fire that destroyed the iconic Royal Clarence Hotel.
This major landmark overlooking the Cathedral was a place of choice for Christmas lunch and my father would use the place regularly for business lunches. Virtually destroyed by fire in October last year, the hotel is now being rebuilt by its owners.
The hotel, said to be England’s oldest, was built in 1769. It was named after the Duchess of Clarence (Queen Adelaide), wife of the future William IV, who stayed there in 1827 and visited the hotel on many occasions and gave The Clarence Hotel the ‘Royal’ seal of approval.
A spokeswoman for the hotel group said owner Andrew Brownsword had confirmed plans “to rebuild the façade as closely as possible to the original, whilst behind this will sit a new hotel to offer the city of Exeter a modern hotel that can best serve the city and its people.”
However a row is brewing over the name of the rebuilt hotel. Historian Peter Thomas maintains the hotel should be given a new name when it is completed.
It brings into question a historical and perhaps legal question. Can the newly built hotel maintain its ‘Royal’ status?
As a historic title how can it be passed on when the original building does not exist. Only a minor percentage of the original building remains intact and the whole of the façade is to be painstakingly rebuilt to match the original.
The structure behind will be completely new and when finished will join the list of other Exeter pseudo buildings and therefore when it is completed it will have no bearing on the original structure.
Exeter was at the forefront of maintaining its inherited and historical facades after fires and world wars.
Many buildings in the city were rebuilt but maintained their historical building connections. With their being virtually nothing of the original hotel left it will be hard to call it ‘The First Hotel in England.’
Perhaps this can be preceded by: On This Site Stood! Why not just call it ‘The New Royal Clarence Hotel?’
Would be ungracious not to mention the famous whisky
MATTHEW GLOAG was a grocer and wine merchant in Perth, Scotland.
Gloag purchased whiskies from distilleries around Scotland, and when Queen Victoria visited Perth in 1842, he was invited to supply the wines for the royal banquet.
In 1860, his son, William Gloag, took over the company and began producing blended whiskies. In 1896, William’s nephew, also named Matthew after his grandfather, took over the company.
He created a brand called The Grouse in 1896, which was renamed The Famous Grouse in 1905. Matthew Gloag’s daughter Phillippa first designed the label’s grouse icon.
In 1970, Matthew Gloag & Son, owned by the Gloag family, was sold to Highland Distillers, after the death of the chairman, Matthew Frederick Gloag.
The marketing and distributive power of the company saw the Famous Grouse become the highest selling Scotch in Scotland by 1980 and the second highest selling in the UK.
From the 1980s the brand began to be exported overseas, where it now sells over two million cases annually. In 1984 The Famous Grouse was awarded the Royal Warrant.