Tuesday 1 November 2016

Britain's oldest hotel will be rebuilt after blaze

Clarence Hotel

The owner of what is believed to be Britain's oldest hotel has vowed to rebuild it after it was destroyed by a devastating fire.

The 18th-century Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter city centre was gutted when a blaze spread from an adjacent building on Friday morning.

The fire wrecked the inside of the historic coaching inn, which escaped the 1942 Blitz by German bomber planes, and left the frontage on the brink of collapse.

Structural engineers are carrying out site inspections and demolition work on the remainder of the hotel is likely to start this week.

Andrew Brownsword, founder of the Andrew Brownsword Hotels group, said: "My family and I have witnessed the events that unfolded since Friday with great sadness.

"The Royal Clarence Hotel has long been a special place for us all and to see the building now is heart-breaking.

"Alongside many of Exeter's residents and visitors, we share a huge sense of loss of such an iconic building and remember fondly our memories of happy times there.

"Amidst the tragedy, I have been reminded of the commitment, professionalism and dedication of so many people, and I would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming support.

"We are so grateful for the incredible efforts of the emergency services, especially the fire service who attended in huge numbers to assist in the effort to save the Royal Clarence and surrounding buildings.

"Looking to the future of the Royal Clarence, we have every intention to rebuild the hotel with enormous sympathy to its importance and heritage, and to make it once again a building that the city of Exeter will be proud of.

"We have always said we believe we are merely custodians of the buildings our hotels operate within and we pledge to do our very best to return the Royal Clarence to the city of Exeter and its people."

About 150 firefighters from across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset tackled the blaze at its height - pumping water from the River Exe to put it out.

Chief fire officer Lee Howell said: "It was an incredible effort by firefighters to stop the fire spreading to other heritage buildings on the High Street.

"We have had crews at the site now for more than three days but we cannot be complacent.

"We will continue to dampen down hotspots, check for potential reignition and support the demolition process for as long as necessary.

"It is important that we get Exeter back to normal as quickly as possible and we will be working with other agencies to make that happen."

North Street and South Street have reopened but the other cordons remained in place.

On Sunday, the Bishop of Exeter praised the "heroic" firefighters who tackled the blaze for sparing the city's Norman cathedral.

Bishop Robert Atwell said crews had worked "overboard" to protect buildings on Exeter's Cathedral Green where an "inferno" gutted the hotel.



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