Historic Gravesend hotel to reopen
PUBLISHED: 09:29 14 October 2010
A restoration project at a key historical town centre landmark has been hailed as a huge success by historians.
The Royal Clarendon Hotel, which has stood on the riverfront for more than 350 years, will be reopened to the public on Saturday following a huge restoration effort over the past two years.
Having fallen into disrepair and stood unused from 2004, the once popular holiday destination has been converted into 20 one and two-bedroom apartments, a 13-bedroom hotel, function room, restaurant and bar.
The Gravesend Historical Society was heavily involved in pushing for the hotel and building, which is Grade II Listed, to be saved after it fell into disrepair.
Sandra Soder, of the Society, said: “Historically it goes back so far and forms a part of our town that with the St Andrews Art centre, the Tudor Block House and the fort really offer a window into how Gravesend looked in the past.
“Everyone is really pleased such an important building will be open again.”
Les Woollens, a property developer, brought the building in 2007 after it had been given planning permission for the flats and pushed for a hotel to be included.
He said: “I come from Gravesend and I used to come down here as a child. It was always my intention to include the hotel aspect and maintain the traditional aspects of the area. I think this is a success story for regeneration that is in keeping with the heritage of the town.”
Tony Larkin, a keen historian and campaigner to maintain Gravesham’s heritage, agreed, adding: “It is always better for a building to be in use and I think Mr Woollens and company have done a really good job.”
Built originally as a stately home for the future King James II, then the Duke of York, the building was converted to a hotel in 1845 and became the Royal Clarendon after Prince Edward, who would later be crowned King Edward VII, visited in 1863.
Mr Woollens explained that although much of the surface work is with new materials, the building’s core structure is largely untouched, and efforts have been made to use interior styles similar to those used in the Victorian era
It is situated in the heart of the eastern end of the Heritage Quarter, an area which has been the subject of intense public scrutiny following the application by Edinburgh House to redevelop the area with 400 flats, a large area of restaurants and bars, and a hotel.
Mr Woollens was unimpressed with the plans.
He said: “If you are going to do something as drastic as that you need to consult the public, go to the businesses and speak with the planning authority and make sure everyone is happy. I believe in regeneration but not turning everything into something modern.”
The Royal Clarendon apartments are now complete and will be open for public viewing on Saturday from 11am.
The hotel is expected to be completed and open before the end of the year.