Exciting news that famous Norwich building could become a hotel once again

The Royal Hotel, Bank Plain, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Royal Hotel, Bank Plain, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

'Eat your carrots sir, they will make you see in the dark,' whispered the waitress in my ears.

View from Agricultural Hall Plain looking down Prince of Wales Road in Norwich c1930>Photo: EDP LIB

View from Agricultural Hall Plain looking down Prince of Wales Road in Norwich c1930>Photo: EDP LIBRARY - Credit: EDP LIBRARY

She was lovely. I was in love. And to think she called me sir.

This was the 1950s and I was a small boy sitting in the first posh restaurant I can remember with my parents. The Royal Hotel. And I was very nervous.

It's strange the things you remember from years ago when you can't recall what happened yesterday.

In recent years I have walked by the old Royal building on many occasions and thought about the days when it was such a wonderful place to visit.

And it played an important role in city and county life. Especially on a Saturday when the county came to the city. Market day.

There is that famous picture of Laurel & Hardy leaving the premises in 1954 to make their way to the long-lost Hippodrome. A fine building which was demolished for a car park.

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Proof that there was a time when the work of those who went before us, even that of Edward Boardman, was thought to be standing in the way of progress.

The talented Mr B designed the Royal in 1897 in Flemish style with brilliant "Cosseyware" detail. The turrets and the pinnacles add to its charm.

Then, in the 1970s when civic vandalism was still rife, the owners of the building wanted to knock it down and replace it with a building which, they said, would "make its own music" whatever that meant.

A glass tower.

The City Council, thank goodness, put its foot down. Permission to demolish it was refused and the old Royal was turned into offices for Anglia TV and has been used for various purposes since.

And in that time the rest of Prince of Wales has suffered. Fine buildings have gone. At night it comes alive but during the day it looks rather sad.

Last month an investment company announced plans to turn part of the now Grade II listed building into a 127-bedroom hotel with the Accor hotel group lined up to operate it.

Renovations could be carried to the top floors with a rooftop bar and restaurant. Now that sounds like splendid news.

The story of the grand building starts in the 1890s when the hotel was built to replace the old "Royal" on the Walk.

At the time the Norwich Mercury reported: "A more handsome structure could hardly have been devised to occupy the site."

And added: " Without being ornate, the exterior of the new Royal will successfully vie with any other buildings in the city and its position close to such edifices as the Post Office, the Agricultural Hall and the Shirehall, provides the finishing touch to the architectural vista which greets the eye of the stranger who enters the city by Prince of Wales Road."

The building was designed by acclaimed Norwich architect Edward Boardman and many Norfolk companies were involved in the construction such as top builders, J Youngs, R and A Main, Barnes and Pye, Laurence, Scott & Co, Trevor Page, J & J King, W G Crotch, Foster and Burroughes and others.

And the man helping to run the new Royal was the highly respected man at the old Royal, Charles Butcher.

We have much to thank Boardman for. From churches and chapels, museums, hospitals, offices, private houses and the rest.

The preserved facade of the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital is his work and he was responsible for converting Norwich Castle from a Victorian prison to the family friendly museum.

No doubt he would be delighted to see the majestic old Royal return to becoming a hotel...and so would I.I hope the carrots are just as tasty.