Maids Head in Norwich claims to be Britain’s oldest hotel
- Credit: Bob Hobbs
We are the oldest hotel in Britain... unless you can prove otherwise.
Intrigued guests looked on as the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich called on today launched a claim to be the oldest hotel in Britain. The claim is based on the hotel's site being used continuously for hospitality since the early 12th century.
A proclamation making the claim, announced by Bob Lloyd, Deputy City Crier, was officially signed by The Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Keith Driver, Caroline Jarrold, Chairman of Visit Norwich and Christine Malcolm, General Manager the Maids Head Hotel.
Christine Malcolm explained: 'The Maids Head has a long and illustrious history and can trace its origins to a guest house established by the early Norman bishops of Norwich for visitors to the Cathedral. By making this announcement, we hope to stimulate debate with other claimants to the oldest hotel title, and further enhance Norwich's reputation as a heritage destination.'
Norwich historian Walter Rye, who also owned the Maids Head from 1889 to 1895 considered it to be: 'the oldest Norman site in the city after the Castle'.
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Historian Rev. Francis Blomfield explained that the hotel was built on the site of a house owned by the early Norman bishops. It was this house that became a guest house for visitors to the Cathedral. This eventually became the Murtel Fish or Molde Fish Tavern, the predecessor of The Maids Head. The tavern is first mentioned in Norwich records in 1287. John Paston recommended the Maids Head as good place to stable a horse in a letter dated 2nd November 1472, confirming the change of name.
The hotel has had some famous visitors over the years. Edward the Black Prince, the eldest son of King Edward III, was entertained at the Murtel Fish in1350 when he attended a joust in Norwich.
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Queen Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII, was at the hotel in 1520. During Kett's rebellion in 1549, both the rebels and the royal armies occupied the Maids Head. The Marquis of Northampton breakfasted here before he lost a skirmish and was forced to retreat. Robert Kett then used the hotel as temporary headquarters before being forced to leave the city by the Earl of Warwick's army. The Earl of Warwick then had breakfast at the hotel before defeating Kett at the Battle of Dussindale.
Queen Elizabeth I visited Norwich in 1587. One of the hotel's legends is that she slept there. In 1599, William Kemp, a member of William Shakespeare's company, recovered at the Maids Head after his nine-day dance from London.
Councillor Keith Driver, Lord Mayor of Norwich said: 'The Maids Head and its predecessor have been at the heart of Norwich life for centuries. I am pleased to support the hotel's claim and wish Christine Malcolm and her staff success in their debate with ancient hostelries.'
Caroline Jarrold, Chairman VisitNorwich said: 'Norwich is one of the UK's top heritage destinations. We have magnificent historic buildings including the Cathedral and Castle and 32 medieval churches – more than any city north of the Alps. We are very lucky to have, in the Maids Head, a hotel with a long historical pedigree to complement our wonderful built heritage.'