A short piece on its long history...
Built by William Mackworth Praed in 1769 as the Assembly Rooms, the ABode Exeter, formally the Royal Clarence Hotel, is credited as being the first hotel in England. On 7th September 1770, an advert appeared using the word hôtel for the first time, published by the landlord, Frenchman Pierre Berlon. The hotel was eventually named after the Duchess of Clarence (Queen Adelaide), wife of the future King William IV, who stayed there in July 1827.
During the age of the stage coach, Exeter’s inns and hotels would compete for business by ensuring they were the terminus for prestigious services and the Royal Clarence Hotel was no exception, offering its clientele the Royal Bath and the London Mail services.
Photograph taken 1850 - 1920 © Reproduced by permission of Historic England Archive ref: OP07287
In 1916, the Royal Clarence Hotel opened a cocktail bar, the Zodiac Bar, and during 1939, exotic drinks such as Tugboat Annie, the Corpse Reviver and Gloom Chaser were concocted to cheer up Exonians heading into the Second World War. Cocktail bars were becoming popular at this time and it was the talent of Mr ‘Ginger’ Wood, who invented the Gloom Chaser, that made the bar a success with a range of 51 different cocktails. The bar was later named the Bishop Bar before closing in the 1980’s.
The building next to the hotel was established as Exeter’s first bank in July 1769 and became part of the hotel in 1906, originally as Dellers Café. During the Second World War the hotel welcomed celebrity guests including Clark Gable and Gary Cooper serving in the US air force.
The property continued to thrive as a hotel throughout the 20th century and was acquired by the Brownsword family to become part of ABode Hotels in 2003.