It isn’t often that Exeter makes the national news, which is a good thing. We’re a small city with mostly well behaved citizens, where bad things rarely happen. Last week though the unthinkable happened, a fire in the very heart of the city. At 5.20 in the morning, the Royal Clarence Hotel in Cathedral Yard caught fire, it’s believed that the fire began two doors down in the upper floors above a prestigious gallery, and the flying debris caused it to spread. More than 100 fire fighters worked to contain the blaze, and were still working three days later.
The Clarence was the first in the country to take call itself a hotel, a term copied from the French, prior to that there were only inns. The hotel was built in 1769, on the site of an earlier tavern and had a reputation for being haunted.
I’ve finally been to Cathedral yard to see the site for my self, here are some photos.
There were no injuries and for that we must be thankful. Quite a few shops around the hotel, including on the High street were slightly damaged and remain closed. Demolition work began this week, and owner has pledged a sensitive re-build, we have to hope.
I’ve posted both of these photos before, but first the hotel in the centre, with the cathedral green on the left and the buildings on the right date from 1500.
The hotel has always looked splendid at night. To the right 15th century St Martins,built on the site of a previous church from 1065, and Mol’s Coffee House, built in 1596 with it’s Dutch style gables.
Exeter suffered a great deal of damage during the blitz, including to the cathedral, but nearly all the buildings along the Yard survived, it’s desperately sad to see this part of our heritage destroyed.