The Oldest Hotel in England is a slightly tricky question. Is it the hotel that is in the oldest building or the hotel that has been open for business the longest?
But I am biased I went to university to study Hospitality Management and Marketing in Norwich; so my pick for the title of England’s Oldest Hotel is the Maids Head, Norwich!
Archeological evidence in the cellars of the Maids Head suggest a dwelling, possibly a hostelry, stood on the site in Anglo-Saxon times.
When the Norman’s demolished a lot of Norwich to build their castle and cathedral they seem to not have destroyed the Inn that stood on the site. The first recorded name for the inn on the site was the Murtel Fish Tavern. The area now called “The Snug” was once the innkeeper’parlour. The Black Prince feasted at the Murtel Fish Tavern in 1359 when he jousted in Norwich.
The first mention of the hotel as the Maids Head was when a Norfolk lawyer wrote about it in 1472.
Cardinal Wolsey stayed at the hotel in 1519 and Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII first wife dined at the hotel. Elizabeth I entourage stayed at the hotel in 1587 when she visited Norwich.
During the Civil War in the 1640s the Maids Head was a Royalist meeting place. The parliamentary forces broke in and stole horses from the stables in 1643.
In the early 1700s the room now known as the Minstrel Room was added as an assembly room. A Masonic Lodge was founded in this room in 1724 and this is why the room is slightly more ornate than a boring function room at an Inn.
The Maids Head continued to grow and was added to over the years. Until, in 1889, solicitor Walter Rye took up the lease and redeveloped the hotel into the mock half-timber building it is today.
In 1957 the hotel grew again absorbing Cavell House (named after nurse Edith Cavell) once a training facility for district nurses. The old stable block was demolished for further expansion in the 1960s. The last growth was in the 1980s when five Tudor cottages on the street were added to the hotel.
Since 2012 the hotel has been privately owned and has undergone a complete refurbishment. The hotel now boasts 2 vintage Bentleys and a Frolic 31 electric river boat to enhance the guests experience.
My thanks to Adrian Mourby the hotel’s historian whose work I have stolen for this article!