I am deeply saddened by the catastrophic fire that led to the destruction of the Royal Clarence Hotel. As a proud Exonian, I know and appreciate what an important and iconic building this represented to the city.
My own personal and long involvement with the Royal Clarence makes it even sadder and more poignant for me.
I first came to the Royal Clarence in 1999 when the hotel was owned by the Corus and Regal group to take over all aspects of food and beverage. We created the first Michael Caines restaurant here and it was an immediate success. We also ran an informal cafe bar as well as the Well House Tavern. In 2003, I went into partnership with Andrew and Christina Brownsword and together we purchased the Royal Clarence and created the ABode hotel group, of which this was the first. Though my involvement ended last year when I left to concentrate on the creation of Lympstone Manor, I will always have very special memories of my time at the Royal Clarence, to the many guests who care to stay or dine, and the fabulous staff who worked so hard with me to create a special and much loved place in the very heart of Exeter.
I am just relieved that no one perished or was hurt in the blaze, thanks to the tireless work of the emergency services who kept it from spreading further, after it had begun in the art gallery next door. It is important to learn the lessons from such an event and i'm sure that a full inquiry into what happened will be undertaken to establish the chain of events that led to the destruction of this iconic landmark hotel as well as other historic buildings.
I'm certain, too, that Andrew and Christina Brownsword, the current owners, will not only restore the Royal Clarence to its former glory, but rejuvenate it with the care and sensitivity that is required.