Historic Ilfracombe hotel set to re-open

THE scaffolding is down from the Royal Britannia Hotel overlooking Ilfracombe Harbour and the 18th century building is set to resume trade as a pub and restaurant within the week following extensive refurbishment. Owner Richard Wheeler has spent the past

THE scaffolding is down from the Royal Britannia Hotel overlooking Ilfracombe Harbour and the 18th century building is set to resume trade as a pub and restaurant within the week following extensive refurbishment.

Owner Richard Wheeler has spent the past 20 months and an estimated �900,000 on sympathetically restoring the landmark property to its former glory in the days when Admiral Lord Nelson and the future Edward VII stayed there in the 19th century.

The first section to open will be the downstairs bar, restaurant and carvery area, followed by two further restaurants upstairs in the coming weeks, as well as the 23 rooms of the hotel itself. A small retail unit has also been created.

But Mr Wheeler said a six-month delay and extra costs of �250,000 had been added to the refurbishment project after what he claims were time consuming health and safety issues.

But Mr Wheeler said the local council planning, heritage and building control officers could not have been more helpful and he thanked them for their support throughout.

The work has seen extensive renovations, with everything from rotting beams and joists to lintels and crumbling walls repaired and replaced to make the building sound - for example during one of the first inspections a 10-tonne wall was discovered resting on two broken wooden ship beams. New plumbing and electrics have been installed throughout.

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Something from the Britannia's earliest days has also been returned to its former glory - engineer and designer Robin Goodwin has been working to restore a solid brass lamp said to have been presented to the hotel by the then Prince Edward when he visited as a teenager in the mid 1800s. After the prince - later Edward VII - stayed in the hotel it was able to add the "royal" to its name.

Robin has also restored the stunning original Royal Britannia coats of arms that will greet visitors to the pub.

Mr Wheeler added: "A lot of people who have come in have been very positive and said how nice it is now. In fact the Royal Britannia looks older now than it did when we first started!

"It's really the main building in the harbour and I hope it will help to regenerate the town.

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