The Royal Hotel Hull is one of the city’s genuine landmark buildings. Rick Lyon paid it a visit.
SHE’S the grand old lady of Hull.
The iconic Royal Hotel, visited by Queen Victoria and Sir Winston Churchill and survivor of a devastating electrical fire in 1990, has stood the test of time.
New developments continue to reshape Hull, but arguably few are as impressive as the Victorian landmark that greets visitors when they disembark from their train or bus in the city centre.
But is the Royal a little under-appreciated by those who have become so accustomed to having it on their doorstep?
As with all hotels, it is quite rightly open to criticism by paying customers if they are unhappy with what is on offer. Social media ensures that any such criticism travels quickly these days, should there be a bandwagon for people to happily jump on.
But according to operations manager David Leadley, the Royal offers Hull something unique which people would gladly venture far and wide for.
“The Royal is an icon,” he says proudly.
“When you come to Hull it is one of the first landmarks you see, particularly for those coming in from the station, and it has been around forever!”
Not quite, but 169 years is still a good innings for the 190-room venue.
It is that history that sets it apart, according to Mr Leadley.
“It is beautiful and it has retained its history,” he says as we talk over a cup of tea.
“You could be watching a historical drama here, or Downton Abbey. It has real, genuine character.
“What people get here is tradition. They come here and they feel like they are a part of history.”
Hanging proudly near the bar is a framed copy of Philip Larkin’s poem, Friday Night in the Royal Station Hotel, which he penned as he observed the eclectic mix of customers in the lounge.
Along with its grandeur, this is another feature the three-star Royal has successfully retained.
“The poem is about the mix of people coming through and that is still the case, some 80 years later,” says Mr Leadley.
“I’ve worked in many hotels and this by far has the most diverse mix of customers that I’ve encountered. We get everyone.
“Many times I’ve stood looking out the window and you will have a white van, you’ll have a battered old car, there will be a Mercedes, a BMW, a Ferrari, then another white van – you get the whole mixture.”
The ownership of the Royal has changed many times over the years and it is currently a part of the Britannia empire. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it. It stands alone as its own, historic venue.
So what about the notion it doesn’t quite get the appreciation it deserves?
Sales manager Simon Wright happily jumps in: “This is one of the last few iconic buildings in Hull. I love the development that is happening around the city, I think it is fantastic. Everything that is happening down Humber Street, for example, looks amazing.
“There is every place for that and it has to happen, but that doesn’t mean we abandon our history. I don’t think there is any architecture in the city that quite matches the Royal.
“People root for this place. They want it to work and they want it to be good. The perception among people who haven’t been in for a while is that it is a bit run down, but that isn’t the case.”
The Hull Story can vouch for that. It isn’t run down. It screams history and character but the obvious investment it has enjoyed in recent years means it marries tradition with contemporary comfort and facilities.
“My message would be that if you haven’t been here for a long time, come and rediscover the Royal,” says Mr Wright.
“A lot of people in Hull will go to places like York and Lincoln and marvel at the beautiful buildings and this might have just become wallpaper to them because they walk by every day. But this is probably the most stunning building in Hull.
“There will always be a place for The Royal. We have people who could stay at much more expensive hotels than this but they don’t because they like the character of this place.”
That character has served it well for 169 years and clearly continues to do so.