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Fire-ravaged Exeter hotel "will be rebuilt"

The owners of The Royal Clarence in Exeter, devastated by fire last week, have vowed to rebuild the hotel

Pictured: The remains of the hotel following the fire

The owners of The Royal Clarence in Exeter, which was devastated by a fire last week, have vowed to rebuild the hotel.

The fire at the Royal Clarence, described as England’s oldest hotel, began in the early hours of Friday 28 October. The façade of the hotel has partially collapsed, while the whole of the interior has been reduced to rubble.

The remainder of the hotel is expected to be demolished this week after structural exerts said that the remains cannot be saved.

Owner Andrew Brownsword, who bought the 53-room hotel in 2003 and transformed it into the Abode Exeter, said: “My family and I have witnessed the events that unfolded since Friday with great sadness. The Royal Clarence Hotel has long been a special place for us all, and to see the building now is heart-breaking. Alongside many of Exeter’s residents and visitors, we share a huge sense of loss of such an iconic building, and remember fondly our memories of happy times there."  

He thanked hotel staff for ensuring that all guests and staff were evacuated safely, and also thanked the city of Exeter, the emergency services, the local council and the Mercure Southgate Hotel, who offered assistance to staff and guests.  

He added: “Looking to the future of The Royal Clarence, we have every intention to rebuild the hotel with enormous sympathy to its importance and heritage, and to make it once again a building that the city of Exeter will be proud of. We have always said we believe we are merely custodians of the buildings our hotels operate within, and we pledge to do our very best to return The Royal Clarence to the city of Exeter and its people.”

The blaze broke out at around 5am above the Castle Fine Art gallery next to the hotel, where renovation work was being carried out. All guests and staff were evacuated before the fire took hold.

According to the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, the blaze was able to spread swiftly through the Grade II timber frame building through a number of concealed voids and passageways, before a ruptured gas main then further fuelled the fire.

The Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell, praised the fire service for saving the city's Norman cathedral, located opposite the hotel, and said he wanted to see the Royal Clarence rebuilt.

He said: "All the historic stuff inside has gone, you can't replace it, but I hope and pray that they rebuild the frontage as it was, because it deserves to be there, because that's what will preserve at least the veneer of the architectural continuity on the Cathedral Green."

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