the 17th Century
The Wellington Hotel is one of North Cornwall’s oldest Coaching Inns, dating back to the 17th Century. Originally known as “The Bos Castle Hotel”, it was renamed in memory of the “Iron Duke” the Duke of Wellington after his death. The Castilian tower, still seen as the main feature on the exterior of the hotel, was added and the hotel renamed The Wellington Hotel.
The Wellington has been host to many prominent guests over the years with Guest Registration Books dating back to the 1860’s – names such as His Majesty King Edward VII, Sir Henry Irving, Guy Gibson, Thomas Hardy and many other Lords and Ladies.
The Boscastle flood in 2004 caused significant damage to the hotel. You can see the height that the flood water rose to on the water level marker at the gallery in the bar. Much of the hotel has since been restored but its history remains unchanged.
One of the biggest sighs of relief was breathed just after the flood when we found that the guest books dating from 1860 onwards were safe. Having been borrowed by the designers of our new brochure before the flood it had been returned and the owner at the time had been keeping it safe in their flat! After this welcome second homecoming (it had been returned to the hotel by Barbara George, great niece of Ann Scott, in 1987 after an absence of almost 100 years), it has been our pleasure and privilege to spend some time reading the entries and researching the lives of some of the guests.
Among the many illustrious visitors of the upper classes were The Duchess of Sutherland in 1875 and 1876 who first visited after leaving her position as Mistress of the robes to Queen Victoria. Her successor it should be noted was Elizabeth, Duchess of Wellington the daughter in law of the Iron Duke. In 1868 the hotel played host to the Dowager Duchess of St Albans whose party included Lady Molesworth from Pencarrow.
In the 1870s Mrs Scott was hostess to John Wodehouse 1st Earl of Kimberley who had been Under Secretary for India in 1864, and was also Lord Privy Seal in Gladstone’s Cabinet. The 7th Earl of Selkirk Lord Charles Douglas Hamilton stayed three nights in 1877 and Countess Marie Bismark was a guest in 1878. In the early 1880’s, we were honoured with the presence of Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott a former Lord Mayor of London and the Duke and Duchess of Westminster.
While many of our guests were of the peerage, since they had the funds and leisure time to allow them to travel, so also did many of the gentry and the clergy. Among this group of our patrons, we can claim Sir William Balliol Brett Conservative MP for Helston, Justice for the Court of Common Pleas. He was also appointed Master of the Rolls in 1883.
Of the clergy, there were very many including the Reverend Doctor John Farrar Professor of the University of Durham and Cannon of Durham Cathedral, who may have been recommended by J B Lightfoot, Bishop of Durham who visited in 1865. In 1861 and 1866 Rev Sabine Baring Gould passed through North Cornwall. Since the guest book shows both his entries on the same page, it is clear he was like many of our more recent guests interested in finding his own previous entry. His ‘claims to fame’ included writing ‘Now the Day is Over’ sung by many school children over the years and ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ among others. He also wrote a biography of Rev Robert Steven Hawker of Morwenstow with whom he had visited while collecting local folk songs.
Among the many other entries are three visits from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools, a Mr. Ince of the Law Council Reports Office, Captain Dayman Master of the Royal Naval ships the Gorgon and the Firebrand, (had been involved in the laying of transatlantic cable and cable to Gibraltar and in 1847 as a lieutenant in the schooner Asp was first to make passage of the Fraser Island straights east coast of Australia), visited in1865 and various scholars, surgeons doctors and students.
The last group who piqued our interest were the artists! Of whom two stand out in particular. Addison Crofton drew a tiny but detailed set of local views in pen and ink and Arthur B Collins sketched a truly lovely pencil drawing from the outer harbour looking towards Bude.
In the course of our continuing research, we have been in contact with various organizations and institutions from Durham University to Canterbury Cathedral, The Royal Society to The Royal Academy, without exception they have all provided whatever information they have giving us the chance to get to know our historical guests.
These are just a few examples of the amazing history that surrounds the Wellington.