Saturday 24 June 2017

Blaze at 'oldest hotel in England' spreads in city centre as firefighters continue to battle flames

About 110 firefighters, police and paramedics are at the blaze
About 110 firefighters, police and paramedics are at the blaze
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Firefighters are tackling a blaze at the "oldest hotel in England".

The fire is believed to have started at an art gallery in Exeter city centre but has now spread to the nearby Royal Clarence Hotel.

About 110 firefighters, police and paramedics are at the blaze, which began shortly after 5am on Friday.

Devon and Somerset Fire Service said crews from across Devon were at the scene tackling the blaze which has affected a block of buildings on Cathedral Yard.

"It is not known at this time where or how the fire started or how many properties have been affected. No injuries are reported," a spokesman said.

Devon and Cornwall Police said road closures were in place around the city centre.

So Sad, The Royal Clarence Hotel is on Fire in Exeter, #exeter #exeterfire pic.twitter.com/feLk5JDDLV

— :D (@wearetheunknown) October 28, 2016

"It is hoped to open High Street to pedestrians and public transport as soon as possible, but this is dependent on the fire service safely completing its activities at the scene of the fire on Cathedral Green," a force spokesman said.

"It is likely that Cathedral Green will remain cordoned off and not accessible to the public for some time.

"It is not known at this time how the fire started. No injuries are reported."

The Royal Clarence Hotel has stood on the same spot for 300 years and is reported to be the oldest hotel in England.

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service handout photo of firefighters tackling a blaze at Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter Credit: Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service/PA Wire
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service handout photo of firefighters tackling a blaze at Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter Credit: Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service/PA Wire

The 18th century coaching inn, which is now called the Abode Hotel, is part of the Andrew Brownsword group.

A hotel spokeswoman said: "Following the morning's fire, all our guests and staff were evacuated and all are safe and accounted for."

Dr Todd Gray, an historian at the University of Exeter, said: "The Royal Clarence is in the heart of what was not just the Medieval city but within the precincts of Roman Exeter.

"For 2,000 years this area has been the focus of the city's religious and commercial life.

"The ground and first floors of the hotel are medieval and the upper floors were added in the late 1700s when the building was renamed a hotel.

"It has been long known as the first inn in England to rebrand itself in this way.

"What is so particularly heart-breaking about this loss is that these buildings escaped the Blitz of 1942 when so much of Exeter was destroyed.

"We have so little left and hopefully the fire will be contained and not spread further."

Celebrity chef Michael Caines, who launched his first Michael Caines Restaurant at the hotel in 2000 before ending his association earlier this year, wrote on Twitter: "Gutted to see the #royalclarence on fire. Real loss to Exeter.

"Heart goes out to the firefighters who are doing their best to contain it."

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