Richmond is famed for its ancient castle and market place, its superb station and its picturesque riverside. The Fleece Hotel Richmond has a rich history, beginning with, and binding to the heritage of Richmond itself.
Richmond is famed for its ancient castle and market place, its superb station and its picturesque riverside. The Fleece Hotel Richmond has a rich history, beginning with, and binding to the heritage of Richmond itself. Set on a site that was once the Norman town’s rampart bank and on the line of the 14th C medieval town wall. It is possible that elements of the town ditch survive beneath the courtyard or basement of the Fleece Hotel.
The earliest reference to the plot now occupied by The Fleece Hotel was in 1679, following the grant of a Charter to Richmond by Charles II, when the burgage was in the possession of ‘Mrs Issabell Heardson’ (Wenham 1978, 15). In 1773 it was owned by Gregory Elsley Esq. and occupied by Henry Sparrow (op. cit., 28-9), and by 1820 the owner and occupier was Mr Ibbetson (op. cit., 28-9). Although the nature of Ibbetson’s occupancy in 1820 was not specified, only three years later, a certain J. C. Ibbotson (sic) was listed as the proprietor of an inn called The Fleece, on Friars Wynd (Baines Directory, quoted by Genealogy UK online). Pigot’s Directories of 1829 and 1834 showed the landlady of The Fleece to be Elizabeth Ibbetson, possibly the daughter (or daughter-in law?) of J. C. Ibbotson, while White’s Directory of 1840 gave the landlady’s name as Martha Loftus, and in Bulmer’s Directory of 1890 it was Mrs Sarah Herring (loc. cit.).
Not long after the latest directory entry, the old Fleece was replaced by the splendid Gothic building designed by G. G. Hoskins (CLB 2015), although the Historic England listing states ‘architect unknown’ (Historic England Heritage List, online).
The location on Victoria Road is apt for the 19th C building that opened in 1897 as a purpose built hotel.
The building is a Grade II Listed Property, listed as:
Hotel, Public House. 1897, by G G Hoskins, for Messrs R Fenwick and Co Limited
Many believe that the Fleece Hotel is the town’s best building. The original Fleece in Friars Wynd, near the Georgian Theatre, was described as an “ancient hostel” in a newspaper report in February 1897. It may have been recently damaged by a fire and, said the Darlington and Stockton Times (D&ST), the owners, brewery Robert Fenwick and Company of Sunderland, had called in Darlington architect GG Hoskins to create a new hotel in the “Scotch baronial style”.
Fenwick had started brewing in Sunderland in 1770 and ceased brewing in 1964 when it was part of Flowers Breweries. In 1896, Fenwick owned 63 licensed houses across the North-East including, said the D&ST, the “handsome and recently-erected” Kings Head Hotel in Darlington.
Architect G G Hoskins had designed The Kings Head Hotel Darlington, which opened in 1893 and is one of the best of his Gothic creations in an illustrious career. Others include Darlington library, technical college, sixth form college and Middlesbrough Town Hall. He also designed distinctive branches of Backhouses Bank (now Barclays) in Sunderland, Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough and Barnard Castle from 1868 to 1878.
The old Fleece “ancient hostel” had been bottled up in Friars Wynd, but in 1887, Victoria Road was opened out to replace an old track and named after the queen’s Golden Jubilee – and so Hoskins was able to design the new hotel to front on to this new main thoroughfare. The site of the Fleece allowed Hoskins’ imagination to run wild.
“It is sure to prove not only an ornament to the street architecture of the old town but a thoroughly up to date hotel,” said the D&ST in 1897.
Thomas Stairmand and Son of Darlington, was the contractor and it opened in 1898.
Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, in his 1966 guide to the buildings of North Yorkshire, described it as “an extravaganza of brick and terracotta with tourelles” – a tourelle being a turret which projects out of the wall.
R Fenwick & Co Ltd was a brewery based on the banks of the Wear in Sunderland. In 1898 it was sold to a brewery called William Younger and Co. and onwards it changed hands several times, eventually being sold to Stratford- based brewers, Flowers. They in turn were bought out by Whitbread in the 1960s. So it’s very possible that the brewery took ownership of hotel from Flowers, through the original purchase of Fenwicks. It operated as a Whitbread inn throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
After a period of decline and then closure in the early years of the 21st Century, the hotel was purchased at the end of 2015 by Within Reach Developments Limited.
Peter Coulson, director of Within Reach said: “The building fascinated us since we first viewed in early 2015, and the more time we spend exploring the fantastic building the more excited and enthused we are about bringing it back to its former grandeur 120 years since its original opening.”
The building is now being turned into a 10-14 bedroomed boutique hotel, restaurant and bistro/café-bar for the 21st Century. Quality and refinement are our watchwords and we will be opening in the Spring of 2018. Great Potential is the management company for the new hotel and working with Within Reach Developments we are creating a place where a restful night’s sleep in a deeply comfortable bed is guaranteed. There will be stylish décor, thoughtful amenities, digital services and high-spec bathrooms. Local ingredients carefully and passionately prepared will be the focus and service from a gracious, friendly team. We’ll be working closely with our neighbour, the Georgian Theatre Royal and other like-minded businesses in the community and aim to make the new Fleece Hotel and Restaurant as the leading place to Sleep, Eat, Drink and Meet in Richmond.
We look forward to seeing you ‘All wrapped up in The Fleece’.
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