A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester

The Vanished Pubs of Chester Gallery

Around 1533-4, this site on the south side of Eastgate Street was occupied by three houses respectively owned by the Franternity of St. Anne, Sir John Talbot, Knight and Sir John Port, Knight and Justice of the Common Bench. Later, two inns were opened here, The Golden Talbot- a sign adapted by the Grosvenor armorials, and The White Talbot- adaped from those of the Talbots. These inns were in existence around 1750. By 1782, the two inns had been confined under the sign of The Talbot and the licencee was Thomas Jackson.

The Golden Talbot was advertised in the long-defunct Adam's Weekly Courant of 17th September 1751 as "that ancient and well-accustomed inn which is now fitted up in the neatest manner and held by Thomas Hickman (late agent to the Hon. Colonel Lee deceas'd) where all gentlemen, ladies and others who shall be pleased to make use of the said house may depend on the best accomodations and most civil usage".

royal hotelOriginally, the Exchange in Market Square had been the social centre for Chester's gentry and professional classes. From about 1720, thet transferred their alleigance to the more genteel surroundings of Booth Mansion, an imposing Georgian house in Watergate Street. Fashionable balls and entertainments were held in the assembly room above Row level until the 1770s when quality purpose-built accomodation was provided at the Talbot.

Around 1784, the old Talbot was demolished and on its site rose the Royal Hotel which was built by John Crewe, who, together with a Mr Barnston stood for Parliament as Whigs against Thomas Grosvenor and Richard Wilbraham Bootle who, as Tories, supported William Pitt. The two seats had been Grosvenor family 'perks' for decades, and the city council were hand-in-glove with them. After ten days of campaigning, the parties were neck-and-neck, until money won the day- Mr Crewe, described as being of 'only moderate fortune,' spent £10,000 on bribes, but the Grosvenors spent £20,000 and the Tories were in.

The antagonism between the Grosvenors and city fathers on one hand and their opponents on the other went on for a further 30 years, but, despite rulings against them in the House of Lords, the Tory stranglehold over the city's affairs continued until the Reform Act of 1832.

The Royal Hotel was the opposition's social centre, with news and coffee rooms and an elegant assembly room for balls and concerts. Earl Grosvenor, however, had the last laugh. He bought the building and in 1863, had it, with the exception of the assembly or ballroom, demolished, and replaced by the much larger building we know today and named it after his family- The Grosvenor Hotel.

The Royal Hotel's licencee in 1850 was John Johnstone, in 1857 D McGregor. This last entry, from the Post Office Directory of Cheshire, gives the address as "Royal Hotel Row, Eastgate Street".

royal hotel and =eastgate c1860
Eastgate Street and the Royal Hotel c1860- not long before it was demolished

grosvenor hotel 1866
What replaced the Royal: the newly-built Grosvenor Hotel in 1866

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