Motel #1, 1953

This isn’t about pubs, or maybe it is: in June 1953 Britain gained its first American-style motel, The Royal Oak, at Newingreen outside Dover, Kent.

The Roy­al Oak was, as the name sug­gests, an old inn, appar­ent­ly estab­lished in 1560 and rebuilt in the 18th cen­tu­ry. It was around this core that the new motel was con­struct­ed by entre­pre­neur Gra­ham Lyon.

Lyon was born in Lon­don in 1889 and worked with ear­ly auto­mo­biles as a youth. In the 1920s he was a pio­neer of coach trips to the Con­ti­nent, dri­ving tourists around in a 10-seater Ford Mod­el T chara­banc. After World War II he entered the hotel busi­ness, start­ing with The White Cliffs in Dover. Some­thing of an Ameri­cophile, his deal­ings with Amer­i­cans dur­ing and after the war gave him the idea that Britain was defi­cient in hotels designed specif­i­cal­ly for motorists and so, in 1952, approach­ing pen­sion­able age, he set off to tour the US vis­it­ing more than 2,000 motels on an epic road-trip. He picked the brains of Amer­i­can mote­liers and came back ready to imple­ment his own take in the British mar­ket.

Aerial view of the Inn and Motel.

Each room in The Roy­al Oak motel had its own pri­vate garage and en suite bath­room. The larg­er suites had their own sit­ting rooms. For between 21s and 27s 6d per per­son (about £30 in today’s mon­ey) you got a Con­ti­nen­tal break­fast, a radio, a tea-mak­ing machine, tele­phone, a water dis­penser, and your car washed and valet­ed.

Sitting room at the motel.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 December 2017: Thornbridge, Theatre, Tinsel

This is, obviously, the last Saturday news and links round-up before Christmas, featuring theatres, hot beer and juicy IPAs.

First, a bit of news: in part­ner­ship with Pivo­var (Sheffield Tap, Pivni, &c.) Der­byshire brew­ery Thorn­bridge is to open ten bars across the UK. They’re a sen­si­ble, fair­ly cau­tious bunch and this reads to us as a vote of con­fi­dence in the health of the UK craft beer scene.


The George Inn, Southwark.
Illus­tra­tion from Walks In Lon­don Vol. 1, c.1896.

As part of a project on the his­to­ry of British the­atre Andy Kesson gives us notes on the role of inns in the days before Shake­speare:

When we think of Eliz­a­bethan Lon­don play­hous­es, most of us think of an amphithe­atre: big, round and out­doors. Some­times we might also think of indoor play­ing spaces, par­tic­u­lar­ly at the Black­fri­ars: small, rec­tan­gu­lar and indoors… [But inns] are rarely includ­ed in accounts of the play­hous­es at all. This, I’m going to sug­gest, would have sur­prised Eliz­a­bethans, who may well have con­sid­ered the inns as the pri­ma­ry, most pres­ti­gious play­ing hous­es in town. As we shall see, fig­ures as diverse as the Queen’s Men, Richard Tarlton’s horse and Satan him­self all sought access to per­for­mance at the inns.

(Via @intoxproject/@andykesson)

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Gallery: Coaching Inns

Illus­tra­tions by Hugh Thom­son From Coach­ing Days and Coach­ing Ways by William Out­ram Tris­tram (a rather bor­ing book…) via the Eng­lish Illus­trat­ed Mag­a­zine, 1888.