Miniview: Churston Court Hotel, Devon

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    Churston Court Hotel is in Churston Ferrers, part of Saxon Wessex, which has long been regarded as the heart of England. Here Saxons fought Viking invaders and forced Celts back into their Cornish and Welsh heartlands. Saxon Kings Æthelred and Alfred fought to establish a unified England before Harold lost their kingdom to Norman William the Conqueror in 1066. In 1087 William drew up the Doomsday Book to list all that was his, including the buildings that now form the heart of Churston Court Hotel.

    Churston Court Hotel, where room names such as the Walter Raleigh room are redolent of England’s past and a reminder that from here Englishmen saw the Spanish Armada torn to shreds by the nascent English navy in an England that showed a piratical dash and vigour. This is now alas seemingly lacking from our featherbedded England today.Suits of armour line corridors that are nowhere flat or level, where walls alarmingly reverse their angles as the oak bows with the load of time. Having stood for over a thousand years their new use helps to ensure that maybe another thousand can be envisaged. Here history is still being written – Agatha Christie worked here and donated a stained glass window to the 11th century church next door, a Great Train Robber hid from the law in the hotel. Open fires still crackle with burning logs in the evenings and candles still add the scent of hot wax to the smell of burning wood. Alongside cask conditioned English ales there are French wines and brandies still for sale, although probably no longer smuggled over Devon or Cornish beaches in defiance of ‘the Revenuers’.

    Here people speak with a soft Devon burr and sit beside items once owned by men who claimed Newfoundland for the Crown in the sixteenth century, their accent one of the building blocks of the American accent, for it was from neighbouring Brixham that many of the founders of the English colonies in the Americas came. In this hotel are encapsulated age and inheritance problems that are faced by many English hotels in continuing to attain standards appropriate to the 21st century.

    Daniel Fountain / 08.06.2010

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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